She was a bully. And while she never hit me, sometimes her words rained down like slaps. When I saw her coming, I wanted to hide.
She picked on me the most. Some of my friends thought that was because I was so much littler than she was. Others thought she bullied me because she was jealous of me.
But I didn't really care what her reasons were. I just wanted the bullying to stop.
Beth – that's what I'll call this girl – wasn't the first bully I'd met in my life, but I definitely thought she was the scariest. At one point, I was so afraid that I stayed home sick for a week. But she was just as mean when I came back.
What would you say to a friend who told you a story like the one I just told you? What would you tell your friend to do?
My friends encouraged me to pray.
Pray? Why not show the bully who's boss!
But I'd been bullied before, and when I'd taken the time to listen to God, I'd always heard an answer that had changed things between the bully and me.
One of the answers I'd heard was to love the person who seemed so mean. Not love her behavior, but love her the way God made her. The Bible says that God made each of us in His "image and likeness" (see Gen. 1:26). Which means that since God is good, we must each express goodness. Since God is love, how could a single one of us not be loving?
Beth had some God-like qualities that I could appreciate. She was smart and a hard worker, and she loved animals. So I tried to focus on those things – and then look for more.
But there was a problem: I was still terrified of Beth. Sometimes, I'd get so frozen with fear in her presence that I couldn't think up one good thing about her.
Then one day as I prayed, God gave me a new answer. God told me to stay focused on Him. And I liked that, because it reminded me of what I'd learned in my dance class about "spotting."
You "spot" while you're turning. That means you pick a spot level with your eyes and keep focused on it. Your body turns (this is called a pirouette), but you don't get dizzy because as your head whips around, your eyes always return to the same place. It sounds strange, but it's almost like you don't even see anything else but that one spot.
I realized that, much like a spin without a spot, interacting with Beth without staying focused on God left me disoriented, confused, and afraid.
But keeping my sights on God meant that God would be so big and real and present to me that nothing could scare me or throw me off.
Now I'm not saying that remembering God all the time – and staying focused on Him even when Beth was at her worst – was always easy. But it got easier. And it was amazing how even one simple thought – that God loved me, that God was the only power in my life – could make such a difference.
Then, one day Beth was being really mean to me in front of a whole bunch of people, and I found I wasn't scared or upset or anything. I just forgave her without a second thought. The only way I can describe it is that I felt so in the presence of God's love that I knew she must be, too. And guess what happened? A few minutes later, Beth stopped and apologized.
The founder of this newspaper, Mary Baker Eddy, once asked, "Can height, or depth, or any other creature separate you from the Love that is omnipresent good, – that blesses infinitely one and all?" ("Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896," p. 8). When I kept my thoughts focused on Love, I discovered the answer is no. Because Love is always there for me. And Love is there for you, too.