Today I want to introduce you to a dear friend who has an incredible message and mission. Leah’s ministry is filled with hope and empowerment, strength and support, Christian guidance and counsel- for women whose loved ones suffer from addiction. Her posts are full of biblical insight and encouragement and her newly released book provides a wealth of wisdom on parenting our children in this broken world. Leah is here to share a powerful piece on her experience with bullying and the transformation of her identity in Christ. Make sure you head over to her site to check out more of her work, and if you are a Christian parent, consider buying her book. I’ve found it to be an insightful and informative read full of biblical wisdom, genuine encouragement, and applicable lessons in Christian parenting. It’s well worth the low price of $5.00 on Leah’s site HERE.
When I was a child, I was bullied. When I say “bullied”, I don’t mean that I was simply called names and teased. When I was a child I was ridiculed to tears, singled out, spit on (even in my mouth), physically attacked, had food crushed in my hair on the bus, had food thrown at me at recess, they put gum in my hair, put death threats in my school locker, spread vicious rumors about me and the day I, unfortunately, reached menstruation in the middle of a school day it was announced to the class. While laughter erupted amongst my peers, pieces of my identity slowly disappeared.
The bullying started in Kindergarten. My first bully was named, “Alicia”. She made me cry and I tried to run home to my mom. It was the beginning of many years of torment. The names of the bullies would change but their attacks got worse with age. More violent. More destructive. I found myself asking God almost daily, “Why me?”. Half of them, I didn’t even know. What was it about me that someone could hate so much, without even knowing me? God didn’t answer my question. At least, I didn’t think so.
I would like to tell you that now, fresh off my thirtieth birthday, I am no longer bullied. That I learned self-confidence and made myself into a thriving, personal success. “That’ll show them”, the underdog is supposed to say.
But the truth is, I am still being bullied. The name we give those bullies now is “haters”. I’m sure you’ve heard it before. These “haters” have been given a new platform to attack their victims through cyber bullying. Cyber bullying is a whole new wave of torture. Though it’s been around for awhile now, we Millennials are experiencing cyber bullying in a whole new way. A cyber bully can speak lies posing as you, post pictures of you, hack your bank account, stalk you… haunt you.
So, what can we do? And how are our children coping with this?
“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” 2 Timothy 1:7 (ESV)
Bullying has been around since the beginning of time. Satan, the deceiver, the manipulator, the aggressor, bullied Eve into eating that apple in the Garden. Trickery and manipulation are only subtle forms of bullying.
“‘That’s a lie!’ the serpent hissed. ‘You’ll not die! God knows very well that the instant you eat it you will become like Him, for your eyes will be opened—you will be able to distinguish good from evil!’
The woman was convinced. How lovely and fresh looking it was! And it would make her so wise! So she ate some of the fruit and gave some to her husband, and he ate it too.”
Genesis 3:4-6 (TLB)
A bully makes us believe that who we are is not good enough, that we are a “lesser-than” and therefore inadequate. Satan made Eve feel and believe she was not enough just as she was. So she ate the apple, to be more like God. She wanted to be wise. She wanted to know what was good and what was not. She wanted to be good. Good enough.
What Eve was missing, what our children are missing, what we, as adults, are missing is the truth about who we are. The world has tricked, manipulated and bullied us into believing that we are not enough as we are and we need to do more, be more and be better. We work tirelessly to become the best version of ourselves. We believe we are small people in a big world. We think the capacity of our ability to help people falls on what we can see and touch, “If I only help one person, it will be worth it” we say. It sounds nice, even Godly, but it’s all a lie.
We are children of God. A holy nation. Made in His image. We are the closest thing on earth to what God looks and talks like. Each unique quality in us is a picture of who God is. A sense of humor, creativity, a love of beauty, a desire to dance, to sing, to build, to problem-solve, to nurture, to read, to run, to discover, these are all pictures of who God is.
This is our identity. It’s the truth Eve was missing in the garden that day. If she had known she was already like God she would not have been deceived into believing she needed to be someone other than who she was.
“Consider the kind of extravagant love the Father has lavished on us—He calls us children of God! It’s true; we are His beloved children. And in the same way the world didn’t recognize Him, the world does not recognize us either.
My loved ones, we have been adopted into God’s family; and we are officially His children now. The full picture of our destiny is not yet clear, but we know this much: when Jesus appears, we will be like Him because we will see Him just as He is.” 1 John 3:1-2 (VOICE)
At age thirty, I would like to tell you that I am no longer bullied but the truth is, I am. What I can tell you though is that the words and the hatred do not affect my identity anymore. I don’t need drugs or alcohol to fit in. I don’t need to “act cool” so people like me. They might not like me but God does. God loves me. He sees me the same way He looks at you, and He smiles because He cannot love us more than He already does. He is proud of what He made.
I wish that when I was a child, I had understood who I was so I could have held fast to this very special, accepted identity. I would have built my life around the knowledge of what God said I could do, not what others said I couldn’t. I can do so much more than help just one person because I am the daughter of a King who puts no boundaries on dreaming.
As a parent, this is how I believe we can help our children. Not only was I a child who did drugs, drank too much and had sex before marriage but I now talk about addiction on a daily basis. I can tell you for certain that every child who walks down that path began that journey to escape a pain, usually rooted in fear and insecurity.
The only way to stop this, or bring them back from this road, is to teach them their identity. They are, and they always were- enough. In fact, they are more than “enough”, they are extraordinary.
Janine Huldie says
Thank you so much Chris for sharing Leah here today, as well as Leah courageously sharing herself and her story here with us, too. I will say this is my greatest fear that one of my girls would be the victim of bullying. In all honesty, if this ever were to happen I am pretty sure I would go to the ends of the earth to make sure that the person(s) would not get away with it and would cease and desist immediately. I understand nothing is perfect, but still would hope to that I could do my best to prevent this, as well as if it did occur to end it swiftly and quickly. But again do get the reality and appreciate that being shared here, too.
Hi, Janine! My mom tried 🙂 she did! She tried so hard to stop the bullying but it was no use, she couldn’t go to school with me. They even sent my dad’s cellphone to school with me (cellphones had just come out, that was a BIG deal at the time!!) so I could call home from the bathroom but hiding didn’t help. Like I said, the best way to stop it is to secure your child’s identity. It’s like that children’s book “You Are Special”, if your precious child falls victim to bullying, the labels and names won’t stick if they know what God thinks about them 🙂 glad you liked the post!
Kristi R Campbell says
Thanks, Chris for introducing Leah here today. Leah, your childhood experiences sound awful and I’m so sorry. I wasn’t really bullied but have other issues and related to escaping.
This is a really thought-provoking essay. I’d be interested in what you’re doing to help kids understand that God loves them and to teach them their identity even as they’re being bullied. I struggle with this with my son. He’s a-typical and we’ve got some bullying. I’ve got some tactics, and have a great team but from my experience both with him and from being a kid myself once, I feel like kids so much more easily believe their peers. Thanks again for sharing.
Hi, Kristi! I explain this in much more detail in my book. Not specific tactics with “how-to’s” to help kids when they’re being bullied but how to approach it as a parent, based on my experience going through it. God’s love for us is really where we find that true “identity”. Even as adults, so many of us are still looking for our purpose, who we are, our self-worth, our meaning, what we can contribute, etc. If you look at that “identity crisis” it’s obvious it comes from beating beaten down- often, by ourselves! “You are your own worst enemy” is very true! This is all a great tactic by Satan to derail our futures and prevent us from inheriting the Kingdom of God. So back to your question, how do you help in the midst of the bullying? Even when we cannot hear God, who can we hear? Our parents. Whether we notice it or not, the voice that drives us through our decisions in life is often our parent’s voices in our heads. Their criticisms, their praise, their encouragement, their whispered arguments. In the midst of the bullying, even if your child cannot hear God and is seeming to not soak in your direction remember, you’re the voice in their head. So be the most positive, encouraging, loving voice you can be. Encourage, encourage, encourage, love, love, love, reinforce how proud you are of them, tell them every day everything good you think about them. “You are loving, you are kind, you are funny, you are smart, you are handsome, you are gentle, you are sweet, you are honest, you are merciful” even things that they may not be being right that moment but you know is there 🙂 Sorry your little guy is going through that and you too! That’s hard, Mama!
Hi Chris and Leah! This is a message that we have to repeat and repeat. I was bullied in grammar school (nothing like you Leah), and my son was too. It’s a life-changing experience, and a lonely one too.
Leah, you have really risen above, and see some wisdom come from your terrible times, and that is such a testament to your heart and the movement of the Holy Spirit in you. God truly took something awful and made it holy in you. God bless your efforts!
Awe, thank you, Ceil! Bullying is hard, no matter the degree. It’s very tough to know how to handle that as a kid but we do get better at it with age. Better, not perfect 🙂 Thank you so much for your encouragement, that means a lot to me!!!
Jennifer | The Deliberate Mom says
Thank you Chris for sharing Leah’s wise and Biblical words here today!
These words: “This is our identity. It’s the truth Eve was missing in the garden that day. If she had known she was already like God she would not have been deceived into believing she needed to be someone other than who she was.” – WOW!
I grew up in a non-Christian home. I struggled with so much, made so many mistakes, and messed up in huge ways. My errors and negative life experiences tormented me into adulthood and even resonated when I first found Jesus. It took a while for my new identity in Christ to form and Satan still tries to steal that comfort and confidence away from me by reminding me of the past.
I appreciate the encouragement and scriptures you shared here today.
Thank you Leah! I’m so sad to hear you were,so bullied..my husband was bullied as a child at school and I saw how itvimpacted him in his life. But knowing our identify in Christ as you so beautifully write here can heal the deepest of wounds. Amen! God gave you such divine grace and it comes beaming through here! Blessings!
Julie Jo Severson says
My heart broke with every act of bullying you described as having experienced. I’m aware that a couple of my older siblings were badly bullied and I pictured those things happening to them as you described them. I was certainly teased and somewhat of a lonely kid, but nowhere near the degree that they or you experienced. The question you asked yourself back then “What was it about me that someone could hate so much, without even knowing me?” pierced me. I will always wish I could go back and stand up for those who needed a friend. You have a beautiful voice and life-saving message, and I’m so glad to have heard it today.