We grew out of it

I grew up in a small town with a high school of about 400 kids. It's a little bit easier to keep track of and monitor such a small number of students so I rarely saw physical fights. Overall, it's not a horrible place to be. However, although the type of bullying that is easy to see is at a low level, more subtle bullying still slips through the cracks.

My freshman year a new girl moved to town. I had no history with her and she had no reason to dislike me. I have a very bubbly, outgoing personality. We played on the volleyball team together. We were teammates, but she was a bully. The issue, however, is it's hard to speak up against a bully without any evidence or specific details. She never laid a hand on me. In fact, nearly a decade later I can't ever remember exactly what she did, all I remember is how she made me feel. She criticized me, shot dirty looks and on the bus to and from games she would start arguments and then work me into a corner. She criticized my religion. What hurt the most is that she took other girls with her. Even a girl that had been my best friend in middle school would just sit there with this 'I'm sorry' look in her eye but never stand up to defend me. One night, on the way back from a game, I stopped here and I asked "[Name|, why don't you like me?" I figured if I could I least know how I had wronged her I could either fix it or have some reassurance that it wasn't my fault. Her only reply was "you're too happy." I nodded, said "ok" and walked away. Being "too happy" was not something to be ashamed of and I wasn't going to change that.

Having been raised by a religious family, I hit my knees. Every night I would pray for the Lord to soften her heart and to make things better. After a while of this and not much success, I decided to reevaluate. I remembered that I had been taught to "Love thy enemies [and] bless them that curse you" (Matt 5:44). It also occurred to me that I had no control over anyone's attitude or actions but my own. So, instead of praying for the Lord to soften her heart, I started asking Him to soften mine. I asked Him to help me love her. I asked Him to bless her. I prayed for the other girls who had followed her lead.

This is when I started seeing a change. I have no idea if they're behavior changed that significantly or if the Lord had just carried me through and lightened my burden. Either way, I made it through freshman year.

I did not play volleyball the next year but I did play basketball with the same group of girls and the difference was tremendous. Junior year we all participated in a scholarship pageant together and had a blast, attended a college government camp tha summer after and by senior year it was like freshman year never happened. It's not like we were all best friends. In fact I don't think I ever saw them outside of school. Before graduation one of the girls that had been one of the worst to me wrote an apology in my yearbook. A year or two into college, the girl who had started it all commented on a Facebook photo of mine and told me I was beautiful.

I'm not saying that every story will turn out as good as mine but with the Lord's help it can be made easier. Don't be afraid to speak up. Find a safe place. For me it was the drama room, believe it or not. Those people were my family. Surround yourself with good people. I would suspect that most bullies would be stupid to go after an entire herd. Have a teacher as an ally. So what if you hang out with a teacher at lunch time and become a "teacher's pet"? You'll be safe.

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