I was bullied as a child. I was too soft. Too sensitive. Toughening kids up to prepare them for the “real world” was quite prevalent. Eventually, I became splintered. I developed quite the attitude to cover up the rawness of who I really was.
I was in second grade. The man my mom was married to at the time was very strict and I wasn’t allowed to leave the yard. I’d stand outside, play in the grass, swing on the playset. I did have a bicycle, but I don’t remember riding it very much. Maybe when my mom was allowed to take me. I remember it being in the yard one day. Wendy was one of the kids in my neighborhood and in my class. Rumor had it she had failed twice and really belonged in fourth grade. I believed it because she was BIG. And she was mean.
She would take the bike out of my yard, take off my training wheels, go ride it around the neighborhood and throw it back in my yard. I’d just stand there and stare at her. I honestly had no clue how to handle something like this in my space. It was beyond my level of understanding. Looking back, that would probably make the start of a great movie 😀
The bathrooms were in the back of our class, not like they have them now, down the halls. When it was time for bathroom break, we’d line up in front of the doors, boys on one side, girls on the other and take turns. I sat in the back of the class and Wendy sat in the front. That meant, when it was time to line up, I’d be one of the first ones to the door. Guess what Wendy would do? Yup, just walk back there, push me out of the way and cut in line.
I’m not sure what triggered the episode for me to begin the dialogue in my home about dealing with Wendy, but my mom’s husband proceeded to rough house with me, holding me down on the floor, pushing me around, taunting me. Eventually he told me that I had to fight back and punch her in the face to get her to stop being mean to me.
One day, I lined up for the bathroom. I remember the area of the classroom and the bookshelves that I was next to clear as day. Wendy proceeded to get in front of me and I grabbed her arm, swirled her around and punched her in the face as hard as I could. She put her hands over her nose, and pulled them away to discover her palms full of blood. She looked at me in disbelief. I remember looking at the teacher who glanced up, saw what happened, and then looked back down at her desk as if she hadn’t seen a thing. I don’t remember where Wendy went after that, but I don’t remember her being in my space ever again.
As adults, many of us haven’t stopped bullying other people. It doesn’t look like it did when we were children, but its effects are still the same. In the case of extreme religious abuse, it is cloaked under the guise of religious expression and it is rampant throughout the entire world. We tolerate bullying because the root cause of it comes from a belief system and how do you confront and change belief systems while ascribing to the fact that people should be free to choose their own beliefs?
And that’s something we need to talk about. Bullying is bullying, no matter what. If you are mean to someone because they aren’t behaving the way you think they should, you are a bully. We are mean to gay people – why? Jesus wasn’t mean to gay people. In fact, I don’t remember Him even addressing gayness in any text anywhere – which wouldn’t even matter because I wasn’t there anyway (which is another article for another time).
Think about it. We weren’t born hating gayness. People were taught that it is wrong. Why? People are taught all over the world that everyone else is wrong. What if it’s all a lie? What if what you believed was a lie? Now you are just going around and bullying people because of someone else’s ideas of how people should conduct their sex with each other in the world. The problem in the religious community around the gay community is part of a bigger problem. The problem is that if fundamentalist Christians changed their stance on gayness, they’d have to change their stance on EVERYTHING.
As they should. Fundamentalist Christianity is insidious. It’s extreme and designed to inflict a control system, mostly over women. How is the way women are treated in fundamentalist Christianity much different than women are treated in Sharia Law? Just because you aren’t legally able to stone or behead a woman if they disobey, fundamentalism still severely punishes those who stray, break the rules or ask too many questions. It’s bad enough the way she is treated within the system of control, dominance of men, requirement of submission, and the stripping away of any real power within the church. Women who show too much skin or who bring a strong sexual presence are considered to have spirits of”Jezebel” and are dangerous.
For the record, it’s absolutely crazy to me that this still exists in modern America. It’s even crazier that I was in that system of control. But, that’s what makes me the perfect person to talk about it. Walking away from that system left me destitute. I lost everything. I was bullied over and over again while I was in the fundamentalist system and punished when I left. Bringing awareness to others through writing articles like this are my way of eliminating the spiritual bullies that thrive in silence and darkness. There are many reasons why my life took the path that it has. This is one of them. I can be strong enough to bring this discussion out into the open and sensitive enough to extend love and compassion to all who have been affected – on either side. It takes courage to stand up and question everything you thought was right in the spirit of love.
Vyckie Garrison started a gathering place for women escaping and recovering from spiritual abuse. I am linking to her site in case you could use additional support in this area – visit No Longer Quivering.
If you are on Facebook, be sure to check out Elizabeth Gilbert’s on Tribal Shaming here.