Some have heard me tell the story of one of the most vivid memories of my childhood. I got bullied a lot in middle school, mostly because I was small and awkward and not at all athletic AND because my best classes were English and literature. (I should add I was raised in a local culture that placed the highest value on things like sports, math and science.) In my 8th grade English class was another boy, Donald, who also got picked on. He, too, was awkward, bookish, and had verbal skills well beyond his age. But he seemed to relish his nerdiness (or maybe he just had a healthier ego than me). Now, the only thing more embarrassing than being picked on for knowing all of the answers in English class was not knowing an answer in English class… and one day that happened. The teacher posed a question. And, when no one responded, he called on me. Not knowing the answer, I felt the flush of embarrassment and insecurity and I panicked. Then, I heard the brutal words fly out of my mouth laced with sarcasm: “I don’t know, ask Donald. He knows everything.” The room erupted in laughter and, for once, they were laughing with me, not at me. But, I couldn’t enjoy the moment because I stole a glance at Donald. We weren’t good friends, but I suppose you might say we were joined in our nerdiness and when I made that stinging comment; well, he looked as if all the breath had been knocked out of him. It was as if I had dealt him a punch to the gut.
Where did those words come from? I knew better; I’d been taught better. I never behaved like that. But in my moment of panic and insecurity, my 8th grade ego felt its very survival under attack and it felt the need to fight to survive.
I’m not unique, I imagine. I’m guessing most of us can remember a time in our lives when we did something cruel because, in the panic of the moment, our egos defended themselves in a “damn the torpedoes” fashion.
Likewise, I’m guessing we’ve all been on the receiving end, as well. After all, if I hadn’t been bullied, I probably wouldn’t have been so quick and cruel in defending myself… not that that is any excuse; it’s just the harsh reality of human nature…
which is why we need to be cautious about our trust in other humans. I have some wonderful friends and family members. I trust them. And yet, there still have been times when their words have hurt and stung. There have been times when I needed their emotional support and they weren’t there. There have been times when I shared something important with them and their response went beyond lackluster. And, I am sure they could say the same for me.
The picture to the left is a pic I took walking Pompano Beach in Florida. I was stunned to capture this scene of a gull capturing a fish and toying with it (at least it appeared that way to me). I got about a half dozen pictures of this gull dropping, grabbing and pecking at this poor fish. It looked pretty cruel. But, knowing nothing about gulls, I’m guessing this is how they fish and its actions were necessary for it to survive. Nature can be pretty brutal.
My point is this: We all need relationships and people we can trust. But we also need to recognize that trust in humans can only go so far. We all have egos that are reactive and prone to strike back when they feel they’ve been dealt a blow. God alone is the only one in whom we can have absolute trust. No matter what happens, regardless of what we say or do, God will always, faithfully act in our best interest. Despite all of the cultural jokes about God smiting people, God isn’t like us. God doesn’t get offended and react by lashing out in the heat of the moment.
God’s love, grace and mercy are everlasting and all-encompassing.