Another heartbreaking tale of bullying hit the media recently, and this one ended even more tragically with the death of a precious young girl. We felt her family’s anguish as we learned of another dear soul cruelly singled out for taunting, abuse, and, in this case, much worse.
The subject of bullying continues to gain more attention, and deservedly so. I recall my own experiences with bullying, and it still can bring hot tears to my eyes. Born with severely crossed eyes and a learning disability, school was often tortuous for me, and the teasing I received from other students often drove me to stay indoors during recess.
At first, I simply didn’t understand, and came home crying from school one day to ask “Mommy, am I cross-eyed?”
The pain on my mother’s face let me know that something was truly wrong with the way I was treated— simply for looking different.
In my experience, bullies can’t be reasoned with or forced to change—one cannot mandate morality and kindness. No, bullies can only be contained with strict boundaries and consequences with the hopes that a change of heart will occur. Even still, whatever is done to restrict the behavior of a bully often feels almost inconsequential compared to the lifetime scars they leave on others.
My heart goes out to those individuals who carry scars of that sort. I know a bit about scars and wounds. A severe car accident in college left me permanently disabled and eventually cost me both legs. Yet, I wear my prosthetic limbs without skin covering now, and I am amazed at the transformation of a frightened little girl who avoided recess—into a woman who has stood before countless audiences on metal legs, including both President George W. Bush and his father, President George H.W. Bush.
Maybe I learned fortitude through my childhood torments; maybe I trusted God a bit more with my weakness—which He allowed to become strengths. Whatever the case, I say to anyone bearing the scars of bullying, “You are more than the insults and injuries that assailed you.”
Those hurts don’t always go away, but we can learn to transcend them. I recall once on the set of a national television show that I was worried over the camera angle—and if it would make me look cross-eyed. My eyes were surgically repaired decades ago, but my left eye still wanders a bit, and old wounds have a habit of resurfacing. Chuckling at me, my husband, Peter, whispered, “Baby, you have metal legs and you’re wearing a skirt—I don’t think folks will be looking at your eyes!”
I had to laugh at myself—and I think that’s what I’d like to offer wounded hearts who carry the pain of being bullied. That pain, I’ve discovered, can serve as a catalyst to propel us to heights of confidence and success that we may have never dreamed of achieving.
I learned to place my scared hands into HIS scarred hands, and discovered that what Christ told the Apostle Paul—was equally valid for me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” When Paul heard that statement, he went on to write, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:9)
I am deeply moved to consider that we have a Savior who understands this in ways we cannot—He allowed Himself to be bullied …on our behalf.
There will always be bullies in this broken world. While we may be victimized, we don’t have to live as victims. Together, we can encourage each other, strengthen each other, look out for each other, protect each other, and “…comfort one another we the same comfort that we ourselves have received.” (2 Corinthians 1:4)
Gracie Rosenberger is founder of Standing With Hope, an organization that provides prosthetic limbs to those in need in West Africa. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee.