I have debated long and hard about whether or not to write this down and share it on the interweb. I am not one who goes in for bearing my soul for all and sundry but, I have done this in the hope that it helps somebody out there in blogland!
I have not written this to elicit sympathy or to create speculation as to who, what, when, where. If you ask me, I will decline to answer!
So (mentally I take a deep breath)….
For most of my life, I have suffered from bullying.
I was bullied at school
I was bullied at work
And yes, I have even been bullied in Church too.
At school and work this bullying took the form of intimidation, threats and violence (I recall coming home school dripping in spit), or being struck by my manager at work because I didn’t get some work done in his time scale. At Church it was mainly in threats to accommodation, job, family security and (on one occasion) my life.
Bullying is not something that is confined to the world of school playgrounds and teasing. Nor is bullying “a bit of banter”. I have friends who I can banter with and enjoy a good laugh with – I certainly don’t lack a sense of humour.
Bullying is nasty, vicious, and destroys human life. It undermines people and crushes their spirit. When I have suffered from bullying I have felt so utterly alone, abandoned, powerless and I have felt pathetic for putting up with it. It can lead to depression and other mental health issues and, in the most extreme cases, can lead to suicide.
I really struggled when it comes to talking about bullying in Church and it’s only because I am in a good and caring Church now (where bullying does not take place), that I can write about it and seek the inner healing that I need.
I also struggled because, I love the Church. I believe that the local Church is the hope of the world and I consider it an absolute privilege to serve within a congregation, to the glory of God. I struggled because, I don’t want anyone to think badly of Churches. There are many excellent congregations out there with some wonderful people within them doing incredible things.
I suppose the nub of the problem is, we expect better of Christians. Somehow, the Church should be a place where people are affirmed, loved, treated with respect and grace. It comes as a nasty shock to discover that Christians are frail human beings too. I don’t doubt that those who bullied me had a faith (that is between them and God) but, I really struggle to understand how they could divorce their faith from their actions. I also struggle with the knowledge that some of those who bullied me, are still in positions of authority in their Church fellowship and their behaviour goes unchallenged.
The main issue I have found is that the bullying I have suffered over my life runs very deep. It isn’t that I haven’t forgiven, I have. But, there are occasions when the hurt rises to the surface and my emotions are stirred again and I feel the turmoil that I thought had long gone. What I have learnt about forgiveness is that when our hurts are deep, forgiveness is like peeling an onion. Layer upon layer. Forgiveness is not a “one off” event, it is an on-going process.
The classic Psalm that I often turn to when I feel the emotions rising within me is Psalm 22;
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, So far from the cries of my anguish (Psalm 22 vs. 1)
It’s an amazing Psalm and carries with it some very powerful images. As I sat before God this morning, I didn’t just confine myself to the opening parts of that Psalm, I read it through. As the Psalm progresses, the message of it changes from despair to hope and it finishes with a hope that lasts beyond the years. For those who have faced bullying, whether school, work, Church, or anywhere one of the things we lack is hope. Bullying has a way of knocking the hope out of us.
The God we proclaim is the God of hope.
The God we proclaim is the God of resurrection
The God we proclaim is the God who is the restorer of life.
My prayer for you, if you are facing the bullies, is that in it all you will know that as you cry out to God, He will hear you. May hope arise in you today.