New Life: The Bullied Bully | Justin Boothby
*Warning: A bad word is used below. If you’re easily offended by one cuss word, please don’t read this.*
This weekend I began cleaning out the myriad of things I have tucked away in my parents’ basement. Since I’ll be moving again I figured it was important to sift through my displaced possessions. It was impressive finding things I thought I had lost and finding other things I forgot I had. I came across some fun gifts from my favorite surprise birthday party that my youth group students threw for me in 2013. I discovered old trophies from my soccer, bowling, baseball, and basketball days. I unearthed old college and ministry documents which is the equivalent of finding gold for me. But then I discovered something else.
Elementary school yearbooks are one you should look back on and say, “Look how cute but silly I was.” But that was far from my reaction of my 5th grade yearbook. A seemingly awesome find turned into a horrible reality of how truly broken and hurt I was as a kid. I probably talk about it too much sometimes, but my childhood was far from great. I was often made fun of for my last name and my weight, among other things. I’m not saying I never brought it on myself. I certainly put my foot in my mouth on numerous occasions that warranted unfriendly banter. I realized, however, just how truly hurt I was on Saturday.
“Get a life fatso” “I hate you bitch” “I hate you old bag” (*See Below) These are just a few of the very obscene words found in my 5th grade yearbook. 5th grade! I was 11! Why would an 11 year old feel the need to write such horrible things about his classmates and teachers in his own yearbook?!
I saw other people who were “popular” and how they treated me and I thought, “If I want to be popular I have to treat other people the way they’ve treated me. Once I’ve made other people feel bad, then I can be popular and feel better about myself.” Typical 5th grade logic. The bullied became the bully in a futile grasp for popularity. I continued down that same cycle and road for many years following 5th grade and, of course, I would never achieve that feeling as if I was good enough.
It was a harsh reality to look at – to see how broken, angry, and hurt I was as a teen/pre-teen. But it was also a relief that for the most part, I’ve thrown that old life off. Of course, I still struggle with the “I’m not good enough” lie. However, I now know that gaining “popularity” or “fame” or whatever isn’t important. And I know that earning respect from people doesn’t come from berating and making fun of others. It comes from building others up and encouraging them and making them feel loved, not despised.
This week we’re focused on 2 Corinthians 5:17. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” What a beautiful revelation for those of us who recognize our faulty and hurtful past! But in order to live in this new life we have to recognize the magnitude of its existence. It’s brand spanking new – like buying a new house new, not buying an apartment that’s had 40 different residents and 20 different renovations since it was built in 1970 new.
I love how Paul writes about this in Ephesians 4:22-24, “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”
Before we can live in our new life, we have to recognize why we need a new life. Maybe it’s a hurtful childhood like me? Maybe it’s an abusive one, or maybe you’re wrestling with drug or alcohol addiction. Ultimately we need a new life because sin ruins our original life. Whatever you’re struggling with, it’s not trivial in the eyes of Jesus. They are all important and that’s why Jesus offers us a new life with a new name. We don’t have to be stuck in that old way any longer. We are freed from that past to live in a hope that one day all things will be totally renewed (Revelation 21:2-4).
But like most things, we have a choice. We have a choice to live in that new life (new house), or we can choose to go back to that gross apartment of a life and operate out of there. Our new house allows us to function in community and live our lives with the help and support of other people who are willing to encourage and build us up. But once we begin living in that new life, we must also work to help others find freedom as well.
Galatians 5:22-23 says the evidence of our new life love, joy, peace, endurance, patience, self-control, gentleness, kindness, goodness, and faithfulness. Take some time this week to evaluate if you’re truly living in that new life. Find out how you can better implement these qualities in your daily life so that you cannot only live in this freedom, but you can encourage others to do the same.
Be encouraged and empowered this week. If there is anything we can be doing to help you this week, we want to come along side you as well and help you in your season. Let us know how we can help by going to our Prayer Wall Here. You can post publicly or anonymously.
*Some people might wonder, “Why would he use the “B” word. Isn’t this a ministry?” Yes it is. But it is a ministry based in reality. There’s no sugarcoating things here. If you were only offended by the “B” word, then you missed the point. All three things I said were hurtful, cruel, and wrong. I don’t like sharing the fact that I said those things about my classmates and teaches. When I saw those words I felt ashamed and embarassed. I almost didn’t want to share it with Lauren. But bringing our faults into the Light so that Jesus can be glorified and so that we can grow and heal from our sins is more imoprtant than our shame and embarassment (Job 12:22, Isaiah 29:15-16, Ephesians 5:13; 1 Corinthians 4:4-5, James 5:16).
About Justin Boothby