Forgiving those who bullied you: a Good Friday reflection

A lot of times, what you go through when you’re younger shapes the person you are today. And it’s honestly not easy to just “get over” something, no matter how far away that period during your past may seem.

I’m turning 30 years old in October and I’m still not over things that have happened from when I was 13–17. Being bullied is was a big part of it.

Honestly, I try to not talk about being bullied a lot because I don’t want people to think, “so that’s why she’s so fucking weird”. But it still hurts to this day and it has impacted my confidence and affects how I talk to people on a regular basis. I think I’m pretty well-liked at work, but I don’t have that super-extroverted, charismatic outgoing personality that some of my coworkers do and it makes me question my self-worth. And then I get transported back in time as the insecure 15-year-old.

Moving to Elk Grove, CA (which is one of Sacramento’s suburbs) from the Bay Area was hard, especially after 6th grade. Middle school is such a difficult time as it is, but moving 2 hours away where I didn’t know anyone made it unbearable. I definitely had the awkward phase then. Long story short, I was bullied badly in 8th grade. Sure, being the new kid made me long for some sort of attention, even if it got me the bad kind….so I acted weird and out of the “social norm” for the average 13-year-old. I know better now. The bullying was bad that I had to go to a different high school (the one I should’ve gone to anyway since it was closer to my house).

I made a lot of friends in 9th grade starting anew. But then I started getting exposed to friend drama and guy drama. I also started dressing up really “poser punk” (think Hot Topic, safety-pin everything and fishnets) because that was the aesthetic of the crowd I fell in. Long story short, the ex I had drama with for 3 years did not end well and I wasted my time with him. I lost friends in the process too. Well, I don’t want to go longer into it because I could make like a series of 5 blog posts dedicated to my high school years.

After high school, I had to go to the community college 20 minutes away (Sacramento City College) from me instead of the one 10-15 minutes away because that’s the one where most of my classmates (my ex included before he joined the Army) attended (Cosumnes River College). I also met Cecilio at Sac City, so it all worked out in the end.

Cecilio and I started going out in February 2009, and whenever we drove around Elk Grove to go to Borders (RIP) or Target, we always passed by my middle school. However, it was only 2 years into our relationship that I confessed to him that I went to school there. He was shocked and wondered why I never proudly pointed that out. It was then when I told him about all of the bullying. He hurt for me. He didn’t have the greatest time in high school either but it wasn’t horrible like mine, and at least he had happy memories in middle school.

I am always scared of seeing someone I know in middle and high school, and I was so relieved to find an apartment in Sacramento instead of Elk Grove after we got married. Sometimes Cecilio and I talk about finding a house to buy and settle in for our future kids. Sometimes he suggests Elk Grove and I immediately shut it down. I often tell him that I have a hard time forgiving those bullies and that I’m still holding a grudge over them. But he gently reminds me… “we’re Christian, right? Aren’t we supposed to forgive? Isn’t that what Christianity is about?”

If you know Cecilio, he is not at all an Evangelical Christian (and we both dislike everything about American conservative Evangelical “Christianity”, but that’s another topic) and he is not one that posts verses or talks much about spiritual stuff. But he does believe in God and we pray together more than when we were going out. And when he tells me to forgive those bullies, I do get convicted.

When Jesus walked on Earth, He was ridiculed a lot. Then when it was His time go be nailed on the cross, he was humiliated, spat on, betrayed by His own disciples, and laughed at. God, I can’t fathom that physical pain of having the palms of your hands being stabbed to a wooden cross, blood gushing everywhere. Staying in the cross for three nights. 36 hours in agony. He did it to save humanity, as imperfect as we are.

I would never ever compare the pain I went through to Jesus’ time on the cross because it’s unfathomable, but I know He definitely had feelings of being isolated, lonely, and wondering what was wrong with Him. But He also knew He was doing this for God the Father and to help save us all and to show how much He loves us.

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38–39)

And as followers of Jesus, we have to forgive the ones hurt us, left us, betrayed us, etc.

Now, forgiving someone doesn’t mean letting them back in your life. It doesn’t mean everything is okay now. In Jesus’ case, yes He forgives you and you can always come to Him for relationship and worship. He is perfect and His love is unconditional. But we, as humans, are frail. Forgiving someone doesn’t mean that you can start talking to them again, but it does mean that you let go of the bitterness and anger you’ve held onto for so long.

You know that cliche saying: not forgiving someone is like drinking poison and hoping for the other person to die.

Who can blame you for not forgetting and being wary of letting someone who hurt you back in your life? And you absolutely don’t need to. But because Jesus forgives, you have to forgive those who hurt you. And in my case, I have to forgive those who made me the butt of jokes, pretended to not be my friend (so they wouldn’t be seen or associated with me), backstabbed me, laughed whenever I had to speak out loud in class, told me I was worthless, etc.

Now, I know some of you are probably reading this and you have gone through wayyyy worse. You probably have been physically, emotionally and sexually abused. I am so sorry and you in absolutely no way deserve that. Whatever happened, that was not of God and He wants you to run to Him in open arms and let Him know how much that hurt you so bad. I suggest you seek counseling too as a way to heal, since I’m not an expert and I can only offer my deepest sympathies and prayers.

As we reflect on Jesus’ time on the cross before His Resurrection, think about who hurt you in the past. How can you forgive them? It’s okay to be angry, it’s okay to feel the hurt bubbling in you. Just be sure to release it, even if it takes time to do so. With extra courage and strength from God, you can only keep going up.

And if you’re reading this and have been bullied by your peers, know that you are not alone. It may feel like you are the only one who goes through this, you may wonder you’re a freaking oddball while everyone else seems so normal and has it together. But maybe you were created to stand out and not blend in, so embrace that. And you are fearfully and wonderfully made from Him.

Hannah is a travel writer, graphic designer, and the founder/editor of Hannah on Horizon. She is based in Sacramento, California, living with her husband and two adorable dogs. She shares tips on how to experience luxury travel on any budget, and how to maximize time at each trip or destination, no matter what your budget or amount of vacation time at work. She enjoys making you feel like you have visited each destination with her through her storytelling and informative writing style.

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