Rebecca and Geoff’s posts reminded me of an experience I had with a bully in high school. Let’s call him Chris. Chris was one of the primary drug-dealers in my school. That means he had some big, scary friends (even though he was smaller than me).
When I was a sophomore I dated Hannah. Hannah was Chris’ ex-girlfriend. I didn’t realize I wasn’t supposed to date someone that had dated Chris. When he found out he started taunting me in the halls calling me names and acting like he was going to fight me (though in my class with him he never even looked at me). This fact was made worse when his drug-ingesting buddies got in on it as well.
After a month or so of this it all came to a head one afternoon when I arrived at my locker and spray-painted on the outside of it was his oft-said phrase “Rusty is a p***y”. At that point I knew something was going to happen. I walked the other way to go to class and he and his two biggest friends started following me. Half way to my destination he pushes me on the shoulder and says, “Hey Rusty, what’s up?” to which I responded, “nothing Chris. How are you doing?” Enough with the small-talk he said, “I hear you been talking s*** about me.” “no, I haven’t said a thing.” “Yeah, I hear you want to fight me.” “nah. I don’t fight Chris.” “Let’s go man, you throw the first punch.” “Chris, I didn’t say anything and I’m not going to fight you.” and I walked off. As I walked off he pushed my shoulder and just yelled “P***y!”
I went to my next class and didn’t hear a single thing said. Then I went over to my seminary building and talked with my seminary teacher for about a half-hour about the situation. As we discussed the situation we came to the conclusion that the best thing I could do would be to pray for him.
I knew that this was the right thing, it just felt right. So I began to pray. At first it was awkward and uncomfortable to pray for this person that harbored so many bad feelings for me (and I wasn’t a big fan of his either). But over time my heart was softened and they were sincere prayers on his behalf, that he would be protected, that whatever problems he was dealing with that they could be resolved. I prayed that those close to him would love him and that he could be comforted in his times of need.
Over the next couple weeks an amazing thing happened, I truly loved him. I cared for him. I was interested in how he was doing and wished him only good things. Any bad feelings I might have had for him had been erased and had been replaced with concern.
Shortly thereafter in my class with him he asked me for a pen. He acted as if nothing had happened between us (too bad I didn’t have a pen to give him). Then the next day he was gone. Gone for good.
I didn’t see him until a few years later when I was working at a restaurant the summer after my senior year and he was the dishwasher. At break one day we sat down and talked. He apologized for the way he treated me and said he was going through a really difficult time in his life then. His best friend had killed himself playing Russian Roullette and he was kicked out of school. So, you know, he was having a difficult time and partially took it out on me.
At that time I didn’t realize the impact of what he said, I just felt bad for him. It wasn’t until later that I remembered that at that time I was praying for him in his struggles and that he would be comforted. This realization had a profound impact on me. I would be extremely saddened if I had added to his sorrow and am grateful that through my prayers he might have been comforted.
“But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;” (Matt 5:44)
I’m fortunate to have known the “rest of the story” and see why this teaching is so important. This is one of the greatest teachings Christ ever taught. Never have those words meant so much to me.