Learning to Let Go: Forgiving the Bully

It’s really hard to forgive old debts. By that I mean, forgiving someone who has hurt you, caused you pain, or made you feel “less than”. Have you ever stopped to think about how long you have been carrying the burden of what someone else did to you?

Last night I was on the phone with my mother, and we were talking about the loss of a friend of ours who died of cancer earlier in the week. The loss was both sad and uplifting as her dying process was not easy, so her death was a sigh of relief that she was no longer in pain. Our talk segued into a conversation about the area she lived in (and where I had lived before, over ten years ago) and about the people who lived there.

Earlier that same morning I had a chat with my aunt about letting go of pain and how I had promised myself I needed to start forgiving people from pain that came from many, many years ago. I’m talking grade school, high school…that many years ago. Now that I’m in my thirties, don’t you think that’s time to move on from that?

(Back to the call with my mother)

Boy, did she open up Pandora’s Box. My mother lovingly brought up the one person who I attribute the beginning of my hating that city and the people in it: Kelly. Yes, that’s her real name and yes, I’m leaving out her last name because I feel that identifying her that much isn’t helping my cause, or my blog entry point.

Kelly had a knack for being mean, and she and her gang of friends did everything they could to make my life miserable. What was worse, as I hit high school nearly every person in my class decidedly hated me. I was that kid who was friends with high school rejects and teachers only.  This wasn’t just words. This was physical abuse. The kind that could have turned me into some kind of a martyr had I been pushed too far. While it is never excusable, it does make perfect sense why some kids do some pretty horrible things in retaliation. Thank goodness FaceBook wasn’t around then! I shudder at the thought of what kids have to put up with today; bullying is bad enough without the age of social media.

I realized that after all my soul searching and trying to forgive, that I hadn’t forgiven the root of my problems in school. I actually saw red when I started talking about her, but caught myself mid-rant and realized that while I needed to let that go, I also wasn’t clear how long I had been carrying that. Twenty years.

Twenty years of anger, resentment, and some inward turned hostility. Eight of those years I kept well hidden anger, and poorly masked depression. I had allowed someone to have that much control over the way I felt for eight years. What is worse, last night, close to twenty years after the initial incident, I’m still holding on to the emotional pain of a person who wasn’t in control of her own feelings due to hormones and bullying because of a person who was so immature and lacking the emotional stability to be HUMAN to another person.

The punch line of this entry is to point out one thing. If you truly read this blog entry, do you see how the resentment is still there? Bullying hurts, and so do grudges. How many times do you honestly think Kelly thinks about what she did? My guess is probably never. My anger and resentment has been burning a hole in my shoulder, not hers.

So now is the time to practice forgiveness. I don’t forgive her actions; I’m not ready yet. What I do forgive is the foolish mind of a pre-teen, who had no idea the harm she was doing. Children at that age know right from wrong, yes, but they are not aware of the long term effects of their actions. Life changes in a nanosecond at that age. The song on the radio that was so cool is now so last week. The new jeans at the mall that everyone wanted? Cheesy. You get the point – everything is now, now, now!

So at that “now”, all she wanted was to look cool in front of her friends, because taking someone down gave her energy and made her feel important. Really, really, dumb, and yet so appropriate at that age. I’m sure she knew what she was doing was cruel, but I honestly believe she only thought it would last a moment and that of all things, I wouldn’t care after I left that town.

How funny that there are so many spiritual practices that try to teach you to live in the moment and how to let go of anxiety (fear of the future) or depression (holding on to the past, and, inward turned anger). Learn from your kids and be present!

Have you ever been the bully? Have you ever been bullied, or know someone who has? How did you get beyond that? Did you apologize for your actions or forgive that person? If not, isn’t it about time you did? You’ll be doing yourself a favor if you can. My first step toward forgiveness? Writing it out.

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