What does it mean to be in high school? The fashion trends, good grades, or activities that bring young people together under one roof. I wanted to give some thoughts on my high school experience and shed some light on the hope that all students, graduated or not, can take for their own negative high school experiences.
All my school life, from the second grade till my senior year, I had struggled with this idea, I’m prone to call “fitting the mold.” For this particular school the “understood” criteria was as follows:
-The popular girls get good grades (4.0 is a MUST!)
-The popular girls are naturally talented in sports (A team is the place to be!)
-The popular girls have lots of friends (they are the role models!)
-The popular girls wear make up (not too much to where it is over the top) and they dress in an attractive dressy casual, while keeping dress code
The list could go on and on in my head, and though most of these where my thoughts the nature of bullying came into play when I attempted to put them into practice.
I want to take a moment to address the definition of bullying, and what bullying means. Webster’s Dictionary gives this definition: abuse and mistreatment of someone vulnerable by someone stronger, more powerful, etc. I’ve narrowed it down to three main contributors that bring about bullying.
1. Physical Bullying
The most obvious of the three, I’ve watched movies and heard more stories with a physical abuse as the collaborate. Karate Kid anyone? It’s a cliche storyline of students picking on the “weaker” students, whether it be shoving them into lockers, calling them names, fill in the blank.
God made us to be in relationship with others, and that emotional need is what drives the last part of abuse. Like the mental it can all be just what’s going on in the head, but it’s also about the student in relation to others. When I read/write books, I like get so into the characters heads and relationships, it gets me more emotionally involved in the plot!
3. Mental Bullying
Self afflicted abuse, discriminating yourself and others. This can be the result of physical bullying or just the false ideas believed in a students head, in which they believe. The consequences of this type of bullying is depression, self infliction, low self esteem, or anger and retaliation.
From those definitions, let me share with you some examples of my own experiences.
I knew my classmates since the second grade. If you asked about them, I could probably tell you a complete biography from their school life, but when walking around, or in class, there was no relationship. If I talked with one of my classmates, it was simple as if they were talking to a stranger. I’d seen how they talked with their friends, and the body language and what they talked about was distant with me, therefore I gave them the same.
My mom has told me since the beginning that I get carried away with the idea of friendships. Because of the small conversations with my classmates, whenever a new student would come into my class, I’d jump on the opportunity to have a new friend. The problem came when they would make more friends than I. Jealousy would eat me alive and I’d curl back into my shell. I was therefore the quiet kid, not at all who I wanted to be, trapped in this allusion that I was at the bottom of the pecking order. That crushed my spirit and my self esteem.
God created us as human beings to have relationships with others. I can remember many days after lunch while others talked and laughed with their friends I would sit in the corner of the room and pretend in my head to talk with my characters in the novel I’m still in the process of writing. I told myself that I couldn’t measure up, that I was hopeless. To this day the feeling brings tears to my eyes, because mentally, I had given up.
So depressing right?! I mean why would a God who loves me so much and calls me his treasure, allow me to walk through this crushing pain of loneliness?
Let me tell you why.
God made us as humans to have a relationship with him and others, a point that may be repeated more than once. The relationship with God was severed, therefore so have ours with others. Not just in bullying, but in marriage, friendships, family members, the list goes on.
Living in a fallen world isn’t the only answer! I know if I was popular, excelled at sports, and kept a 4.0 in high school (if all my wants were met), I wouldn’t have room or possibly a desire for God. Though it’s hard to say, I needed those moments of loneliness and the days where homework was just too hard, to know that life was not something I could do on my own.
I can still remember the day I found this out, and a smile comes to my face with the memory. We were discussing a book in bible class, I can still remember sitting in that desk, in Mrs. Wuthrich’s room, and she saying something that has changed my life forever. Here is a paraphrase of what she said:
“Sometimes God takes away friendships, or distractions, to draw us closer to God.”
For a girl who was broken, that was an answer I had never heard before. I love the verse in James 4, where James is talking about submitting yourselves to God, and rejecting the world. Paraphrasing again, he says that those who seek friendship with the world are an enemy of God. We must resist the devil and he will flee. The verses I want to emphasize is James 4:8a, which states:
“Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you!”
So what does that look like? Even for those who have graduated already? Well, there’s a few challenges I’ve discovered over the years that may help you in your walk with God, and your relationships, both good and bad, with others.
1. God made you to be you.
I had to learn that “fitting the mold” was not what God has called us to do. Yes, we must obey authority and do our best in our schoolwork, but He has made each one of us with different talents and gifts. We all have original personalities given to us, from conception in the womb. We have been given an identify in God as his sons and daughters, and each of us hold a piece of His face. We have been filled with his love. This idea is hard to live, but life gets a little better when our value is found in God rather than in fitting the mold.
2. The Bully Struggles too
Most people don’t think I was bullied when I share my testimony. I have many stories and experiences I could add to this post to tell you how in many ways I was. But I wanted to touch on my own struggle because that’s what I should hit on, instead of tearing others down. For those, like me, who experience the downcast of others, I want to challenge you to look into where the bully comes from. When I study up on my characters in the novel that I am working on, and consider who I want them to be, I have to do that. What experiences drive their choices? Thinking on that is far better than giving them the reaction they expect and want from you.
Cue a To Kill a Mocking Bird quote:
“…You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view […] until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
3. Count your blessings
I was so focused on all the negative things that I couldn’t have hope in any of the positive. This was a step I could discover now, looking back, because I would not be who I am today without the positives. From this time in my life, here’s a couple that I’ve never been more thankful for:
– A God that gives me hope (hope changes everything!!)
– The teachers I love and respect so much, I wouldn’t have made it this far without them
– My mother and father, their experiences of being bullied in high school and sharing that with me.
– My older sister telling me to never give up
– My book that has educated me in more ways than I can count
– A cat that was almost like a dog in the way she followed me around
– He gave me a friend, outside of school that opened the door to the friend group I have now!
Count your blessings name them one by one…
4. Forgive and Forget
The bully wins if all that all you have for them is hate and memories that hold grudges. God has given us repetitive forgiveness for our sins as an example toward us. I know in high school I had a hate for those people who “left” me for new friends, I had a hate for that school and felt like it was my prison. I still may ache and have pain when I think of those days, but it wasn’t until I forgave those people who I believed wronged me (with or without their knowledge) and moved on with my life that I could for the first time experience peace!
For those of you in high school that feel as trapped as I did, I want to comfort you by saying, high school is not the destination. Don’t be discouraged, take heart. As one of my favorite comedians, Mark Lowery, puts it, “It came to pass, it didn’t come to stay!” And those of you who love high school or are graduated! YAY! Praise the Lord, but I want to challenge you to look out for others around you. Be a friend.
Wow that’s heavy! It’s hard talking about my past, but just like history class, hard things, if they are remembered they are less likely to be repeated. Therefore be hopeful! Remember what God’s son Jesus has done for you, and go do likewise!
Thank you for letting me share! I hope this helps reach you where you’re at and challenges you to develop new relationships and continue to strengthen your current ones! God Bless!
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