"You're not good enough."
"You're never going to accomplish anything."
"You've never done anything that matters."
My daughter has been dealing with the voice of a bully in her life. It's been off and on since she was just a little girl in the first grade - same voice, same attacks. There were periods of peace, but I always kept one eye up because just as she would relax and think she'd moved past the situation, the voice of the bully would rise again. Relentless.
At times I've stopped to wonder about the root of the bullying. My daughter is far from perfect, but she is none of the things the bully accuses her of being. I've wondered if it was jealousy. I've wondered if it was rooted in hurt. At times I've even found myself feeling sorry for the bully and the path she is on. Someday someone won't be so tolerant and there will be a backlash. Sometimes I think about the principle of reaping and sowing, and it's with sadness that I think about the harvest to come. And sometimes I just get really mad as a mom that someone would be so cruel and hurtful. Other times I wonder if my daughter is doing something to bring it on herself, and sometimes I just get angry that she won't get over it, away from it or past it.
"You can't listen to the voice of the bully," I tell her. "You already know what's she saying isn't true! You are not defined by the holes in your shoes (a point of attack) and you are not ugly and you are FAR from disgusting." Sometimes I want to grab her face, look straight into her eyes and speak words of love and affirmation until it drowns out the voice of the bully. Other times I want to grab her by the shoulders and scream "STOP!" The battle has been long and drawn on. Some days she gets it and rises above it. Other days I see hurt and sadness in her that worries me it will break her.
I was standing in front of the mirror the other day, frustrated, wondering why she listens, why she doesn't just stay away. Sometimes she tries but the bully won't let her go. And sometimes the bully embarrasses her publicly and gets other people to chime in too, or laugh and side with her. And my daughter stands there feeling alone, abandoned and hopeless.
"Don't let her in your head." I tell her. "Don't give her the power to steal your joy." She nods, head low - I know she's trying, but it's hard.
As I stood facing the mirror, I realized I've been listening to the voice of a bully too.
"Nothing you've ever done matters," he says. "It's why so many people have so easily left your life," he pushes further. "People don't like you."
I look around, he has a point. I believe him.
"You're never going to get to use your gifts," he says. "There's no hope of every fulfilling your dreams."
I sit back, take an inventory of experience and circumstance, I'm convinced. What he's saying is true.
"You don't matter...."
"... wasting your time..."
"... a fool to believe..."
I've been listening a long time... sometimes he gets quiet, sometimes just long enough to let a little hope arise, then he comes in and crushes it. I try to drown out his voice with another voice I've heard, but he is relentless. Sometimes he won't let me go. Sometimes my bully embarrasses me publicly and gets other people to chime in too, or laugh and side with him. I stand there feeling alone, abandoned and hopeless.
Now I am NOT calling my daughter's bully the devil, but he has his hand there. Wicked hurtful words, words that tear down and discourage all come from the same original source. The difference is my daughter sees "an enemy," but mine seems to live inside my head.
I wonder, does my heavenly Father want to grab hold of my face and speak words of love and affirmation to me? Does He want to shake my shoulders and just shout "STOP!"?
Unlike my daughter's bully for whom there is hope, and prayer and kindness are a godly response, there needs to be zero tolerance for the bully behind her battle, and the bully inside my head.
But the battle is exhausting, and the arguments of the enemy can be so convincing. Even when I know it's his voice, he can be convincing. So very convincing.
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil
walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.
1 Peter 5:8