I left school because I couldn’t take one more day of being bullied, but this is no story of an awkward outcast.
Raised in a blue-collar community at the edge of Appalachia, I not only fit in, I stood out as an athlete, honor-roll student, and club leader, which made me a friend of many and an enemy of a group of girls who had targeted my happiness, success, and temper since fifth grade.
I dealt with their name-calling, gossip, and rumors until my senior year, when they created a swarm of noise I could no longer ignore, and I stood up to them—with devastating results.
Crushed by my sudden fall from popularity, I lost my sense of belonging, identity, and my love for others. Doubting whether I could endure one more day of life, I found myself staring at a shotgun cabinet when I heard the words that would eventually change my life.
High school ended but shame lingered throughout college. As I faced the backlash of a professor, the dysfunction of my basketball team, and conflicts with my roommates, I saw the reflection of my bullies in others. The lies I had internalized compounded every relational disappointment, affected how I interacted with others, and left me struggling but determined to make sense of the rejection I had experienced.
Meditating on the crucifixion, I saw Jesus as my bullied Savior and reclaimed my worth in Him. As I continued to struggle socially, I learned how to worship, and a supernatural encounter transformed my ideas about friendship. By resisting isolation and using my gift of encouragement, I fought my way back to loving others.
Never again will I surrender my value to the opinions of others. Bullies can’t make me feel less-than when I am deemed more-than. I’m not who they say I am. I am who God says I am.
Since 2007, I’ve shared my story with thousands in schools and via radio, television, and online interviews. I hope Let the Bees Buzz reminds others that we cannot always control how people treat us, but we can decide how to react. Hurtful words and actions do not define who we are. Our worth is in Jesus, who shows us how to forgive our enemies, love again, and move forward in friendship.
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