[In honor of Bullying Prevention Month, the folks at MORF Magazine asked me to share how I overcame bullying in my own journey. For me, the answers came by asking the right questions. My original post on MORF Magazine is here, and here’s a copy below.]
Nothing helped me get over the bullying I experienced as much as discovering these three questions and taking the steps to find their answers.
1. What do you want most?
Few questions reveal our hearts so much as asking: What do you want most right now?
Yes, almost everyone wants to fall in love, land the dream job or take an early retirement/permanent adventure in that tropical hotel (you know, the one with the rooms on the end of the long pier).
But, there are also other wants we carry. They may look and feel like the same good things, and they even may be closely related. But, if you’ve been bullied, what you want may be a reaction to what you were denied back then.
Is it love you want? Of course. We all do. But, the person who has been bullied may want love so badly because she needs to know she’s no longer unloved. That’s an entirely different want altogether because it’s actually this: I want to know I’m not unlovable.
Nothing can be so frustrating as trying to prove a negative.
The girl who was never pretty enough may want to hear that she’s beautiful now. Only, it never seems to be enough, no matter how many guys she finds to tell her.
The guy who was disrespected and humiliated by bullies may want the promotion on the team or at work. Only, there’s always someone there who never quite honors him enough. What he wants to know is that everyone who never gave him credit has been wrong about him.
Anti-wanting is still wanting, just in a different way. Many people who were bullied have been skilled at hiding from the things they want so that they never have to face not getting it.
These alter-ego versions of what might otherwise be good and healthy wants can also be found in many people who were never bullied. But, for those who have been, it’s particularly tempting to fall into the trap of all the wrong wants. The bully came along and interrupted our journey just at the moment we were about to discover the right wants – the true purpose – for our lives.
2. What are you doing to get it?
How unfortunate it is to waste days, months or years trying to get a want met that we didn’t want in the first place. Someone else gave it to us, after all, but we took it.
Often we can know we are stuck in a “want trap” by looking at the areas of our lives that aren’t working. They are the places where we think we know what we want, but somehow it seems the way we’re trying to get it will never work and never be enough.
We are “wired” to desire being loved, cherished and respected. First, as Christians, we are given the mind of Christ through the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 2:15-16 states, “The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, for, ‘Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?’But we have the mind of Christ.” And what is the mind of Christ toward us? John 1:12 tells us that we are God’s children. “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—” And in Jeremiah 29:11-12, God says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.” As our minds are renewed and transformed through the Holy Spirit, we will begin to see ourselves as God sees us, want the things for ourselves that He wants, and increase in love for God, others and ourselves.
In my own story, I was probably the last to know how bullying impacted me. I was so determined to move on and “get over it” that I never would have admitted things in the past were still impacting me in the present. And nothing distracted me from the truth more than when things seemed to be going well.
But success in those areas was often short-lived. The lie I wanted so badly to disprove sunk deeper into my heart with every bad ending. And the ending was always the same. I just wanted it more!
At a certain point, when I started looking at what I wanted and all that I was doing to find it—only then did I see that I was asking the wrong questions to the wrong people.
Some of the biggest mistakes I have made to date were part of a chain reaction that started by falling into a want trap. Of course, so were some of the best decisions I ever made. I’m getting to that part next.
3. Who has authority to give you what you want?
I love the question about authority because it’s really two questions in one. First, who or what have you given authority to meet your want?
For someone seeking comfort, it might be a substance. For someone seeking respect, it might be a certain achievement. For someone seeking affirmation, it might be a single person. And in all of these cases and in many more, the inevitable question that must follow is the big one.
Do any of them actually have the power to give it to you?
The truth is, the want of the heart is insatiable, and no one is up to that challenge.
In my story, I didn’t have the authority to meet my own wants in a lasting way. The answer for me is not Me.
If the great and powerful Me had been able to obtain what I wanted, I would have done it. But letting go of the old wants and grasping hold of the purpose I was created for required forgiveness, hope and love in a new way that I am powerless to manufacture on my own.
My victory over bullying came in my 20s, when God showed me how He is the one who has the power and authority to give the answer that the heart craves. He can free us from the trap of wanting and show us what is to be fully accepted, fully loved and fully covered.
When Jesus met the Samaritan woman at the well, a woman whose life showed she had fallen into the want trap just like the rest of us, He said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14 NIV)
Because of this, I can now say that I am grateful to God for the experience of bullying. The season was temporary, but He used it to help me discover the questions that led me closer to Him. And I am so grateful that His answers are more than I ever would have asked for or imagined.