Sunday, June 16, 2024

Don’t let past abuse dictate who you are now

| December 16, 2021 1:00 AM

From the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible: “I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

I was a skinny kid. Bullies took advantage of that. At one point, I think in fourth grade, a popular kid made sure that no one played with me. I ended up alone on the playground for about six weeks. I cried a lot. Thankfully, the popular kid’s mother eventually found out what was going on and put a stop to it.

In fifth grade, a trio of my classmates teased me relentlessly for about three months. I dreaded every day of that torture. I hated going to school. My mom eventually learned of this and called the teacher to put a stop to it.

In 10th grade, because I was “a square,” and “a punk,” someone spiked my lunch with PCP. (This is a long story. I wrote about this quite a while ago). It took years for my brain to recover and for me to begin to think clearly again.

From my years in school there was a cumulative effect; I became extremely bitter. I am certainly glad that I did not act out.

For years after that time, I considered myself to be a victim. However, gradually, I gained a new perspective.

I learned to be a survivor. I channeled my bitterness into a dogged determination to make something of myself and to experience as much as I could in life. I would not allow those early years to take the enjoyment of life away from me.

It wasn’t easy; however, I believe I’ve been successful in doing so.

Along this journey, I have learned some valuable lessons. In spite of feeling unfairly hurt, I realized that I needed to step outside of myself. Life isn’t just about me and feeling sorry for myself.

As a pastor, I have heard many stories from people over the years, some about long periods of being abused or bullied.

I’ve learned a lot from those who also carry some degree of emotional “baggage” as a result. I have also learned that all people carry some form of pain that they are dealing with.

The pandemic and the political climate have been tough on everyone.

We live in a day and age of increased anger, isolation, blaming of others, and lashing out.

When this has happened, I have to remind myself that everyone has emotional baggage. Some actions or reactivity may be fueled by unresolved issues of the past. So, I try hard to cut folks a break.

If God were a golfer, he would remind us that other folks need “a mulligan” as much as you do.

It may be most difficult to do, but gives hope for a future day when bridges can be rebuilt, and hurts mended.

This is what the world needs now.

“Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.” (1 John 3:18)

Walter is pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Moses Lake and has served as parish pastor for more than 30 years.