Walking the recovery path of bullying

The path to recovery is not always smooth…

It is never easy for a victim of bullying to talk about his or her past. Why? It brings them back to that experience, back to the pain of shame, hurt and hopelessness. That is exactly how I felt when I sought a counsellor. I couldn’t even bring myself to mention the names of the bullies, as it would sicken me.

As a kid, I had a pretty normal life. I loved both the outdoors as well as more sedentary activities, but somehow never had an interest in racquet or ball sports such as soccer or basketball, or watching TV wrestling shows and card games. Kids, especially boys can be really mean, and besides being excluded from their activities, I was taunted and labelled weak because I did not share their interests. I remember being called a sissy and other terrible terms. As a result, I developed an inferiority complex, and self-loathing which would I would still carry many years on. This happened a lot in school and especially in church, and I truly hated going to Sunday services with a vengeance. It was really hard to escape the shame of being left out. And somehow, I just couldn’t tell my parents how I felt.

I truly hated going to Sunday services with a vengeance…

Throughout my teenage years, I always felt unwanted. In secondary school and pre-university, I did have a few good friends, but when someone approached me, the first thought would always be to wonder why he or she would waste time starting a conversation with me, as I never felt that I was worth the time. My life wasn’t as interesting as theirs.

These were the lies that I came to believe wholeheartedly; they hurt deep, and left a void in my heart which constantly cried out for friendship. By the time I was done with pre-university and about to enlist for National Service, my heart just broke. I thought, I will be an outcast when in the army.

Up till that moment, God to me was the God of my parents. But at the end of my tethers, I started to pray. With tears flowing down, I earnestly asked God whether I would be alone my whole life, and telling Him that I would be ready to accept whatever His will for me was. This marked the beginning of a deeply personal relationship with Jesus, where I truly realised that I could surrender everything to him. That night, I slept peacefully.

Little did I realise, but from then on, God had started to heal my brokenness. All those years of low self-esteem resulting from hurtful words and actions by my bullies, I handed it all over to God. As I did, I heard Him speak the words of Psalm 139 to me:

13 “For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.”

It was deeply comforting for me, to finally realise that my self-worth stemmed not from the praises of men, but from the unconditional love of my Saviour.

My self-worth stemmed not from the praises of men, but from the unconditional love of my Saviour…

During my NS and university days, I forged many genuine friendships, especially with my Christian counsellors, and for the first time, I experienced how wonderful it was to have a supportive network in my current church community.

The road to recovery is not always smooth. There were times when I blamed God for those bullies. And amazingly, He responds ever so gently. As I read 2 Corinthians 12, I felt gladdened once more. Indeed, Paul could boast of his own afflictions and still rejoice in his weaknesses, and in doing so making known the power of Christ. I felt so encouraged, and truly, I realised that through my own weakness, God had given me a heart eager to reach out to others who didn’t fit the mold, those cast out or unwanted by society.

I am still on this journey, and there are times when the painful memories return to taunt me. I know that I have not truly forgiven my bullies yet, and I constantly ask God for the grace to forgive them, just as Jesus had pardoned my sins. At the same time, I can now say that whatever life brings me through, I will still rejoice and give thanks to my God.