As strange as it sounds, I’ve known since I was a youth that I wanted to work with youth. There are several reasons. It keeps me young at heart. It makes me feel like I’m having an impact on not only young people, but also the future of the Church. Mostly, it’s because I really do love and want to help teenagers.
When I was a teenager, I just wanted someone to be there for me. Someone who obviously cared about me and taught me why God was so great. And I got that.
I want to be that for teenagers now. I want to show them that God loves them and so do I, that society is wrong about them and for them, that they’re both the future and the present leaders of the Church and our world. And I want to tell them all of the things I wish someone had told me at their age.
I’ve told the teenagers at Focus at least once (probably more) that the way other people try to pressure you and bully you does not get better as you get older. I certainly wish someone would’ve told me that.
When I entered the workforce after graduating from high school, I expected it to be a more mature and respectful environment, and it was arguably the rudest awakening I’ve ever received. I found myself surrounded by people older than me who had the maturity of middle schoolers. People who tried to throw their weight around or intimidate me. Even now, I’ll encounter someone who will try to bully me or pressure me into doing something they don’t want to do simply because they don’t want to do it and they think it’ll work.
Adult bullies don’t shake you down for your lunch money or trip you while you’re walking by. They mentally beat you down and try to make you feel awful about yourself.
Obviously no one in their right minds would let such people into their lives willingly, so they’ve got to put on a bit of a show at first. They look like nice enough people. They seem like the sort of people you would want in your life. Then they slowly show you who they really are.
I’ve had friends like this before. I had a whole group of them at one point. At a time when everything was new to me and I needed friends, they welcomed me into their group with open arms. They seemed like they were fun, supportive, loving people. And who doesn’t need that in their lives?
Naturally, I hung out with them every chance I got. And everything was fine for about two months, and then I started seeing them for who they really were. They were judgmental, as if the world in general wasn’t already a judgmental place. They didn’t accept me for who I was and made me feel very uncomfortable when we disagreed on the most trivial of things. I felt like I had to keep hanging out with them, and I dreaded it. I hated it. I wanted out, and I took the first chance I got to leave, and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Technically, I can’t say for sure that these people wanted to see me hurt because I don’t know their intentions. But I can say that it felt as if they did, and that’s bad enough.
I honestly believe that everyone who enters our lives does so for a reason. God didn’t put them there on accident. Some are positive energies in our lives, and they’re the ones we should keep around. Others are negative, and those are the ones we should learn from and move on.
The negative ones leave a particular sort of bitterness, one that comes from both them and us. On one hand, they shouldn’t have treated us so horribly or made us look so bad. On the other hand, we were the ones who let them in. How could we do such a thing?
Anyone who can beat you up and then leave you beating yourself up is a grade A bully.
This bitterness is hard to get past because in order to do so, we have to forgive ourselves, and in my experience, there’s almost nothing harder to do than that.
We have high-expectations for ourselves. There are certain things we don’t want to think we’re capable of and other things that we should be able to do without fail. When those standards aren’t met, our opinions of ourselves plummet. We let ourselves down, and it’s a hard thing to let go of.
But you know what? I’ve let God down far worse than that, and He’s forgiven me with no problem. Who do I think I am to pass judgment where He didn’t? Are my standards higher than His? Are my ways better than His or my wounds deeper? Certainly not. I sort of need to get over myself a little.
That’s not only hard to hear, but also hard to do. So much of this world perpetuates and feeds bitterness that it’s hard to get rid of it even if we reach the point that we want to. So how do we do it?
Pray. Pray for God to soften your heart, help you see it from the other person’s perspective, and take away your bitterness. Talk to that person. If you don’t have a sense of closure, the bitterness could come back. Ideally, you’d also apologize. This would work best if the person you were apologizing to was aware of your need to do so, so if they aren’t aware, an apology may not be necessary, but it’d be nice all the same. And forgive. There’s no end to bitterness without forgiveness.
Praying, talking, apologizing, forgiving – all of these things have a healing power to them. And it’s a power that works on both ends. If you don’t believe me, try it for yourself. Don’t let your bitterness hold you back any longer. Let God free you from it. Let Him heal you and those around you. Let Him turn your bitterness into happiness.
By Carrie Prevette