Words stick with us. Proverbs 12:8 says, “The words of the reckless pierce like swords.”
Like so many orphans and vulnerable children, Mounika was a victim of bullying. A difficult past and lack of access to quality education had put her behind academically. She entered the 5th grade struggling academically and working to overcome a noticeable learning disability. Her classmates quickly noticed her delays and taunted her relentlessly.
Day after day, Mounika buried her emotions and tried to seem tough. Finally, she couldn’t take it any longer. After dinner, she quietly left the dining room, heading to a private corner of the yard at Back2Back’s India Hope campus. She had barely made it out the front door when her emotions overtook her. Pain, embarrassment and anger erupted in salty drops falling from her dark eyes.
A visiting team member named Rhonda heard Mounika crying. Rhonda rushed to her side and asked what was wrong. It took Mounika some time to gain composure, but eventually she opened up about her embarrassment about the teasing from the children at school.
Rhonda’s heart sank in her chest. She chose her words carefully, “Mounika, I know exactly how you feel. I’ve been there too. I was picked on in school.”
Mounika looked up at Rhonda in disbelief. “Really?!,” she asked.
Rhonda opened up about her own experiences being bullied at school, and the shame and hurt she had felt.
“It can hurt so much when others say mean things. But, you are not in this alone, Mounika. If you’re picked on, if other kids say mean things, please tell one of your caregivers or your teacher at school. Bullying is not okay.”
The end of Proverbs 12 says: “…but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”
For the rest of Rhonda’s visit on campus, Mounika stuck closely by her side. She gained confidence to open up more about the ways she’d been bullied and find comfort in their shared experience.
As I wrote Mounika’s story, Rhonda’s words spoke to my own heart, filtering down deep, encouraging me to find healing from my own run-in with a childhood bully nearly two decades ago. Unlike Mounika, I didn’t open up about the situation at the time – instead burying it just below the surface. Thankfully for Mounika, Rhonda guided her down a different path, carving out a space of safety and understanding by listening, comforting, and drawing out the hurt places in Mounika’s heart so she could emerge stronger. Braver. That afternoon, a tiny seed of hope was planted in Mounika’s heart as she began to embrace her true identity.
Deeply treasured by God.