Tell about a time you had to forgive someone.
February 18th, 2011
I usually write my posts to a “general audience” but this one is directed to my daughters specifically.
“When people say things that bring you to your knees, I’ll catch you. A time is going to come when you’re so mad you could cry, but I’ll hold you through the night until you smile.” Taylor Swift
Eden & Kaiah -
Mommy has been very fortunate that I have not had too many things in my life that have been really traumatic, or hurtful. When I look back over my life I have been extremely blessed in just about every way possible. When I pulled this journal prompt of having to tell about a time I had to forgive someone, it took me about a week to even come up with a scenario in which I could share with you. This might not be a typical story about forgiveness, but I promise you that at some point growing up, you are going to have to follow Mama’s example and forgive the way I did, and that’s why I decided to share this situation with you.
The summer before my senior year of high school was just like any other summer. I hung out with friends, I swam a lot in our pool, I went to the beach a few times, I went to birthday parties and summer get togethers. The only difference about this summer and all the others was that the internet was finally getting pretty popular. I know this seems funny for you to be reading now, since I am sure you basically rely on the internet for almost everything, but back then, it wasn’t such a big deal. If we wanted to talk to our friends, we called on a regular telephone, or we wrote them a note, or at this point, perhaps an email or maybe an instant message on the computer. But somewhere near the beginning or middle of August I learned the hard way, that sometimes the internet isn’t nearly as cool as we all started to think it was. That sometimes people use the internet for things and reasons that are not kind. Sometimes people use the internet to hurt your feelings.
Late one night I got a forwarded email message, from who, I can’t even remember at this point, and it really isn’t relevant to the story. I wish I could remember what the title of the email message was, but I think it was something along the lines of “who does this remind you of??” In it was a link that you could go to view the picture that was in discussion. I don’t think I could have been more shocked at what popped up once my internet page finally loaded up. There staring back at me from the computer screen was a very, very scantily clad (basically meaning she had no clothing on at all) girl that pretty much looked exactly like me. It was actually rather frightening. I assure you both that it was most certainly NOT me, but it did look a lot like your Mama. I immediately didn’t think it could get much worse, until I realized how many people must have seen this (remember it was a forwarded email message), and then to my horror I realized that it was posted on a boy I went to school with’s website. There weren’t blogs back then to my knowledge, but this was something very similar to a blog. So here is this horrific and embarrassing picture that looks just like me, and then all kinds of rude and cruel comments posted from others to go along with it. Most of them revolved around the fact that it did in fact look just like me, only she had much bigger (insert inappropriate word for boobs here). I sat there with tears in my eyes and wondered only one thing - WHY??
In general, your mommy was a pretty nice girl in school - I had all different kinds of friends, of all different ages and backgrounds and values. I never considered myself above anyone else. (this is a good time for me to interject that I hope YOU BOTH are following this example and treating everyone you meet with kindness!!!) When I finally realized who “the boy” was who had created this page, I tried desperately to think of anything that I could have done EVER to have made him do such a terrible thing. He was 2 grades behind me, and I had briefly “went out” with one of his good friends that year for about 3 months - and ironically he was always very nice to me then. I didn’t even break up with his friend, he broke up with me. So why on earth did he all of a sudden think it was appropriate to create a page in which others could publicly bash me just for fun?
I started going through his “website” and found that he had a section called something like “Likes and Gripes”. Under his Gripes sections for that week or month was an entire post dedicated to me. I just couldn’t believe it. So do you want to know what I did, what was so horrible that it provoked an entire post and pornographic photo look a like contest?? Well, here it is - I was a yearbook photographer, and he apparently had been holding a grudge against me since the yearbooks were distributed that spring at the end of the year. Yes - yearbooks are a big deal. Did you girls figure that out by now? They cause all sorts of drama and excitement and even heartbreak. Apparently, they also cause some outrage in others.
(Here is a little background information )
My junior year I was accepted as part of the yearbook class, and was a photographer (see I have always loved photography!) I want you to understand something before I go any further - I was only assigned to take the pictures. I was given assignments just like everyone else on staff. Some people had to write stories, or captions, some had to design the way the page looked like, some people had to raise money through advertising...I had to TAKE the pictures. When all the pictures would get developed and come back (yes, this was still in the days of film, wow, I feel soo old now!) The layout staff and copy staff (the people who wrote the stories/captions for the pages) would work together to choose the pictures that worked best for that page. Sure, they might ask my opinion once in awhile, but I was never the one to choose which pictures went where. Unfortunately, everyone had to get credit right, so under each of my pictures that was chosen, my name was printed “photo by Holly Texter”.
Back to my original story. So this boy wrote an entire post about how terrible it was for the seniors that year, who got ripped off because of a junior photographer (that would be me) who only took pictures of her friends, who was selfish, who thought she was too good for the rest of the school etc etc etc.... As to not just completely bash me (although that was 90% of the post) he also went on to complain in general about the yearbook, and all it’s flaws. And I think he even included his two cents about how much better it would be if he was in charge. After reading this I immediately grabbed my yearbook and very carefully paged through each page and looked even more carefully at the photos. I was over critical, over analyzing, and basically over emotional by this point. I was extremely angry, and even more so, extremely hurt. I read and reread his comments and thoughts, I read what others wrote until my eyes hurt as much as my heart. I think he invited me to respond in some sort of way at the end of his ranting, to which I immediately did, but then realized I was just too angry to even write anything rational at that point. I gave it a few days, and basically didn’t say anything much about it to anyone. I worried constantly though at who all had seen this, and especially the picture. I finally worked up enough courage to respond,and to ask him to please remove the embarrassing picture. I wish I still had what I wrote, but I don’t. I do remember that I was not angry, I was not spiteful, I did not retaliate in anger. I did my best to explain my side of the story, and to ask others to please not be so quickly to judge someone else (as most of the comments I was reading were from people who maybe knew who I was, but definitely didn’t KNOW ME or what I was all about). I apologized for anything I may have done unintentionally, I apologized on behalf of the yearbook to the seniors who may have felt “slighted” by this publication (even though I never heard any of those comments first hand). I tried to be the “bigger person” and take the high road, and I think I did.
The boy (I really should have just given him a pretend name?) Anyways - he did eventually remove the photo, and he posted my response on his page. I don’t know that anyone else ever commented on what I wrote, and truthfully, I don’t think I ever went back to his website again after school started. So are you wondering yet when we get to the part about forgiveness, since that was what this post was supposed to be all about....well here it is. I had to come to forgive him on my own. He never once said he was sorry, never asked for forgiveness, never regretted the things he said or the pictures he posted. I definitely expected that after I responded so maturely, and out of love, that he would have at least said he was sorry. I had no such luck. At first, this made me just as angry. I mean the nerve of some people!!! I started my senior year that year under a constant cloud of insecurity. I would see “the boy” with his group of friends (who also happened to be my friends at one point too, or so I thought) and think - are they talking about me, or they bringing up the picture, are they comparing me right now?? I would look at the faces of freshmen who were new to the school and think, did they see it too, is that the first impression they have of me? I struggled as a yearbook editor at first, because now I had an even bigger responsibility, and I didn’t want to let anyone down. I finally realized that all the stress wasn’t worth it. I knew in my heart that I didn’t do anything wrong, I had apologized, I had acted in love, and now I had to just forgive and move on. And so that is what I did. I didn’t even tell him I did so, but I can tell you that after I made that decision to just forgive, I felt so much better. I no longer fretted over the thoughts of others, and even though this boy and I never were on friendly terms again, I didn’t hold a grudge or anything against him.
So my beautiful little girls, sometime someone is going to do or say something that is hurtful to you, for no other reason than to just be plain old mean. I am so sorry that you will have to experience this. I dread to think about the ways the internet will be used during your adolescent years to cause hurt and pain. Just know that your Mom and Dad will always be there for you. The Lord will be there for you. I pray you have friends, true friends, around you that will hold you up and encourage you. And I truly hope that after reading this, you will choose in your heart to forgive! There is truly freedom in forgiveness. Even if the person continues to hurt, even if they never say they are sorry, even if they have no idea they even did anything wrong, just forgive. I hope that you would come to me or Dad and tell us if anything is bothering you, or if something like this ever happens to you. I also hope that you would come and tell us that you made the choice to forgive. Remember that while we were still in sin, Jesus died for us - the most radical act of forgiveness. Surely you can find it in you to forgive others for their offenses. I hope you learn from my experience - both in the way of how to handle when someone wrongs you, and how NOT to treat others. I pray that whether you have 2 friends or 200, you would treat them all, and everyone for that matter, with respect and kindness. I love you both with all of my heart.