RheasOfHope

one girl's thoughts on life, mental illness, eating disorder recovery, and hope.

When you forgive your bullies October 17, 2016

“Forgive and Forget:” we’ve all heard this idiomatic phrase. Perhaps we’ve even uttered it to ourselves when faced with someone who has wronged us, or offered it as a polite consolation to others. But can one truly forgive AND forget? And do we even want to forgive and forget? I was faced with this very question during Daniel’s—my pastor–sermon this weekend.

 

In Isaiah 43:25, it is written, “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” Many people take this as the basis for “Forgive and Forget.” After all, if the Lord of all creation, says He wipes out our sins and forgets they ever happened, who are we to hold a grudge against someone who has wronged us? Only here’s the thing, such a simplistic approach that verse completely disregard’s God’s omnipotence—He knows all that has happened, is happening, and will happen…with that knowledge, how would He be able to just “forget” sin? When it states, “remembers your sins no more,” that doesn’t mean He’s choosing to forgive and forget—He’s choosing to forgive us of our sins as a means to restore our relationship with Him; choosing not to hold our sin against us anymore. He wants to separate us from our sins so that they can no longer ensnare us—keeping us from a relationship with him. Furthermore, He wants us to extend His level of forgiveness to those we encounter. When we think about forgiveness, we must no longer think of forgetting, but of restoration.

 

With that in mind, I revisited a prompt I learned when training for the Body Project at the NEDA conference last month: “Please write a letter to someone in your life who pressured you to conform to the appearance ideal. Please tell them how this affected you and indicate how you would respond now, in light of what you have learned.” I knew immediately who I needed to forgive and restore; my bullies. I hold an inordinate amount of resentment towards these individuals—many of whom I haven’t seen in at least ten years, and none of whom deserve to have control over me anymore. This summer, many people asked me if I would be attending my ten-year high school reunion. My answer was always the same, “No one at Lakota liked me when I was there. Why would they like me ten years later?” Clearly I’m a master at forgive and restore. I had neither forgiven nor restored. In fact, any time my school’s name is mentioned, a feeling of intense sadness and indignation invades my heart. Quite frankly, I’m ashamed that that is my reaction. In an effort to forgive and restore, I’ve written an open letter of forgiveness to my former bullies.

 

Dear Bullies,

I forgive you. That’s right; I forgive you. Right now you’re probably wondering why I am forgiving you all for being horrible people, for giving me ingenious nicknames like “cow” and “whale,” for making a party game out of calling my house, for making me eat lunch alone for all those years, and for the myriad other malfeasances you committed—not just against me—but to so many others. You may be pondering why “Rumpke Recycling” or “Dairy Queen” is forgiving you and is grateful for the abuse you inflicted. While many of you are likely still questioning who I even am; as you’ve likely forgotten—or chose to ignore—your past transgressions. Your past behavior—as malicious as it was, and may, very well, still be—actually made me stronger. Though your treatment of me plunged me into a seemingly inescapable pit of depression, anxiety, self-harm, eating disorders…it allowed me to seek and develop the very tools I needed to escape.

 

After being subjected to your harangue and torment, I grew to believe that I deserved to be treated in an unfavorably and destructive manner. I learned to hurt myself before others could seize the opportunity. I believed—albeit falsely—that hurting myself before others inevitably would, would make the pain more tolerable. However, the only result of that attempt at self-preservation was self-destruction in the form of twenty years of eating disordered hell, self-harm, and isolation. In gong through that hell, however, I learned of the inherent worth given to me by God and used your torment as the very foundation upon which I built my life and career.

 

In seeking refuge from the effects of your degradation, I grain invaluable knowledge and tools. If it weren’t for your wrongdoings, I may never have learned how strong, determined, and loved I could be. I’ve discovered that I’m imperfect and that what makes me worthy of love—because everyone is imperfect and we’re all deserving of love. I have come to disregard the negative, hurtful comments of others, while not continuing my negative attitude towards myself either. Asking for help, I’ve learned, is a necessary aspect of a healthy life—not a sign of weakness. Gone are the days of hurting myself before you could hurt me. Instead, I’ve constructed a support network of individuals who genuinely care for me and reinforce my commitment to recovery.

 

As a result of my efforts in recovery, I’ve acquired a job I adore and which also makes great use of my life experiences, education, and empathy. Everyday I have the privilege of engaging with teenage patients in treatment for eating disorders and share what I’ve learned from your many injustices. Likewise, these incredible souls teach me. Together we are overcoming and learning to love our authentic, raw, vulnerable selves.

 

So while you may have attempted to subjugate my life and though I may have missed twenty years of my life to an eating disorder, I stand here today as living proof. Proof that self-care is essential—regardless the opinions of others. Proof that one can rise from their past—from your tragedy, I have triumphed. Although it was painful at the time and was painful to remember, your bullying set me up to be the person I am today. And today, today I am improving. Know that you are forgiven.

 

  Gratefully,

Rhea

jenni-and-rachel

When you gain recovery, you get to meet people who have impacted your life from afar, and who helped you through their books, speeches, and living their own recovery. I was so incredibly humbled to meet Jenni Schaefer a few weeks ago! My goal is to shine as bright a light as she has. 

 

Colossians 3:12-15

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

 

Why Jennifer Livingston Rocks October 9, 2012

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October. The name alone conjures thoughts of children running around, frantically trying to gather as much candy as they can in two short twilight hours while wearing costumes over winter coats (if you live in Ohio)…or perhaps apple cider…or the movie “Hocus Pocus”. Whatever your initial thought, when asked about October holidays, your first thought will most likely be Halloween. I, however, am proposing you recognize another October observance—National Anti-bullying Month. Bullying can be defined as any “behavior [which] hurts or harms another person physically or emotionally. Bullying can be very overt, such as fighting, hitting or name calling, or it can be covert, such as gossiping or leaving someone out on purpose. It is intentional, meaning the act is done willfully, knowingly and with deliberation. The targets have difficulty stopping the behavior directed at them and struggle to defend themselves.” (http://www.pacer.org/bullying/resources/info-facts.asp). I’m not going to write about how I was bullied my entire life or give you the numerous sob stories that I endured during my years in public school. No, what I am going to do is show you a recent example of how one woman countered a bully and started a conversation on bullying in America—one that includes everyone no matter their race, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, appearance, socio-economic status, etc. By simply standing up for herself, Jennifer Livingston spread the message that bullying will not be tolerated or excused.(Jennifer’s stance on bullying can be seen here)

A Wisconsin news anchor named Jennifer Livingston  received letters from the public all the time, but this letter was unlike any letter she ever received before. This letter personally attacked her appearance; informing her that she is obese and that that obesity was a “habit” that is harmful to continue. It went on to criticize her for being overweight in such a public profession; stating that her weight does not provide a beneficial role model for today’s youth—especially young girls. Jennifer took to the air to inform people that this man’s behavior is, indeed, bullying and that that behavior is unacceptable in today’s (or any other day’s) society. According to the definition above, this ignorant man’s behavior was done with deliberation; with the malicious intent to harm. One would be inclined to believe that with adulthood comes the absence of bullies. However, in today’s culture bullying doesn’t end when you cross the stage at graduation and are handed your high school diploma. It persists well into adulthood, and, unfortunately, follows some people their entire life. I want to change this. I realize I am only one, but having suffered mercilessly at the hands of bullies, that, at age 24 have not left me, I realize that this issue needs to be addressed. When people like Jennifer use their public position to show bullies that their behavior is not acceptable nor will it be tolerated, the bullies lose some of their power. By refusing to be a victim and allowing this man to tear her down emotionally, Jennifer took a stand against bullying. I implore you to do the same. There are many ways to stand up to bullying. You could call out bullies on their behavior, come to the aid of a target, speak out against the bullying behaviors, refuse to allow yourself to become a “victim”, teach your children how to be kind people and any variety of other ways you can think of to eliminate bullying behaviors.  The culture of bullying needs to end, and you can be a part of that movement. All it takes is one thought, one action, one change in behavior to start a movement that sends a clear message to bullies that their behavior is unwanted, unappreciated and inhumane. Please help me, and Jennifer, and countless others create world in which bullies do not have to power to victimize others.