Apparently, I am a bully. I have learned the art of bullying quite well it seems.
Someone very close to me, someone I care a lot about told me this recently. I was a bit shocked. I had no idea.
She told me this:
Mary, for as long as we’ve known each other, you have belittled, ridiculed, mocked me, and called me names. You’ve told me I’m stupid and fat and ugly and weird. You’ve made me feel inferior and insignificant. I’ve often felt like I just can’t measure up to your standards and expectations, no matter how hard I try. You expect perfection, and I constantly fall short. Then, you lose your temper when I don’t come through. I feel like it’s my fault for everything that goes wrong in your life.
I felt my heart pound. I tried to defend myself, but she was on a roll.
I feel guilty all the time. Whenever I mess up, I feel like an idiot, because that’s what you’ve told me for years. I see how you encourage and accept others. I watch how you seem to convey to them that it’s okay to have flaws. I listen to you tell them that God loves them no matter what. Regardless of how they view themselves, you always try to explain how God’s love overrides what they think. You allow others to be who they are, but you ignore me. I look at you and see a hypocrite.
Why are you so hard on me? Why do I feel as though you’ve never been able to love me, really love me, just the way I am?
Again, I opened my mouth to defend myself, but she went on.
All I want is to be treated with the same respect and dignity that you give to everyone else. Don’t you think we all deserve that?
My heart beat wildly in shame. The more she went on, the more ashamed I felt. I couldn’t believe how I’d wounded this special woman, this soul so dear to me. How had I allowed this beautiful child of God to feel so worthless? How had I not seen it?
Shame on me!
was more important that I make it right. This wasn’t about me. But it was.
I’m so sorry, I said. I had no idea I was treating you so badly.
Actually, she said, I believe you did know and chose to continue, because I’m just not as important as everyone else.
Oh, that’s not true! I insisted. Of course you are!
It is true, Mary, she said quietly. And then, so quietly, that I almost didn’t hear her:
You’ve been bullying me for as long as I can remember. It needs to stop.
Silence ensued. We stared at one another, she strangely confident for someone who felt so abused; me in an awkwardly dawning revelation, feeling more convicted the longer I met her knowing eyes.
Until I could no longer deny it. She was right.
I’m sorry, so sorry. You’re right. I have bullied you into thinking that you’re not good enough. I’ve focused on your flaws instead of your beauty. I’ve compared you to every supermodel, every icon, and even every mother. Instead of helping you and understanding your difficulty in remembering certain things, I’ve made fun of you and called you a ditz and a scatterbrain. I’ve even allowed others to make fun of you and never stepped in to your defense.
Instead of building up your confidence, I’ve attempted to tear you down every time you mess up. Instead of allowing you to make mistakes, I’ve kept a tally of everything you’ve done wrong.
Instead of treating you with dignity, I’ve called you stupid. I’ve ridiculed you in public and scolded you worse in private. I’ve been a bully and you’ve been my scapegoat.
The truth is, when I look at you, I see a beautiful, confident, and smart woman who loves to make people laugh. You use humor to diffuse an awkward or a potentially unstable situation.
I remember how you used to rage at the world, and now you don’t let anger dominate your circumstances.
You’re no longer that sad, angry, and lonely girl who was filled with self-pity and insecurity. By the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ, and through many years of life lessons, you have overcome and you’ve never let anything keep you down. You’ve become a pretty cool person who I’m really proud to call my friend.
As I continued to speak life into her, I watched her stature and her smile grow. It matched my own.
It had felt a bit odd to talk to myself in the mirror. Watching my own reaction had been difficult too, but that was the catalyst to change. I needed to face my wounded self as well as my bully self.
You’re right, Mary, we haven’t been very kind to one another over the years, have we? I think it’s time to call a truce, to reconcile.
Accept yourself. Be kind to yourself. Love yourself. Treat yourself with dignity and respect. Do unto yourself as you do unto others. Celebrate who God made you to be, what you’ve overcome and who you’ve become. You’re pretty awesome.
My bullied-self and my bully-self made a pact in the mirror. I suppose if my other self wasn’t two dimensional we may have shaken on it or hugged, but that borders on insanity. And that’s a story for another day.
What–or who–do you see when you look in the mirror? It might be time to have a serious discussion with yourself.
Mary Dolan Flaherty is a quirky gal who loves to encourage people and make them laugh. She writes and speaks with self-deprecating humor and transparency, saying what most people think but won’t admit. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, whom she affectionately calls Hubbles, and has two grown children and two grand-dogs. Mary enjoys hiking, theatre, music, gardening, and traveling and can be found blogging at SonRiseInsights.com.