“You can’t sit with us! On Wednesday’s we wear pink!” These expressions aren’t just quotes from the Mean Girls movie. I think everyone has faced a bully while growing up. I’ve been in the Burn Book more times than I would care to admit. For me, most of the time, high school seems like it was a lifetime ago. One day, through an unlikely set of circumstances and the magic of social media, I found myself deciding to make peace with a Regina George of my past. I figured out how to deal with bullies of the past – with forgiveness.
I was merrily scrolling along and there she was on my Facebook feed, my bully. I tried to forget about that unhappy time and move on. Looking at her face, it all came rushing back. I whimpered at the confident woman in the photo.
“I can’t believe you are friends with her!” I moaned to our mutual friend, “Don’t you know how awful she was?” It was not my finest hour. As a tiny woman, I am rarely the bigger person in a literal sense but I certainly try to be figuratively. It was suggested that after 15 years I should consider forgiving her. It turns out it was the right thing to do.
Why You Should Forgive Your Bully
Grudges Are Heavy
They are not only heavy, but we don’t really need to carry them around with us. I was hauling in my groceries from the underground parking garage, determined to avoid making two trips. The plastic bags were laced between my fingertips and I clenched them tightly. I tapped my foot impatiently as I waited for the elevator to arrive. It seemed to take an eternity. Then suddenly I realized, why am I holding all this stuff? I could just put it down. Grudges are like that. They are heavy and we don’t have to stand around all day hanging onto them for dear life. We can just set them down.
It’s Not Your Stuff
I can take responsibility for carrying in my own groceries because that’s part of being a grown up. If I have a neighbor who is struggling with the door and an armload of heavy bags, I might just help her out too. A grudge is different. Those feelings are left overs that belong to a woman that I used to be, a long time ago. Those leftover feelings relate to something that bully did, a long time ago, before she grew into the woman she is today. Perhaps she’s lovely now, I just don’t know. The reality is, after 15 years, neither of us are the people we didn’t like.
You Don’t Even Need It
My favorite mantra is “let go of what no longer serves”. It’s the act of sifting through the inventory of your life and asking “Do I really need this?” This usually includes reassessing pants that aren’t flattering or shoes that have holes worn through the soles. They aren’t doing their job anymore. How does hanging onto my resentment against this woman serve me? What does it add? I decided I needed to let it go, like that annoying song on Frozen. The resentment doesn’t fit who I am anymore, it doesn’t look good on me, and I don’t have room to accommodate it. They are last season’s jeans that do nothing for me.
You Aren’t Going That Way
Holding onto a grudge is like driving with your eyes firmly fixed on the image in the rear view mirror. If you keep looking behind you, you are going to miss out on what’s in front of you. You are going to miss out on the good things that pop up and you might even crash. Be present in today. Enjoy the new life of positive experiences you are curating for yourself. You are going places, so focus on them instead of always looking back to where you have been. The past is important, it helped shape you into the person you are today. Your bully did too. You learned about boundaries, how you want to be treated and how you should treat others along the way. These are important lessons, but don’t let the past steal today’s thunder. It’s time to move forward and you need to keep your eyes on the destination.
Karma Is More Important
When I used to know my bully, I was going through a lot of stuff. She probably was too. I will never know what her life was like. Things were hard and what she did to me certainly didn’t help matters. Madeleine Albright’s words came rushing back to me. “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” Her words felt like an indictment. How was my reaction helping this woman, regardless of what I remember she did once upon a time?
That’s how I chose I forgiveness; why I decided to forgive my bully. I set down my grudges, because they were heavy. They weren’t even really mine, after all. I let go of what no longer served and focussed on where I am going. I chose karma to help another women and myself too. I took some white-out to the Burn Book in my head and erased the nasty words she said. I made peace with my own Regina George while I was figuring out how to deal with bullies of the past. These days, she can’t tell me who I can sit with and I wear pink all the time, not just on Wednesdays.