Monday, November 7, 2011
It seems like every time I read the news there's an article about bullying. I was never really bullied at school, but was definitely made fun of a handful of times because I stuttered. And like it or not, those events have shaped who I've become. So I thought I'd chime in on this bullying dilemma.
One of the sermons at church a few weeks ago was about forgiveness, and I immediately starting to think about how I could tie that into a blog post about stuttering. But then I thought: Am I really ready to forgive the people who used to make fun of me in school?
And wow, I had no idea what kind of soul searching I would do over the next few weeks. It's easier said than done to forgive someone for something that you've been harboring in the back of your mind for years. But it would be pretty hypocritical of me to advocate forgiving people in those situations when I couldn't bring myself to do it as well. But at the time I found that I just couldn't do it.
Which is kind of ridiculous, in a way, because most of the incidents that I had in mind took place back when I was in middle school - which was about twenty years ago! I mean, is it time to get over that, or what?!?
What I've found is that forgiveness is not just something that you decide to do one day. You don't just wake up and say, "I think I'll forgive that guy for busting out laughing at me when I had a bad block in art class."
Forgiveness is a process.
And maybe it was a coincidence, but immediately after I started to ponder forgiving people for laughing at me, Facebook suggested a new friend to me - the guy who always delighted in laughing at me when I stuttered in class. Just looking at his profile picture brought back some bad memories.
And this was my opportunity for forgiveness.
I thought a lot about that day in art class when this one kid busted out laughing at me when I had a bad block on my name. Maybe this event is one of the reasons why I get so nervous when introducing myself in a meeting, or why my palms get sweaty when I know I have to make a phone call. Nobody wants to be made fun of.
But I've come to the conclusion that it does no good for me to continue to harbor resentment at this guy for laughing at me all those years ago. It's not worth being angry or ashamed at anymore. That incident made me focus harder on improving myself and has given me more determination to not allow other people to make me feel anything that I don't want to feel. I won't be ashamed of my stuttering just because someone laughs. And even though introducing myself or talking on the phone can cause me anxiety, I don't shy away from it anymore. I'm taking these things on head first.
So in a way, I should be thanking that guy. I accepted the challenge of not being too scared to talk in public. I refused to stop talking just because someone laughed at me.
And here's the real lesson about forgiveness that I learned over the past few weeks. The real person that I needed to forgive was never the guy who laughed at me in art class. It wasn't the telemarketer who laughed and imitated my stuttering while I was trying to explain to him that I wasn't interested in his product. It wasn't the woman at the doctor's office who wasn't patient enough with me when I was trying to explain what I was there for. The real person I needed to forgive was myself, because I have been blaming myself all these years for something that is out of my control. If I hadn't been ashamed of myself then I wouldn't have let those people get under my skin. It all starts with me.
I think I'm finally realizing something that maybe I've subconsciously known for a few years now: you can't be bullied if you don't let yourself be bullied. And so what if someone doesn't like me, or how I speak? I used to think it was important that everybody like me, but now I think I'm more interested in just being the best person that I can be, and other people can take it or leave it.
I was always taught as a child that your real friends will stick by you, no matter what, and I've always found that to be true. So thank you to all of my friends and family who have always been there for me. And to everyone else? You are forgiven!