sticks & stones, broken hearts and bones.

it was trampled, mangled, dirty, and you could even see footprints from size 6 shoes but it didn’t have any words on it so i claimed it as my own. pure gold, that’s what it was worth to any 5th grader in our class. all the boys were going, or the ones that were in the know.

my new found treasure was a bi fold invitation that had been torn in half, but there was no name on it now, so technically it could have been mine.; perhaps at one time it was in an envelope with my first and last name on it, but was dropped, taken out of its envelope, misplaced, ripped, and winded up just feet from my desk as if it was fate that we should end up in each others hands.

it wasn’t mine. and the person who was giving them out made sure to tell me that i wasn’t invited, i know this because i showed it to the others in the class and they relayed the information to its rightful owner, a neglectful caretaker of precious goods.

the birthday party was going to be the next weekend, and all week i had hyped the party to my parents. i told them how everyone was going to attend, the games, the celebration, the cake, the fact that i did indeed have friends in this new city of mine. my parents were proud of their 9 year old and even then i wondered why they never thought to ask why the invitation looked like a post apocalyptic fall out survivor. better for me.
i didn’t have to lie.

that weekend was the first time i second guessed myself, all week i had stood in the face of adversary and pestering by the boy whose birthday it was, who repeatedly told me that i was not invited, but i held fast that regardless destiny had spoke.

i was standing there at ace hardware the day of the party, in the limited toy section that one would expect from a hardware store, and standing there with a remote control fire truck in my hand questioning myself. i told my dad that i didn’t know if i wanted to attend the party, implying i may not feel good, or was unsure as to my confidence level in myself. it felt like hours staring at the gift, then staring at my dad.

my dad took my delay as a lack of confidence in myself in social settings and set out to correct the situation and give me a lesson in networking and poise. little did he know that his son had just invited himself to a birthday party where every participant loathed his attendance.

a belted ‘I DIDN’T EVEN INVITE HIM DAD!’ was waiting to greet us at the door as soon as we walked through the door, it echoed and reverberated above the oversized mechanical animal dolls dancing to the music, and the video games buzzing and beeping in hopes of gathering as many tokens as possible from young patrons. it was then that my dads grip on my arm tightened up and i think i know exactly how a deer must feel and look right before succumbing to a pair of headlights on a dark backwoods road.

the parent of the child calmed the upset child down showing the child that indeed i had brought a gift and it may be it was the best gift of the bunch. with red face and a hand full of tokens and tears the 5th grade boy stormed off, leaving me and my dad and the father of the son to square off. my dad apologized a lot more for the mix up than i would have liked (or at least how it played out in my head). the host gave me tokens and i ran off to play.

the other kids gathered around me as i played a game and began to tell me how i was taking up all their tokens and that how i was not even wanted at the pizza and soda party. i was invading. i was not wanted. but for me their words were overshadowed by the fact that i was accustomed to harsh words from boys and girls who were far better versed in the english language; and besides that the beeping and buzzing coming from this machine was far more intriguing than the gang that encompassed me.

i was use to the insults. i was used to sticks. i was used to stones. broken bones. and names that hurt me...

but when i went back to check on my dad it hit me. my actions didn’t just affect me, they reflected badly on his networking and poise. i made the situation so awkward. much like me, he was alone, standing off to the side, watching patiently perhaps wondering what was going through his young child’s head to make him so lonely that he had to pick up a discarded invitation, then lie to himself to believe it was his own, and go through the motions and ridicule to get him to this point.

my dad didn’t look away, he was not upset, in fact he cracked a smile, and it was at that second that i wondered what he was thinking. he walked over to me asked if he could borrow half of the remaining tokens so we could play together. we walked out unnoticed. not that they didn’t know we were ever there, but that they never cared that we were there.

i can’t remember the ride home, but i do remember we never talked about it again, me because i was embarrassed and my dad because i think he felt guilty because his job moved us so often i never really had friends outside my own family.

sitting at a Cuban restraint just a month or so ago in ybor city, florida my mom begins to tear up as i recount stories like this from my past. ‘what could we have done different? how could we have stopped such cruelty” she asked sincerely. but for me i don’t see my past as a minefield of pain that still enables me to perform physically or psychologically in my current life.
in fact i count it as a blessing. i wouldn’t love people without first being hated.

would you send a soldier into battle without first forcing him to complete boot camp? in the same way i view life as a passive war in which there are dangers and pleasure and dangerous pleasure lurking in each day; if i had not gone through the initial pain of it all who would i be?

how would i have handled even the most fragmented ‘fame’ that i have experienced in my life without small trials such as this? i do NOT believe that i would have the heart for others, the hurting, the poor, or the broken hearted, if it were not for the experiences that God allowed me to have.

maybe in this season of your life you may feel left behind, ostracized, criticized, a 'lesser known';but maybe, just maybe there is a reason for it. you can't see it yet, but you will. you know what sticks, stones, and broken bones are and what a broken heart feels like, but realize that maybe it happened to you now because you know exactly what a broken heart feels like and someday you can help mend someone else's.

there is a reason. just you wait.

"The great illusion of leadership is to think that man can be led out of the desert by someone who has never been there."
Henri Nouwen's book, The Wounded Healer.
(thanks darcie)


Erin said…
Wow stephen... what a thought-provoking post. I admit, one of my big faults is that I tend to feel sorry for myself when anything bad happens- especially in situations of rejection, like this one. I'm definitely gonna take this advice to heart.
god bless you, man!
aletheia said…
That is such a sad story; I can't even imagine what your dad was thinking at the time. Gosh.

I have a similar story-- I'm not very verbose, so it will be simple.

I was well liked and popular for most of my childhood. I was class president in fifth grade. I was usually one of "the smart kids". In sixth grade, I was part of the "popular crowd": not the queen bee, necessarily, but certainly not an outcast.

In seventh grade, I had all new classmates, in a downtrodden school in a very poor area. I was the only white girl in my classes, and I was hated for it. I was made fun of because of my shoes (of all things). The girls also made fun of my clothes, that they were cheap and tacky. I didn't have any real friends in my classes. It really hurt to be made fun of so obviously. I don't recall what the meaning of this phrase was (I'm not sure I ever did- I wasn't let in on the joke, obviously), but some of the girls called me "two for two".

This was worsened by my reading teacher- a racist woman who always managed to point out my different skin color. For several months, I endured this quietly, without telling my parents. What good would it do to tell them about it?

Eventually, my mom walked in on me crying in my room one day. And she slowly tugged the truth out of me.

Then by the next week, I was enrolled in all new classes, in the magnet program. The people in these classes were much nicer, but I still never made good friends that year.

So that was my story of one horrific year. It was only one year, and I can't complain as to the rest of my life, but it made a lasting impact. I will never make fun of someone the way I was made fun of, because I know how badly it hurts.

In the end, I, too, am glad I had such an experience.
Christy said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said…
this is probably gonna chill in my head for a while so i can just think about it here and there. and hopefully someday soon i'll see, like you, that there really is a reason.
taylor. said…
I wish I could have been there to play games with you at this party.

You amaze me with every one of your posts, and I hope that one day I have the courage to look back on my life with the same strength and eloquence you have.
Raechel said…
My shy childhood was one of small triumphs and falls, everything being muted. From the torture and paint of the real world to God's amazing love and grace, I realize now that everything was watered down, mostly due to my lack of understanding or ignorance. It was only about a week ago from today that I was able to break inside and honestly decide to give myself to God.

Like my childhood, the prayer wasn't dramatized; there were no heavy tears, no speaking in tongues, just a simple prayer. Like the worship song that was treading the warm air in the humble chapel of Big Bear, I let the words run through my thoughts "I'll be Yours alone, and You'll be mine."

Surrendering all earthly materials and pleasures to God's will was probably the most difficult thing I have ever done. I can't say that I'll live independently of them in hermeticism (even Jesus required food), but I decided to switch the focus of my life. At that time, the center of my universe was my family, friends, my art. God was the overlaying theme that connected them all, but He needed to come to the center of it all-- He needed to be the sun and the life force. I knelt and presented my broken self before God-- I felt like the smallest knight in the world swearing fealty to her Lord.

I had accepted Jesus Christ as my savior as a child, but never truly grasped the conviction that lay within taking up the yoke of Jesus and responding to the words "Follow me" till recently. As in the Nooma video "Flame" (an amazing video, by the way), Jesus and I shared Riyah (friendship love), but only recently has it become Agape (pure love, God's love, wherein God is love).

My story ends with tomorrow, and I beg anyone reading this to really explore what is and what it is to love.

Stephen-- your story both breaks my heart and shares with me Jesus's suffering and love at once. It's amazing because what you went through allows you to get *that* much closer to understanding God's sacrifice and the worldly pain that Jesus had to endure. As you said, your childhood was truly a blessing to you. God has amazing plans for you!
Anonymous said…
I don't really know how to explain this, and it almost hurts to say, but one of the main kinds of "discrimination" I usually encounter has to do with intelligence and "how smart one is." Throughout my academic career, most of my friends and acquaintances have been the ones who get the higher grades and have a set goal in life. I don't really fall into either of these categories, which sort of makes me an outsider in that camp. And although I don't consider myself stupid by any means, I sure do feel that way whenever they disregard my opinions or brush me off when they realize I have nothing interesting or earth-shattering to contribute to what they're talking about. This situation is kind of frustrating when thrown into a post secondary environment, but I'm trying my best. Sorry if this doesn't make sense. I may post more stories later.
Mich said…
still wiping the tears from my eyes. thanks for this, stephen.

-Mich, Singapore
sway said…
i so deeply needed this.

after physical and emotional abuse throughout the first two decades of my life, suicide attempts, eating disorders, being molested and mugged (not by the same person), and almost constant depression, i finally found contentment. and then i lost it when i was forced to move 500 miles away from everyone i love.

i'm struggling to do what i'm supposed to do here while being terribly alone and isolated. the few people i felt i really connected to and became somewhat close friends already broke my heart.


“What is to give light must endure burning.”
-Viktor Frankl

thank you for this post and for being you.
Darcie said…
This reminds me of Henri Nouwen's book, The Wounded Healer.
"The great illusion of leadership is to think that man can be led out of the desert by someone who has never been there."
Anonymous said…
Stephen, once again, you post something that brings you closer to us, the fans. Not only that, you share a story that I feel that all of us can relate to (at least on some level). Thank you for this story, for the other posts, and for all that you do. You are a truly amazing human being and I'm so glad that I get to experience at least a teeny tiny part of you.
Olya said…
Thank you so much Stephen, I really needed to hear that.

All my life I've been the outcast, went to maybe three birthdays total in my early childhood. Because I'm the nerd that actually wants to do well in school and people think that's somehow bad.

Maybe eventually I'll help people too, though it seems kind of far off.

You've given me a lot of hope right there, so thanks. :]
T said…
Thanks for that, I really needed it.
Chris said…
Your gift truly goes beyond your music...when your words can strike an emotional cord in someone.

Your post reminds me of things I've endured to gain the acceptance of others, for better or for worse! But as you mention in the end, I believe God has fashioned our lives for His greater purpose, to be heart and hands to someone who could not be touched by someone else who didn't go through that experience.

"He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our condition and keeps us present before God. That's why we can be sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good" Romans 8:28

God Bless and I wish you all the best in your upcoming Tour!
Taylor said…
siting here in AP spanish, i was simply looking for a distraction from an informal speaking activity.

i stumbled upon something really beautiful, painfully honest, and exactly what i needed to hear right now.

thanks for providing both a distraction and a realization.
Rachel said…
I think you're right. How can one know happiness without pain? How can one learn to deal with disappointments without experiencing them? In order to appreciate the love you have in your life you have to know what it's like to have an absence of love.

I'm not going to share my whole story, but it's fairly similar. I fell in love, got my heart broken even though I never actually dated him. The details aren't important though- the point is that as much as it sucked at the time, I can now appreciate the pain. I'm no longer nearly as naive as I once was, and I didn't really even have to make any mistakes to gain the knowledge I have; I just fell for the wrong guy.

I got out of that situation (and several others) infinitely wiser than when I went in. Pain hurts, duh. But all painful situations, once you're out of them, make you appreciate the good times even more. Also, God has a plan for everything. He's not going to throw anything at you that you can't handle- all you have to do is ask for His help. It's pretty fabulous, if you ask me.

Amazing post. It's a good reminder to count your blessings everyday. In every cloud there's a silver lining, and something good comes out of every bad situation, even if we don't see it until much later.

Psalm 150
Rach said…
Oh, how I agree with you.

My whole life has been categorized as trials (as are most people's lives), though there were good times too. I often questioned God as to his goodwill towards me.

One day, it dawned on me how all of these really shaped who I am today. Not in the trite "your problems make you stronger", but in the real sense....those tragedies shaped my personality, they shaped my good qualities, as well as my bad.

My family taking in foster children, something I regarded at the time as absolutely heartbreaking, hearing their stories at such a young age was devastating to me, was so essential for me. I now realize how good I have it. I also have the unique perspective of knowing just how sinful the human heart can be.
Even having a foster brother, who I loved as much as my blood sisters, taken away for no apparent reason, has made me stronger. I can now truly empathize with those who experience loss.
I could go on and on about how God has used my trials to make me stronger... In the midst of my current trial, I still have no idea how God will use this. And though it hurts everyday, I holdfast to the belief that God is good and will work this out (Rom 8:32)
Lexi said…
As a child growing up, to say that I wasn't one of the "cool kids" would be sugarcoating the matter. I went to a Catholic grade school, and though I, nor my parents, never thought this would be the case, the children there (the alleged 'children of God, practicing his love, delivering his message) were the most brutally cruel little beasts one could ever encounter. Up until the 4th grade, I was accepted, but then a switch was flicked, and the tiny monsters turned on me. I was a little bit chubby and hadn't lost my baby fat as quickly as the rest had. Also, I was incredibly smart for my age, which was soooo "like, weird." They would literally form a circle around me on the playground daily, hurling insults at me until I broke down and cried. Unlike you, I WAS invited to birthday parties (to which I always desperately attended) simply for them to continue to tease and ostracize me there and further the entertainment.

I was blessed when, in the 4th grade, a young boy named Jonathon befriended me. He was, by their standards, "weirder" than I. We played kickball together. We would sit in the library and look at books full of the artwork of the old masters together. He was awkwardly pale. He was my salvation.

One day, Jonathon wasn't in school. Then, the next. Then, the next. Soon, they gathered the entire school together for an assembly to announce that Jonathon had a rare liver deterioration disease, wasn't expected to live past age 5, and that he was currently in the hospital. Every now and then, they'd give us "updates," telling us that he had drank a cup of tea that day, stomached food, that he was getting better. They told us not to visit him in the hospital, as he was making a recovery, needed the rest, and would be back soon. Then, a few months later came the next assembly. Jonathon had died while awaiting a triple liver-heart-lung transplant. They had been lying to us the entire time, and because of this, I didn't get to go see that poor boy in the hospital once or say goodbye.

All of the children who had mocked him cried for weeks, but I cried harder. They set up grief counseling, to which I and a few of those "others" attended. As they sat there "mourning" and talked about how wonderful he was, I lashed out, screaming, "You hated him. You were mean to him. You made his life HELL." It was decided that I was no longer allowed to attend the grief counseling.

After his death, life moved on for the other children rather quickly, and they resumed their picking on me. I ended up in therapy before the 5th grade... which shouldn't occur... questioning the meaning of life and speaking suicidal words. Soon after, my parents pulled me out of the school and put me in public school (best decision they've ever made).

I suppose what this all leads to is the values it instilled in me. Courtesy of this experience growing up, I have remained humble, modest, and, most importantly, kind. I value kindness as of the highest importance. If I hadn't gone through all of this bullying growing up, I fear for the person I would have developed into. Also, from that young age, I began to be grateful for every single day, as life is short and unpredictable. Jonathon lived a kind, good life, and even now, years upon years later, I hope I am paying him some homage by the way I live mine.
Renny said…
Stephen, your timing is always impeccable. Thank you. Thank you for being a beautiful person. Thank you for sharing that with others. Thank you for helping me remembers that "all things shall be for (my) experience and good." Most of all, thanks for reminding me that God's plan is more perfect than mine.
Peter said…
stephen, thank you!
your humility in sharing a story so heartwrenching is a real challenge for me to be more genuine.

i, too, have come through many trials. after kindergarten, i moved from france to new zealand, and made a new group of friends there. when we returned after my dad's one-year teaching sabbatical, there was no more space in the english-speaking international school. my french was too weak to socialise, and i spent the next year extremely lonely.
when i did get into primary school, the cliques had already formed, and i never felt included. i would try to join others to play, but was too quiet to be noticed. i spent hours of lunchtimes sitting on monkey bars in the wooded corner of campus, facing the fence, and watching hoverflies dance in the sunbeams. pondering freedom, and imagining life on the other side of the fence. i longingly wanted to fly, and rise above the crowd of teasing strangers with whom i shared classes. i can remember five birthday parties i was invited to in all my childhood, one from that time, and the rest from junior high.
i thought that secondary school would be different. but rather than change for the better, people were simply superficial in a different way. i was lucky enough to own a laptop, but was teased for it being a bright blue ibook, not a windows pc. i was the first to own an ipod, in february 2002, and even the name of the device was the object of mockery. so i listened to it more, and lost myself in Paperthin Hymn and Never Take Friendship Personal. i took a class at an online school, and made friends there, so was drawn into computing more than ever. into this, physical abuse by my brother's girlfriend (and he was not disciplined by my parents) dragged me to thoughts of ending my life.
ironically, as ipods became popular, my skills in repairing them did also, and helped me to gain confidence. youth for christ had a lunchtime world issues discussion forum, and i met people through that. but never spent time with the group i regularly ate with.
but the loneliness still continued. events were irregular, once a week at most, and i knew the leaders better than the students. so when those "friends" with whom i sat for lunch rejected me to my face, and told me i was uninvited on their trip away, my first forged suicide attempt occurred.
i left behind this legacy in my hometown, and went to the UK for university. finding new groups, but nobody willing to be close and accountable, i joined an exchange programme. it is among fellow international students i've found my niche: intelligent, but incapable of long-term social commitment, and never fully fitting in.
i'm hoping that these experiences will help me to serve God and empathise with other people.

thank you stephen for reminding me i'm not alone. and if you, anonymous reader of blog comments, are ever feeling rejected, know that there are many out there, myself included, craving the same friendship you desire.
Latrina said…
This is what I admire about you, Stephen. You're so honest, so real. Your post was very moving, I hope it brings reasoning to a lot of people.

I am very thankful to have already learned this early in life. I am very grateful for all the things that have came into my life, both the good and the bad. Everything happens for a reason, it really does. Those who endure hardships will only be that much stronger in the end.

Life really does shape our being. I wouldn't be the compassionate, caring, intelligent person I am today with out struggling through my teen years. It was all worth it, and I honestly wouldn't change a thing.

My mother's passing was a wake up call to me. I am so blessed to have this wonderful perspective on life. There is no negatives in her passing, only beautiful inspiration.

If only everyone could witness this as well. There is a saying that I continue to share with others "Life is still beautiful even in the midst of chaos and death." :)
Rachel said…
That is so true. It's almost like you want to avoid the heartbreak for someone else because you know the pain yourself. Although some people could choose this road of heartbreak to love, some people choose heartbreak to a life of bitterness so proceed with caution.
More Than Alive said…
Stephen, I got chills reading the end of your post. I know that the reason some of us go through loneliness, hurt, or any type of trial is to help others in the future. Here's my story:

Life was good, but I wanted more. I wanted more faith and to be happier. I prayed that I'd be able to increase my faith and become a better person. Once I said that humble prayer my life changed. I began dating a man that seemed perfect. After about three months of dating I started experiencing some very odd medical symptoms. The right side of my body went numb, my arms and legs would go limp with no warning, I was constantly in pain...those are only a few of the symptoms. My boyfriend at the time was very supportive at first, but then started to mentally abuse me. I tolerated the abuse because I had nobody else in the world. He convinced me that he was the only man who would ever accept and love me with whatever sickness I had. He slowly ostracized me from the world and eventually I had only him. My family lived thousands of miles away and I had no friends. After a year of this, on Feb 13, 2008 I was finally diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. He broke up with me the next day. He couldn't handle my disease afterall. In tears, I grabbed his hand to pull him down to the counch to talk to me about it, but he turned and hit me. He walked out the door and never came back.

I was left all alone with nobody to comfort me and tell me that it would be okay - that life would go on despite having this disease. I spent many days crying and feeling so alone. I would pray to my Father in Heaven to spare me some of my grief. When I finally had faith that He could actually carry my burdens for me He did.

I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I went through that hellish time so that I could better understand the hurt, loneliness, and pain that others in this world experience. It taught me the needs of others much more clearly so that I can better serve them.

As I said before, that experience changed my life. People like you and others that comment on this blog have changed my life.

I appreciate this post and all of the comments that have been made. Thanks everyone.
Janelle said…
What a great post, even with such a heartbreaking story.

It reminds me of when I was a sophomore in high school, when it was 16th birthday party time. My entire class was invited to this guy's party, except me & my friend Julie. He made it a point to pass out invitations in front of us. Julie & I, however, didn't care much for Drew, & were at least comfortable enough with ourselves to not be bothered. We laughed it off. But if we had really wanted to go, we could've - since everyone we knew was invited, we knew exactly where & when it was.
Sarah (": said…
this post was touching and it made me tear ='] i dont know what to say i have so many similar experiences like that and sometimes still do. its just so hard to accept the truth and the criticism. and i do tell myself theres probably a reason why.. but i dont see it now. maybe in the future..
Sarah (": said…
this post was touching and it made me tear ='] i dont know what to say i have so many similar experiences like that and sometimes still do. its just so hard to accept the truth and the criticism. and i do tell myself theres probably a reason why.. but i dont see it now. maybe in the future..
Brittney said…
Stephen, you're the only thing I seem to look forward to anymore. All of your posts are thought-filled and inspirational. Thank you. I take all of your advice and lock it inside of my brain.
Kellie said…
i can not thank you enough for posting this. i really needed to hear this my life is up for a big change that i was not sure i could make because of the trials i will face for it. but now i know i can do this and that, yes, everything that has happened and is about to happen in my life is for a reason. thank you so so so much!!!!!!
Hannah said…
Wow. Here's my story, or series of...

I remember when I used to be a complete loudmouth and jerk when I was in kindergarden. And I was one of the "popular cool kids," I was the leader! I was on top of the world!
But all of that changed with girl scouts. The "leader" of our "group," or what I like to call it now, cult was awful to me.

I actually almost got kicked out of girl scouts the first session!
For speaking my mind!
She literally kicked me out of the room and put me outside for about 30 minutes!

And this continued. And my mom made me stay in girl scouts until I finally had too much of it and got out in 5th grade. I was completely left out of any group in the very small school I was in.

I was excellent at basketball, and I didn't get in because the girl scout "leader's" husband was the coach. But what was, was.

Nonetheless, I had learned to shut my mouth and learned some respect from that and got transferred to another school in 6th grade.

I was the nerdy Catholic school kid. Everyone thought I was weird. But I didn't care. I wore what I wanted, including this one purple outfit. It was hilarious looking. I did what I wanted. And that's how I rolled.

It hit me in 8th grade when someone was said something along the lines of 'Whoa there's TWO Hannah's?!' and started talking smack about me, but she didn't know she was talking to me, and she didn't even know who I was- she judged me on my appearance and what others who didn't know me as well said!

And I started wearing better clothing. But I'm still not completely "fashionable" but hey, I am still me.

And now I'm in high school, with few friends again, and if that's not bad, they're awful friends, if I should even call them that.
And I'm one of those quiet compassionate kids, who is liked, but no one wants to be around, even after 3 years.

And I keep trying to fight everything. But I'm so attached to this draining lifestyle and it's really hard to leave it, and I want to. SO Badly. I have been trying my best to.

But I keep hanging out with the same hurtful people.
It's hard to get away from them. But I slowly am. Really.

But you're right. There has got to be a reason for my change, for everything. And I'm getting better at everything. I can overcome this, just like everything else.

And I'm learning something new every day now.

I don't want to just settle for being one of those numbers in the crowd anymore, to conform to what everyone believes is "normal"- to always be left out of everything and ignored.
I want to be more than normal. I want to be heard. And I will be, in time. I'm gonna be like I was when I was little, combined with what I have turned into today. I can tell.

There really is a point to everything in this life.
You should read "The Seven People You Meet in Heaven" by Mitch Albom.

It's incredible. I read it in 8th grade and I think I need to go find it and reread it.

Thank you Stephen.
Christin said…
i agree 100%. i always seemed to be the foe (object of attack) for the popular girls growing up. but now God's starting to show me the effect i'm having on the youth @ my church. my name may never go down in history but i know cuz of Him i've changed the world (if even for one).
Anonymous said…
Thank you so much for posting this. I've been going through parts of my life like this's been hard,
especially because I have blamed myself for what has happened to me. I'm still classified as growing up by society, and I see why now. Thank you.
Anonymous said…
thank you, stephen
Ashley said…
this reminds me quite a bit of events from my elementary years.

i think it was my 8th or 9th birthday, and i was so excited. i invited my entire class, had all kinds of games, the works. it was going to be 'the best party ever'. but then the day of the party came, and that's all that came. not one person showed up. and growing up in a small town, you'd think that for diplomacy's sake at least, the parents would've had their kids go, but no. and this was made worse by the fact that i had to see them all the next day. i think it was the very next year that basically the same thing happened. only one person came.

afterward i realized it wasn't just in the party department that i was being avoided. suddenly, i didn't belong anywhere anymore. i was hurled out of the class's social circle. my grandfather's death '02 made me pull further away from them, further than all their teasing could've done. i spent recesses walking the chain-linked perimeter of the playground. and i knew the others thought i was weird, countless times i'd hear them talking about me.

it wasn't until i entered an area-wide school musical that happens every other year that i started making friends again. but i still stayed out of everyone's way, mostly out of habit now that i think about it. but i did come out of it with a few future close friends.

i still hear people talking behind my back, people who are supposed to be my friends, but frankly, i couldn't care less anymore. i'm too used to insults and ostracism. so, in a way, i'm glad my classmates were cruel. i even almost feel sorry for some of them.
.........You might as well have been describing my childhood. I was so awkard socially. That, of course, had bullies buzzing around me like flies. I STILL can't believe I wasn't more assertive. The person I am today was shaped by all that. I was so different from them. My mom's a Sicilian daughter of immigrants, and I got her wild curls, shy spirit, and love for music (even the big band she exposed me to). I was (am...) also quite short. ha I was also a bit chubby. Luckily age brings many changes to us, both physically and emotionally. I totally agree with you. God allows everything to happen for a reason. The quirks make us who we are. Thanks for posting that. It oddly made me feel ok with myself for a while......And yet I remember that my home is not of this world, so it doesn't really matter if I'm accepted here.....
Sarah said…
When I was in grade 9, I started to hang out with a different group of people, or, my best friend started to hang out with different people and I followed her. I was pretty quiet and awkward though, and this made the new group of friends hesitant towards me. I became picked on and no one seemed to care. I started to become quieter because I was afraid that if I said anything, they could somehow use it against me. I could feel their annoyance with me being around, but I didn't have anyone else to hang out with so I dealt with it and tears made a daily appearance.
I was in band. So were they, but they weren't involved like me. They were mostly in it for band camp, the occasional time to miss school for festivals or because their parents made them. I was in it because I really loved it. I'll never forget band camp in grade 9. I roomed with the people who picked on me because I didn't have anyone else. Those were probably the loneliest 2 days of my life. I sat all alone on the 3 hour bus ride back home. When we arrived home, I remember a good friend of mine was there waiting for us to return. I don't remember exactly what we talked about but I remember after we talked, all I could think of was how glad I was that he was there.
I stopped hanging out with them then. I started hanging out with my new friend more and we're still best friends.
When I got into high school the next year, I joined the school's elite band program and there, I found others who were passionate for music like me and I've made some really great friends.

Stephen, thank you so very much for this.
cristobal said…
stephen, i cannot even begin to explain how close to home this hits and how much i needed this right now. I have been through so much in my life, a lot like the story aforementioned and more right now. Seems like everyone at my job hates me except for one person. I have been ganged up on even to the point of people blantlany lying to get me out of there. One girl says I have sexually harrassed her and 2 other girls have quit and cited their source for leaving, being me. Little do they know that i have been through a lot worse and have, like you wrote, been prepared for things like this. Once again, you have reminded me to keep my head up, and keep drawing the strength from wherever i get it, to keep carrying on. Thank you for this enlightening,insightful, and empathetic post.

Always thankful,
iwanttoplayguitarlikejoeymilligan said…
Couldn't have said it better myself!
kaulie janae said…
you recieve so many "thank you"'s and "so relevant!"'s, but i just can't help but to add mine to the stack. this fit perfectly with me and my experiences right now. i don't feel up to typing the story because it's years and years in the making, and boils down to me being terribly, terribly selfish and self-centered in my actions and memories, but i wanted to tell you that this pointed out to me where i've been going wrong, where i need to correct myself and improve to be the sister and friend and person i need to be.

so, "thank you", that was "incredibly relevant."

and i mean every word.
-lindsay- said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
-lindsay- said…
i remember my first birthday party... it was fourth grade. around second grade, everyone decided that for some reason or other that i would be the class scapegoat. something went wrong, it was my fault. absurd stories would be made up about me, and while the teachers would never believe it, elementary school children are gullible. increadibly gullible. ridiculously gulli... well, anyhow...

birthday parties always seem to be that indicator that "you don't fit in." in fourth grade i invited all the girls in my class to a sleepover, they didn't like me, yet because i had a party for a fleeting second they accepted me. however even at my own party i was left out... they excluded me and i, in turn, excluded myself. while in third grade i would take these reading tests i considered fun (which led my classmates to alienate me further, "reading, who enjosy that?") in fourth grade, i would finish my assignment early and then read to the extent that i would often miss recess (and the occasional lunch) all because i was caught up in reading. the teacher never noticed me being gone, i never caused any trouble. while i did what people asked and without complaint, and hardly said a word, EVERYONE'S expectations - both bad and good- lived in me. i didn't act badly, i just considered myself what they said. you begin to believe what people yell at you everyday, at home, at school. it's not easy being oxymoronic.
you learn not to talk to people, someone on this page said that they were quiet because whatever they said would be twisted. that is exactly it. and, most of all... you learn that they are right. regardless of whether or not it's true. they say you're smart, you are. they say you're stupid, it must be true. until one day you hear so much you become irrational and terrified... then suddenly wake up and realize the whirlwind of things you believe in... and can't decide which ones are real.

in recess, when i didn't read it away in the classroom, i would swing. for half an hour. and daydream. often such dreams would involve me going away, and then coming back to school completely different. everyone would want to be my friend, and i would indifferently disclose my identity to them and they inturn would be ashamed for wanting to be the friend of someone they had once despised. i would then shrug them off, because of course who would want to be friends with such hypocrites, and would them proceed to live in the school in an area upstairs because the teachers never were nice to me. everyone else, would of course, still be ashamed. and, of course, in my daydreaming i would have an older brother that everyone would be jealous of. "no more of this only child nonsense"

years later, in high school, shortly after i learned to be myself (thanks to music by switchfoot and anberlin, and a great deal of answered prayer) i learned that they never really hated me that much.
they were just afraid of being my friend because they thought everyone else hated me.
being my friend would equal being an outcast.
and no one wanted that.

however i would never give back a single taunt, story, or dream. it has made me who i am, and well... i'm thankful.

romans 8:28 'for all things come together for those who love him, for those who are called according to his purpose'

...and now i will post this before i talk myself out of it. (something i still struggle with. if no one cares about what i say anyway, i learned not to say it. now i'm trying to say it regardless. so now i'm just rambling on to prevent the inevitable posting of this comment.
wow. this is long.)
Ted said…
i was the most painfully shy individual throughout my teenage years and i've learned what it means to be rejected, left behind, a "lesser known." i didn't know myself because i was too busy making sure no one else knew me. i've changed quite a bit since then but i cannot help but realize that this did indeed happen for a reason and i've taken on the duty to help those like that. i'm in college now and have 2 friends who are where i once was and the timing for this post could never have been better. i'm trying really hard to help them because i know what it's like and what it can do to an individual. i'm trying to get them involved, in touch with the world, and most importantly, understand that they have a purpose in this life that God has given them. they seem so hopeless and lost as i once was and i see now why i've found these 2 and why i went through what i have. thank you stephen and God bless.
Anonymous said…
this has been a really helpful read.your words are a gift.
Mark Duarte said…
i think we all have a little bit of 9 year old in us. even as adults. people rarely ever get to a place where they no longer need or want acceptance. i happen to believe we never do. but i dont like to speak in certainties.
DN said…
Stephen, thanks for these words.

I've never had any good friends. I've never been able to make any. They've never wanted to be my friends. To this day sixteen years later, that remains the same.

I was having another bad day, but finding this new blog post when i turned on my computer was exactly what i needed to see. Thank you.
bigsmile! said…
"Given the choice between the experience of pain or nothing, i would choose pain"
William Faulkner

We learn through all the pain that we experience. I agree with you Stephen, we just have to wait, because there's a reason for everything. I know that during the times when I am in a middle of situation, my mind is too clouded, and my emotions are heightened that I don't see anything good that might come out of it. It's comforting to know that God will never put me through anything He knows I cannot bear. It's hard not to complain or even question the realities that are happening to me right now, but I just have to keep reminding myself that God is still in control, and everything is really going to be alright.
Rover Fox said…
Your story = story of my life. Thanks for the Hope!
Eve said…
WOW...This is a heart breaking story. Devastating.

Stephen, I admire your quiet resolve to go to this party. I would have never gone there. I also love the way your father handled the situation. He allowed you to work through it, even joined you. I think I would have a had a knee-jerk reaction to get you far away from those people, especially "Birthday Boy". Both you and your father kept your dignity in a very awkward moment. I love that you slipped away together, hopefully closer than before. In the end you had one over on the gang...:)

I have been waiting for "fourth grade" to end...all my life. I have come to the conclusion that:


I would not trade any of my many horrible moments for moments of glory, because in the humility is where my character has been formed. My nickname is so bad, it can not be printed here, for censorship sake.

JR. High was a nightmare each and everyday. But one summer away at the lake and a few gifts from Mother Nature changed everything for me...High School brought a fairytale story that anyone would want..but the scars of the geeky girl carrying stacks of books by taunting football players were ever present. I NEVER dated anyone from my own school...How could they even dare to call me after what they did...

The geek squad I always hung out with...well we are all doing very well in our chosen areas...

If you are still in school, invest you energy into your talents and passions each and everyday. You won't even have time to care about what the empty heads are up to..they will still be up to the same old things years down the will have moved forward and hopefully bringing those behind you along the way. That is the key..always looking out behind you for someone who needs a hand...there will always be awkward "forth graders" who need a hand...
iwanttoplayguitarlikejoeymilligan said…
You know, I think God is trying to tell us, "If only you saw yourself in ten years..."

I believe if you're a Christian and your heart is right then God won't let you have a miserable least for very long.;) It's funny how all the kids no one wanted to hang out with ended up becoming rock stars whenever they grew up. Hmm...
Cali said…
that was just what i've needed to hear.

Thank you, you always make me think about things that make me reflect on myself and in the end even if i'm cying,like i am now, i essentially feel amazingly better. so really thanks for being yourself and sharing your insights with the rest of us
[Cr*] said…
thanks for this. There's a God that made me read this today and not the day you post it.
today was mmmm 'awful'. my pillow still wet. thanks again for these words, specifically ''maybe in this season of your life you may feel left behind, ostracized, criticized, a 'lesser known';but maybe, just maybe there is a reason for it. you can't see it yet, but you will. you know what sticks, stones, and broken bones are and what a broken heart feels like, but realize that maybe it happened to you now because you know exactly what a broken heart feels like and someday you can help mend someone else's. ''
Laura R said…
I really appreciate how honest you were here. I can absolutely relate to experiences like this. Even though I don't know you personally, I can really see how much God has come into your life and shaped who you are from the inside out. It's really beautiful.

Laura Rivera
XxmoretolivingthanbeingalivexX said…
wow...Hmm...I have to remember to check modesty more often. In a way, i think you just saved my life Stephen.

Minutes ago, I sat here, THE KNIFE IN MY HAND!!! I was on the verge of a suicide attempt. Right then and there...

I won't go into many details now. But the fact is, as I sat there in this empty house with the storm outside and the knife in hand, I had this strange feeling nagging at the back of my head. To check modesty.

Thank you. Thank you sooooo much. I've been told so many times that I was the only one that went through this and that I was pathetic for making such a big deal about it...and now I know I'm not.

Just...thank you. Once i read this, I wanted to throw the knife as far away as possible...But I just gently set it down on the counter, stopped crying, and realized there is a WAYYY bigger purpose than what is happening here and now.

So thank you. I've got some cleaning up to do in this short little life now...
S. Jags said…
I love this way of thinking...that everything we do in our life makes up who we are in the present. All our personal experiences make each of us an individual. Also that 'what doesn't kill you makes you stronger' thinking. This keeps me going...hoping for reason behind it all...
Dids said…
Superchic[k]'s "Beauty from Pain"

"And see how you've brought beauty from ashes
And made me as gold purified through these flames"
Anonymous said…
The words from your mouth cannot be summed up in any other word but graceful.

You are an inspiration to us all. I will ponder your post for sometime, hoping it will change me for the better, but fearing not even your beautiful prose could do that.

I used to think the only thing keeping me on this earth was gravity, but I was wrong. The only thing keeping me on this planet, and guiding me through this desolate land, is you Stephen. Your music, your lyrics, your life.
Anonymous said…
A long time ago in Grade 8, our class went on a trip. There, without warning, one of the more popular boys called me 'ugly' straight to my face and in front of my friends, who didn't stand up for me or anything. I get along with him okay now, but I'll never forget that incident. Kind of makes you question things...
shanrocks777 said…
On the subject of broken hearts…

I recently got an unexpected email from an ex boyfriend who I haven’t seen in about 6, maybe 6 & a half years. He wanted to start seeing me again. At first it was a welcome surprise. I genuinely wanted to compare how our lives have changed, but in doing so (over the course of the past two weeks) it brought back a flood of memories that hadn’t healed with the journal entries I wrote so many years ago. Surprising was that he didn’t remember all the hurt he caused me when he ended it. He only remembered the good times and sincerely thought he could start fresh with me and leave old ghosts to rest…The problem was, they hadn’t been laid to rest just yet. I needed an apology. Once I got it, I figured I’d give him a fair shot and see if the reasons why we became ex’s in the first placed still remain…and they do.

We argue about petty things, rub each other the wrong way, and don’t respect each other’s differences. And also the way that we handle conflict is completely different. He likes to dismiss it to the recesses of his mind, like sweeping it under the rug and forgetting about it. I file it under “unresolved” in my mind but access it whenever life brings me circumstances or ideas that shed light on the matter and help me to understand it better. I think a huge factor between our differences is that he hasn’t had the same problems as I did growing up, which caused me to become a very introspective person.

It usually seems to come down to whether or not a guy can understand the trials and tribulations I’ve been through (or God allowed me to have) since my childhood. If he can’t have sensitivity toward these things (which I won’t get into detail about) then he just won’t be able to appreciate the foundation that has made me who I am. He accused me of living in the past. He said the he selectively forgets all the negative in the past and only remembers the positive, and that I’m wasting my time by not doing the same. I reasoned that the hurt of the past does, in fact, serve a positive function in the present. Because I can remember so vividly these experiences, they serve to help others who are going through similar circumstances. I said that I like to help people with their emotional turmoil and counsel them. If only I could have borrowed your words at that point and said,

“I don’t see my past as a minefield of pain that still enables me to perform physically or psychologically in my current life. In fact, I count it as a blessing. I wouldn’t love people without first being hated”.

…I wonder if his response would still have been a bleak, “People get to an age where they no longer need help with their problems or any counselling or your advice”.

And of course I felt deflated that something that means so much to me was invalidated by someone who was trying to win me over, no less. I tried explaining that sometimes my only dignity in having to had experienced these things (that a lot of people don’t even give thought to) is that I can use them to help someone else. But it didn’t matter…He wasn’t hearing me out (I never once heard an “I understand”), and he had shown his true colours. It’s not what I need. I’m sure some other woman will admire his stoic stance in her life, but it’s not positive or complimentary to mine. I want someone who I can share an understanding with, mutually build each other up - lead each other in that sense, and

“The great illusion of leadership is to think that man can be led out of the desert by someone who has never been there”.
~Henri Nouwen
switchkosterice said…
That was a great childhood experience. I'll respond by posting an essay I wrote about my own childhood.


Leaving Montessori

I now have a good life. I am a slightly stable and not too insane person for my age. I am blessed with hundreds of opportunities in and outside of school. I go to one of the best public high schools in the state, I have played in a successful school volleyball program, and I am also able to keep touch with my nerdy side in the school’s scholastic bowl team. I have a multitude of friends that I trust in and who believe in me. When life is going well, we spend our days running around local used book stores and competing to see who can randomly find the raunchiest passage in a romance novel thereby annoy the heck out of the 40 year old man ten feet away with our giggles of random joy. When I find myself locked inside a home that is nearly exploding out of pure anger resulting from the second divorce of my mother, they talk me through survival plans that lead to a 180 degree turn around of my outlook on my current position and we end up reminiscing the raunchy romance novel moments in life. No trouble of mine can possibly be left unsolved or unattended with my friends, and opportunities, alongside me. How I got here in life is utterly amazing to even myself. I survived a series of event twists, with unpleasantries a plenty, and years when I felt as if nothing could possibly go right to get here, but I am here and I am here to stay.
For seven years my parents put me through Montessori school. My Montessori experience does not seem to coincide with any of the values normally associated with Maria Montessori’s gloriously perfect and new teaching style. Sure, we had the freedom to roam about and willingly choose what work to do as she envisioned, but the flaw that Maria Montessori seems to have dismissed as impossible is that children are not naturally motivated to learn. Instead we spent our time doing whatever we pleased, regardless of whatever work was supposed to get done. We created a home and a family, something infinitely more valuable than any knowledge a first grader could take in. I had a flourishing social life, or at least the appearance of one. I never saw of my friends on the weekends. I never even thought of that as a possibility. I did not know what I missed out on. If some of us lived a little closer to each other, perhaps that part of our early childhood would not be missing, but as the case was, most kids lived at least 45 minutes away from each other. Driving myself down to my farthest friend’s house now takes me ten minutes, in traffic.
Although we never saw each other on Saturdays or Sundays, our “family” was close as can be. My grade had a record breaking number of students: six. Our entire classroom was a party of 14 kids from fourth through sixth grade. Because of this, most of our senses of age became skewed. My two best friends, who were both a grade above me, had left the school that year to go someplace else before sixth grade graduation. Franca, who came from Florida and the Netherlands before that, left Montessori for New York (although she now lives in Germany). Sahana, who is younger than me and yet still a grade above, left Montessori for Marion Jordan, a dreaded public school, for her sixth grade year (sometimes we still acknowledge each other in the hallway of our high school). Following the trend of my friends before me, my parents decided that my benefit would best be served if I left Montessori before sixth grade. Here began my troubles.
“Look Tori! You’re gonna go there soon!” my father said, pointing Plum Grove Jr High out to me as we drove along Meacham Road. The place looked so ominous and dark. The building frightened me the most. Montessori was such a small building along such a small neighborhood road. The rumor was that the building had been an ice cream parlor before our director snatched up the property to jail us for money. Plum Grove was a place for the big kids. I was nowhere near that age anyway.
The idea of a public school had been such a sore subject with Montessori kids. In fact, if a kid wanted to insult another, a simple “You don’t deserve this place, you should be in a public school,” would suffice. Therefore, being corrupted already, I cannot truthfully name this as the starting moment of my parents’ attempts to seize control of my brain. My parents are divorced. Simply put, they would agree on one thing and one thing only: I must not go to Montessori for sixth grade.
My step-dad's family is extremely Catholic. His niece of 20 years of age just became a nun. That is how Catholic they are. My mom had been married to Joe for about a year now and I had been acquainted with him for years before that as well. My poor, sinful mother was about to make a decision that would influence my entire life and his family’s Catholic duty alarm blared loud and clear.
I have always loved mail. I figure, I better enjoy what I get in the mail now before those letters and postcards turn into bills. I checked the mail every day and though I rarely came across something addressed to me, I regularly flipped through the letters in a speedy and rehearsed manner, glancing for half a second at the addressee of each envelope. This time I stopped half way through the stack. My name was definitely on this postcard. My name was on a piece of mail that was most certainly addressed to me. Along the other side of the card I found the headline: “Willows Academy Open House November 3rd!” This intrigued my fifth grade self. “Moooooooooom!” I yelled, while breaking and entering into her bedroom. “Mom! Can we go to this? Please?” I had just gotten myself into the biggest mess of my life.
“Tori, where do you want to go to school?” These soon became the most common words of my fifth grade year. A part of me felt that my parents only wanted to get enough out of me so they could tell the other I was on their side. Part of me believed they genuinely cared for my education and future. Naturally, I took the indecisive route and pleased each parent in private, assuring myself that my mom or dad could believe my response but would not be able to hold what I said against the other in court. That’s right, my parents took this issue to court. I was not old enough to be enlightened upon what exactly “going to court” entailed, but apparently I was old enough to have a lawyer of my very own. My parents did not believe I wanted to be at the scene of the battle, which shows how much I let them know about my inner feelings. I wanted more than anything to be there. My lawyer’s job was to represent me without me being physically present. I told that man nearly nothing. He probably knew as much about me as the woman at the candy store across the street from Montessori. He probably got paid for that too.
I honestly do not know where I was for the first few days at court, something about the judge missing out on the date rings a bell though. Because of this delay, the court date was finally reset. Three days before most of my cousins would begin their new school year I sat around my nana’s house, nervously playing the Harry Potter game I had installed on her computer years back, but had beaten many times in my own home, and awaited the verdict. Hours went by and I still had no clue if I next year I would be attending an all girl’s Catholic school wearing a skirt every day, or at Pleasant Hill, the public school with a great reputation--the one by my dad’s house. At around five o’clock the phone rang. My nana ran upstairs to hand me the phone. All of a sudden I was in the midst of a conversation with some lady I had never met or even heard of. “Hi Tori. I just wanted to tell you that you’ll be going to Central Road school next year.” I had heard rumors about Central Road. The school was one of the worst in the area. Bad kids went to Central Road. My situation had worsened in one phone call.
At the time my mom lived in Rolling Meadows, better known as “Rolling Ghettos.” Apparently my going to Central Road was some form of compromise. Neither of my parents wanted me to go to that school. Obviously our judicial system believes that a solution is infinitely better if nobody is happy, even if they could please at least someone. Two days later, the day before school officially began, my mom took me to the school for an extremely late registration and we collectively attempted to convince the principal that, although I had never taken any form of real “testing,” I should be placed in the gifted program at the school. We failed. For the first month of school I sat through Ms. Black’s normal track class in silence. I talked to no one. I had no friends. My social life had a value of zero. Eventually results came back from an IQ test and the school now felt confident placing me in the gifted class. My first day with the nerds was welcoming, but I soon came to realize the irony of this placement.
Those who organized the gifted program at Community Consolidated District 15 could never have been in the program themselves. Pleasant Hill had a far greater number of gifted students and almost none of the gifted students of Central Road could call the school their “home school” due to this. The gifted students in the fifth and sixth grades who would otherwise go to Pleasant Hill were bused over to Central Road for the program. My father had won the battle.
Throughout my sixth grade year I was thankful that I did not have to wear a skirt everyday or match all the other students by wearing any sort of uniform, but my social life still lacked. I dreaded recess time every day. I had nothing to do other than read and even resorted to talking to the recess supervisors sometimes. I felt no connection to any of the other students. They seemed to put forth almost no effort to get to know me or hang out with me. Regardless, I didn’t know any better and this behavior continued into junior high, at Plum Grove. The Central Road kids I knew completely ignored me although I would sit with them at the lunch table. They seemed to believe the fact that there were now more kids for me to be friends with was a reason to forget me. I still did not know any better.
In eighth grade, most of us were still in the same classes together, the Central Road folk and those of other elementary schools who I was familiar with from seventh grade. Something different happened that year. Kids from the other elementary schools began to talk to me, even though they had others to talk to. I found that I could bring out my former self, my former personality with these people. The solidification of myself in this new group came with a winter break trip to see King Kong in theaters. This instance helped me begin to feel my life changing direction. Everything began to go right. This had not happened since before the fifth grade. I never in a million years thought, in sixth grade, that I would have friends that I could just go around with to used book stores and laugh at raunchy books with. The fifth grade me never thought I would have the opportunity to play volleyball or get high honor roll grades in such a great school. The wait was worth the insane amount of troubles I took in. Eventually I became who I am now. I endured so much to get where I am and I would never go back to lessen the pain I went through because I know now that the troubles were all of worth in the end. said…
seeing this story and the many other stories posted here is both sad and comforting at the same time. it's sad to think that people can be so hurtful to other people, sometimes for no apparent reason. it's also comforting to know that there are always people who can relate to certain heartaches.

i know that i have had similar experiences growing up. it started in grade school. mine was full of cliques, and i happened to end up in the unpopular group. i didn't mind because i loved my friends. but we were teased mercilessly, mainly because we had happened to be pegged as "uncool."

high school didn't have any cliques, which was a great change. however, i had some bad situations with friends. it seemed like every time i got close to someone, or found someone i could call my best friend, something would go wrong. i lost some close friends through falling-outs, and i lost others because they seemed to grow tired of me and move on. and this continued through college.

after a few occurrences like this, you start to believe there's something wrong with you. i always wonder why this happens over and over. my friendship record seems to be lacking as far as quantity is concerned. but maybe not so much in quality. because when i begin to question my relationships, i seem to turn to the same few people that i know i can count on.

it's like you said, stephen... sometimes hateful situations can teach you how to love. in my darkest times, i had people there to pull me out of it. i have a few friends who, every day, show me how to love. they give me strength, they teach me honesty, they love me. and at the end of the day, that's all i really need. so really i guess i'm pretty lucky. i can only hope that everyone could be so lucky.
Grant said…
this stuff is freakin crack

Diane said…
Wow this post is sooo inspiring. I myself am going through tough times right now, but I know that it's all worth it because I will be able to inspire others in the future. I wish you all the best, Stephen.

Greetings from Indonesia. :)
Brett Atwood said…
Perhaps I'm just impatient, but I've always wondered when that time will come when all our efforts throughout those hard times will come to shine, and from time to time, I can't help but feel discouraged, to simply ponder if it will all come down to something beautiful in the end. It's your efforts to show us just how important those instances of life are that give your readers hope, including myself, and I highly admire this.

Keep inspiring the world, Stephen!
Creaky said…
This is a really great post, maybe I got something different out of it then what you wanted the reader to get but I could still relate to it in a wierd way.

I've been going through a time where I am afraid to take risks, risks that can lead to me finding something great and lifr changing or alternatively ending up hurt and broken.

But I realise that if I don't take the risks then I will never learn or experience anything out of fear of failing and ending up hurt.

So this really struck a chord with me because it is a reminder that sometimes we need to go through things to become who God would want us to be rather then living life in fear, building up walls around us.
Aimee said…
It is amazing that, as you get older, you realize simple truths like this one. Looking back on my childhood I can fully see how reclusive and shy I was, and in no way do I regret it. I was never the most social creature, preferring to spend my time with books rather than people. I'm not going to pretend that my young life was tragic or sad in any way...but it is fair to say that my introvert status made me less than popular. And today I am so grateful for that...that I started out at the bottom of the ladder. That I know how it feels to have no security or confidence in yourself. That I was given the chance to build myself up, rather than being born at the top of the heap. I know that struggle, and I see it in people every day. And it's then that I know that I am blessed, because God has given me the gift of understanding others, and the chance to help them toward themselves. The small trials of my life make me so compassionate for people as a whole, and I feel strength and purpose knowing that I can help them get through it, simply by showing them they are not you have done for me just now. There is a reason God put me where I am...thank you for making that clear. God bless. :)
guard my dreams said…
incredible post. thank you for this. ive learned throughout my life to just not let things get to me. every bad experience makes you stronger. it makes it easier to face it the next time, and it also makes you more able to help others going through the same kind of things. this belief has given me high hopes for my brother, who is an atheist. i truly believe that he will eventually realize how much he needs God, and that he will be able to use this period of rebelliousness for good. he will be able to help those who struggle with the same doubts and share how he came to realize that God really is there and cares. i pray that he will come back to God soon, but try to realize that God can use even the hard times for good.
kid a said…
I am recently going through a trail where my friend of two years has said she is "Finished with me". We were really close, she always coming over to my house and the other way. I can say that I went through a few of life's with her, but as our friendship ended I noticed that she was not just the friend she was the provoker of bad situation. She would call me a baby, a prude, because I didn't want to do things (under the categorization of drug use). I know that at some points, I became stronger -- standing up to her and eventually trying to get away. But the friendship that we had confused me in terms of 'Why would I want to leave this person?' -- I should have ended it sooner, really. I even tried to help her with her trails in life, telling trusted adults and such but that's what ended up breaking our friendship. Anyway, now we're not friends anymore, only speaking when we're grouped or paired together during class. Otherwise my experience with social situations because I wasn't a brave kid -- I'm not a brave person as it is -- and I just stayed home and read books. I was/am too scared of being the awkward person that ruins everything. You're really a strong person, and I'm glad that you shared this story.

Joshua said…
Indeed, how can we help or hope to relate to others when we have not felt the same pain?

Which is why I am so blessed, I've felt pain and now I have a deeper longing to help other because I can relate.

Jesus Christ not only gave his life for us be he also felt all our pains and hurt in the same ways we do so He can relate to us and feel for us.

everything that has happened in our lives shapes us into who we are. Even things that seemed bad at the time can make us into better people.

right on Stephen
goodnightpunk said…
Wow. Amazing post. Defenitly got me thinking about my elementary, jr.high and (part of)high school experience. I went from homeschooled in third grade to private school in fourth grade. I had a few friends, some of which was due to the fact that my mom had recently became a teacher at the school. Then in fifth grade, a switch happened and I was placed in the sideleines with a few friends, until a fight between a friend and I (which parts of I can remember like yesterday) we were no more. The begining of middle school had me hanging with guys as they understood me. I was a bitter person, who kept to myself. In eighth grade, I then switched to another provate school, where I thought I could have a fresh start. How wrong was I! I had some friends, but was assigned by the queen bee and her crowd to be chumms with the nerdy girl, Kristina. I learned to keep by head by and "just keep swimming". I dreaded school most days.
High School was pretty much the same, until one day I talked to the older seniors (which the queen bee's friend did not like as she had a crush on said guy) who actually understood and were cool. Arround these seniors, I was me. I was okay. Sophmore year saw me as a "lowercase person" that was often acknowledged but I was okay. I learned to love reading and to just hang out with some of the girls that were not popular either. In addition, I ran cros-country, so I could get by with that as well.
Finally, at the end of my sophmore year, I persuaded my mom to homeschool me. I was homeschooled and took college classes to get my A.S. Degree. Because of that, I will graduate high school and college in June. Through this, though, I learned to love others, be patient, and to persuvere. James 1:2-4 says that, "2Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." And I think that ws what God was molding me to be-mature. Where there days where I was lonely and miserable? Terribly so. But would I trade it for anything? No. I know God is working in me and as I trust and follow Him, it's going to be alright.
Thanks for the blog post, friend. You are not alone.
Hennie said…
Thank you again, Christian. Somehow somedays I feel like you're the only one who can make any sense of anything going around in this world. It was refreshing to read your blog again. Thank you for that. Although, I've always known there is a reason. There has to be..
Ana said…
this reasured me that i am not the only one who believes that everything (good or bad) that happens to us is for a greater good. we may not see it at the time it is happening, but when we look back, and really look, we see that we can learn our lessons, make ourselves who we are from what we have experienced. and i am so glad that i am one of the people who think like that, because it not only gets me through harder times but it makes me see things from different views and it makes me happier.
and its good to know that all of this isnt just in my head. that many other people out there know it too, so it must be true.
stoph said…
Thanks for your vulnerability. We need more of this in the world.
Lulu said…
Excellent. Your honesty and insight made my day. Thank you and keep writing.
Angie said…
Thank you for this Stephen. The things you share can really open my eyes and help restore hope. Your story breaks my heart, but it's really true that these sorts of things happen, to build us stronger and help us learn.
Anonymous said…
I'm not going to post my whole story, but Stephen I relate to your story on so many levels. I went to a private Christian school for thirteen years and I was always a misfit. I was treated like a freak not only at school, but at church also. This left me with a messed up view of who God really is. Two months after high school graduation when I was eighteen, God decided to reveal His love to me in way that was beyond my wildest imagination and now I seek to love God and love others with everything in me. I love what you said about having to experience pain and hate before we can love others. That is so true and I wish I had realized that back when times were tough. I now realize that God had a purpose for taking me through those painful times in school, because now I am better equipped to pour out the love of Jesus on others. Thanks for sharing your story Stephen!
Erin said…
I wish I had something witty or profound to add the this post. something of worth to continue the dialogue that you started.
but all that I have is me and my own personal thumbprint.
I feel like this story and this post should be put into an encyclopedia somewhere under the definition or explanation of "hope."

in order to have hope there must have been a broken swingset in your path.
Amazing post. Brought a tear to my eye and lump to my throat. I guess it's kinda like the phrase 'what doesn't kill us makes us stronger'. When people have been mean to me, although I don't know if I'm necessarily more 'loving' of others, it does make me stronger. Obstacles are put in front of us as a sort of test to see if we can overcome them and go on to better things. You did, can and will continue to. :-)
Anonymous said…
just yesterday i was feeling sorry for myself because i was bullied during my childhood, and today, I come across your post. thanks. i do feel stronger now that i think about it.

however, sometimes, i'm jealous of other people who've had the perfect time growing up.
Ny said…
When I read that I just got so into it. I even thought I was reading The Orphaned Anything's again.
Much love,
throughHislens said…
dead on...
aelea said…
"there is a reason. just you wait."
That is exaclty what I needed to hear when I read this.
Thanks for posting such a great blog with such a great message.
It's amazing that things can be presented to us when we need it most.
Marcus Riggall said…
To go from that forgotten child to where you at today is impressive, it gives me hope that maybe I can do something similar

Query: I'am still yet to figure out the meaning behind 'estaban'
feel free to enlighten me on that fact
PolarBeccaBear said…
My younger sister came to me about a month ago, crying. She had apparently been having a couple of rough days because of the bullying of girls in her class.
I asked her what they said.
She told me and in the end we had a discussion about why they say what they say.
It isn't because they are jealous, it isn't because they are uncaring beasts.
It's because they are being honest.
My sister can be a bossy and act like she knows everything, and it rubs them the wrong way.
They say what they say because in their eyes, it is the truth.

We ended up brainstorming ways for her to become a better person.
In the end we decided that once the bullying changes, or maybe even stops it means that she has become a better person.

However I did warn her that it will probably never stop. As long as she always does what's right she will be fine, though.

They were being honest...
I don't know.

It's always always always in the eye of the beholder.
That will certainly never change.

Anonymous said…
Wow! I never thought it like that before. That story might not be a favorite memory but like you said you learned a lot in that time. That is really cool that you can look back and say what you have learned. I think everyone has gone through something like that. Thanks I needed to read that! =)
Anonymous said…
that story made me cry no joke.
i guess it hits close to home or something in a sense
i didnt move around a lot or anything...
but i was always the outcast
the one that was never worth a thing to anybody.
beacuse i didnt have all the brand names and expensive clothes and my mum was the lunch lady.
i was never even invited to birthdays or anything
i remember watching all the kids getting their invitations
and then the host kid would just look at me n laugh
the whole. youve got to be kidding right? thing
But thanks for the inspiration and advice.. you couldnt understand how much it helps
thanks. :)
Anonymous said…
Wow! I have read this several times and each time I do I find myself tearing up!
Thanks for sharing...and thank you for taking the time to personally respond to my daughters email recently. (Sarah) It really made her day and cheered her to no end.
Bless you.
themockingbyrd said…
I'm not sure there's anything that hasn't been said already in response to this entry, but I will affirm, just as have the rest of the commentors this simple fact:
we cannot heal without being healed ourselves.
Elizabeth said…
Hello Stephen,

Love your music and your writings!You're a huge inspiration to writers and everyone else with a brain and heart. One of your songs, the Unwinding Cable Car spoke like a voice of comfort in one of my moments of discouragement.Love what you've been doing!

I guess God really does make pain make sense. There's just nothing as convicting as personal experience.
Bianca Salome' said…
you've given me a bit of hope today. It breaks my heart to see any person be stripped of their self esteem and confidence. So much so, that it makes me sick to my stomach. I want to do so much more to help. Sometimes I wonder why God would allow this to happen to innocent people. Its reminders, like this post, that come about every once in a while that help me remember that God has the ultimate plan. What this person is going through now may be crucial to their future, success, or progress. It still breaks my heart to see this happen to anyone, but I have to trust that its all part of a bigger picture.
burnthesun said…
wow, you have quite a way with words. kinda like you dont appreciate something fully, until you've been on the down side.

like when the internet first started and all that was available was dialup. now everything is high speed, but if we had to go back, it would aggravate more because we are so used to high speed internet.

though in retrospect, when you've been at the bottom- you appreciate things much more and it becomes more than just a luxury, but a blessing.

sometimes the roughest parts of our lives are the best, because it really gives you a much greater understanding of how amazing, but tough life can be.

i hope that made sense. this was a great story.
keep on keeping on
wow. This story broke my heart, its amazing how we've all had similar experiences in our childhood years. I remember for the longest time in primary school i was bullied and then high school came along and i decided that i needed to stand up for myself and be stronger. I ended up not liking myself and coming to the end of who i was and i ran back to God and he broke my heart, i realised that there was nothing wrong with being me and i didnt have to change for anyone. im a better person for those experiences now. as much as they hurt, i wouldnt trade them.
Sarah A. Miller said…
Stephen- your writing is beautiful and heartfelt. Reading this entry made me think back to a similar experience I had when I got "un-invited" to a party in the 6th grade that all of my other friends were invited to. The girl asked me for my invitation back, saying she could only invite so many people, and she didn't mean to give it to me. It was a pool party, so I wanted to go badly. I never had the luxury of a pool growing up.

I think that cruelty is rampant in our elementary and jr. high schools, for no other reason than I lack of understanding and communication among each other.
Nylan said…
Beautifully written, and oddly familiar. My father is in the military, so we have moved around a lot as well. Making friends was always very hard, and some places never managed to produce any lasting friendships. It was a very trying experience, though I learned a lot from it and I'm a much stronger person as a result. My strength is internal and built upon a foundation that never moves away or picks on me. God is always with me, even when I'm alone or ridiculed. Thanks for this.

Also, I love Ybor City! Was the restaurant you mention the Colombia?

Carlo said…
Good word.
Anonymous said…
This was a beautifully written post, Stephen. I feel it resonate within me.

I moved 18 times by the time I was 13 years old. When I finally made what I would call a best friend, he died when I was 12.

What are usually the best years of one's life, the teenage years, were not for me quite wonderful. I was so lonely. But I was molded and made into who I am today - a man, a poet, a friend, a fighter.

My father sometimes feels guilt, I believe about my childhood and the difficulty I had without any true roots, but in truth he gave me everything he had and so much more.

Alas, I'm glad to have found your blog; I already know your music so well as it has been therapeutic for me so often.

-Joshua (WordFlyer)
Anonymous said…
Wow, Stephen...your writing ability never ceases to amaze me. I too have recently realized that these types of trials really do make us stronger.

Oh, and I could definitely see "Sticks, Stones, and Broken Bones" becoming an incredible Anberlin song. Just saying.

Rebecca said…
I accidently came across this blog and what started as me stumbling has resutled in me falling hard.
I went to an incredibly small school and there was a grand total of eight people in my year.
For one of my birthday party's I invited everyone but one child. The 'weird guy' in our class. The one who talked to himself and made strange noises as he struggled to control his behaviour.
At the time I was writing out the invitations I felt justified not inviting him as he 'got on my nerves.' Not a particularly good excuse.
I attended school the next day and gave out my invitations to everyone but him. The guilt was starting to hit home at this point as I saw the look on his face.
The final nail in the coffin was when he came up and asked me if he could come to my party.
I couldn't believe I had been so cruel. I lied to him and said "Ofcourse! I accidently left your invitation at home, I'll bring it tomorrow."
I'm sure he knew I was lying but he was just happy to be invited and included. After that incident I made a concerted effort to be kinder to him. I defended him when others ridiculed him but I think the damage had already been done. I should have known better. I shouldn't have been so fast to follow the crowd and jump on the band wagon of judgement. From day one I should have embraced his idiosyncrasies rather than hold them in contempt. There was no excuse for behaviour.
I know I can't dwell on the past with 'could ofs' and 'should ofs,' but I still feel guilty to this day about it, it makes me sick to my stomach that I was so cruel to that poor boy.
Anonymous said…
That was worth reading. It is quite poignant and it also gave me somehow feel as if got a small glimpse of real humanity. Thank you, Stephen. I feel pretty fortune for reading this.
Anonymous said…
I am currently going through a very rough time in my life and this post completely makes me rethink decisions I thought I had made. Not to mention the hatred and angst I had for myself and the situation I am in. Thank you so much. Your words are such inspiration.
Katrina said…
You inspire me... all the time...
You have no idea how much this post actually effected me. There has been alot that's happened in my life that I never understood why, and I sometimes forget to keep in mind that God has a plan.

p.s. I saw you at Purple Door, I was actually in the front and from what you said, I've found I have a passion for helping others. I've begun doing all I can to assist those in need. And I've been inspired to become a youth pastor, I want to help teens understand religion and God. You've helped me to become who I'm going to be, just from the few words you shared with the crowd and I cannot thank you enough.
tah.strotbek said…
wow stephen, that was a wonderful post! and its the first time that i access your blog, and i'm impressed.
just what i was needing to read.
you're amazing, stephen. you're my idol.
thank you so much. for everything.
and sorry for my bad english.
look forward seeing you soon,
tamara s.
Anonymous said…
I was looking for Advise on breaking up and found this great site I gotta admit its great and it worked for me and helped me a lot.
Costa Palma said…
It's humbling to read a post as raw as this. It's rare to find a person willing to bare unpleasant experiences to other people, much less to strangers on the net. But thank you for sharing, because I can see how many people's lives have been touched by your story.

I may have not experienced the same things you did as a child, but I have been hurt and betrayed by someone I loved. It's easy to get angry at God and ask Him why He allowed things to happen. But then I realized that sometimes, it's because of our own disobedience that we end up getting hurt. Had I followed Him, I would not end up in a situation that I do not like.

The statement that hit me the most was "in the same way i view life as a passive war in which there are dangers and pleasure and dangerous pleasure lurking in each day; if i had not gone through the initial pain of it all who would i be?"

I wholeheartedly agree. God, despite my disobedience, has pulled me from the rut I was in, and graciously made the experience something I can learn from. And, like you, I can share my story to other people who are in similar situations, and hopefully, help them through it as well.

Continue to be a blessing, and thank you for writing.

-Jabba, from Manila, Philippines

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