I have a habit of sharing the Bible verse of the day from my Bible app onto Facebook, but recently I did not. The verse didn’t resound within me like most do, and it bothered me that it did not. I just couldn’t help it, though. The verse from Proverbs was about loyal friendship, and that was something I didn’t put a lot of trust in. Opening your heart to friendship was easy for most people, but for me? Not so much. My inner circle is small.
See, I have a hard time making friends. I’ll hang out with my siblings, and I call my husband my best friend. That’s pretty much where the buck stops, though. I’m a self-proclaimed introvert. I’m the type of person who will see someone in a store, look down, and run the other way rather than make conversation that’s uncomfortable for me. It’s not like I’m trying to be rude; it’s just hard having relationships. I can talk the ear off my patients at the hospital bedside, telling them my whole life story sometimes. But maybe that’s because it’s part of my job. I enjoy communicating with others, showing God’s love, and having a good time. There’s simply that part of me that doesn’t do well with friendship. Even though I’ve grown tremendously in this area over the past couple of years, I still can count my girlfriends on one hand. And that’s going all the way back to third grade!
Recently I was talking to my seven-year-old about being nice to her cousins and sisters. I explained to her that you can never fathom how your actions may affect someone. Perhaps even for life. I told her some of the things that had happened to me growing up. I didn’t recount it all. Much of it was too harsh for her tender heart to hear.
I explained how I was bullied in school. Girls who had been my friends for years suddenly wanted nothing to do with me. They certainly didn’t want to face the wrath of the bully themselves. I was a ghost, a walking misfit. If I wasn’t ignored I was taunted and laughed at, the butt of jokes. I was [beaten] up, my hair pulled out by the roots, and it still to this day grew out uneven from one side of my head to the other.
I could still see the remnants of vulgar names and taunts spray painted on the road signs in front of my parent’s home. Over twenty years later and it hadn’t faded away, from the signs or my heart apparently. It brought to mind the prank calls, dozens in an hour, the bloody, stuffed animal thrown in my driveway, and the trip my parents took to the police station trying to press charges and offer me protection from my tormentor.
Mostly, though, I remember how thin I got, how I never wanted to eat, or how I only wanted to sleep. I remember pretending to be sick, and when my Mom wouldn’t buy it, simply begging her if I could stay home from school. I recall my gratitude when they finally let me switch schools, but I also remember my fear of starting a new school. Would other girls be the same way?
As an adult, I knew that this part of my adolescence had negatively impacted me forever. Just like how an absent parent can affect a person their entire life, so too could cruel treatment by their peers. I learned from an early age that females were fickle, easy to turn their back on you, and even easier to hurt you. I learned I couldn’t trust friends, even the ones who used the word “best” at one time or another, and that secrets were never sacred. I discovered men could tear apart a friendship, that loyalty was a farce. I was taught that people could smile at your face, but laugh behind your back. I learned that lies were easy to tell, that reputations could be ruined in a day, and that I could never truly trust a woman in my life other than those closest to me, like a mom or sister.
I never wanted to be friendless. I didn’t grow up hoping I would close my heart to trusting others, but that’s what happened. That was the consequence of my adolescence. Despite all the healing God had done in my life, and despite the fact that I had forgiven all of those who had treated me cruelly in the past, I still had a problem with trusting others. When you’ve been hurt deeply sometimes it’s just easier to err on the side of caution. It’s easier to keep your distance, play it safe, keep relationships superficial, and only trust your tight, inner circle. I don’t want to be this way, but past experience has molded me into the timid creature I am. Not sure if that will ever change. I wonder about wonderful women I may have pushed away due to my own fear.
Today I tried to make sure my daughter understood this, that she realized every action has a consequence, and sometimes those consequences affect people around you more than you know. I wish all parents could teach their children this. You never know; it might just save some future heartache.