Refill with Randy – Bullying caused long-term scars but healing, reconciliation brought freedom from hurt

Posted 21 April 2024 at 8:00 am

By Randy LeBaron

In just a couple days I will be turning 50 years old and I have the receding hairline, white whiskers, and protruding waistline to prove it.

I am a husband and a father of four. I am a pastor, a counselor, and a chaplain. I have several degrees and have started my own ministry. I have accomplished many things which you might think would help one’s self-esteem and yet, for most of my life, I have found myself feeling inadequate—unable to see myself through any other eyes than those who had bullied and abused me as a child.

I know that I typically share more lighthearted fare on here but I felt led to write about this today because I am fairly certain that I am not the only one who is living with unseen scars or who has heard the old adage, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” and realized how untrue it is.

The reality is that the emotional scars that a person carries from a tormented childhood may not be visible in the same sense as other physical wounds, yet they are often the hardest to overcome because the wound hasn’t closed; the words have cut too deep; down to the core—down to a person’s very character.

There is a man in the Bible named Gideon that I can relate to. You may remember him as the guy who who tested God by putting a fleece outside and asking God to make the ground wet with dew while leaving the fleece dry and then asking Him to do the opposite the next night. Anyway, the thing that often sticks out to me is how God addresses Gideon during their first encounter when he appears and says, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”(Judges 6:12b)

The reason why I find this so interesting is because just a few verses later we find out that Gideon’s view of himself is almost the complete opposite. When God tells Gideon that He wants to use him to save Israel from their enemies Gideon responds that he is the weakest man from the weakest clan.

I get it. I get why Gideon had a hard time seeing what God saw in him. Just as God called him a mighty warrior long before he actually grew into that title others had probably called him by other names that had already shaped his identity and caused him to focus on what he could not do or what he would not become. I get it.

As I stated earlier, I am about to hit the half century mark and have actively lived out God’s call on my life for over three decades now but still, no matter how many times I am addressed as Pastor or Leader, I will often find myself feeling like I am back in the body of my 8-year-old self; listening to my father explain why he never wanted me and that I was not worth the effort for him to be a dad again, or when I was 10 years old just waiting to get off the bus so that I could burst into tears over the hurtful words heaped onto me without further humiliation, or beginning middle school and realizing that even though it was supposed to be a fresh start that I was still the odd man out (no thanks to my speech problems or alternative sense of style), or in high school when I would try to find any excuse to avoid the rest room (or school all together) because of the constant array of verbal, emotional, and physical attacks that I had to endure on a daily basis.

People often wonder about my fascination with Batman (I am a big fan and avid collector for those who didn’t know) but why wouldn’t I relate to a boy who had his childhood torn away from him because of the ruthless actions of others and, rather than dwelling on that feeling of helplessness, took control of the situation and chose to become a symbol and to stand up for those who could not stand up for themselves? The irony is that even in becoming “The Batman” Bruce Wayne was still just a scared little boy trying to overcome his fears by becoming fear itself to those who would prey on the weak. I get it.

The fact is that I AM a pastor. I AM a leader. I AM a husband. I AM a father. I AM a friend. But I am also that wounded young boy that longs to be accepted, affirmed, acknowledged, and appreciated, not because of anything I have done but simply because of who I am and who I was created to be. The scars are still there but the healing has begun.

Thanks to The Lord names like “Mighty Warrior” and “Pastor” seem more suitable than weakest or worthless. And, for anyone out there reading this while mentally replaying the names others have given to you, I want to remind you that you are so much more. I would say to you what I would have loved to have been able to go back and say to my my younger, scrawnier, insecure, blue-haired, pierced, speech impaired, skateboard loving self. I would say things like, “Do not allow others to define who you are, how you feel, or who you will become, by their derogatory remarks”, “Do not treat others the way that they treat you but rather how you would want to be treated”, and “Do not give up because your potential and your purpose will outshine anything that you are dealing with in the present or that you have carried with you from your past.”

Thankfully, though it took me much longer to learn these lessons on my own, I can say that I have not only found healing from my past but that I now experience hope and peace in the present. I have had the opportunity to reconnect and reconcile with some of my high school bullies on Facebook and I also became the primary caregiver for my father, who was probably the bully who left me with the most scars, which led to me having the unique privilege of being his pastor and praying with him to be set free from his own past hurts. It was then I finally started to see myself through God’s eyes. I hope that you will begin to see the real you today, too.

See you in two weeks!
Pastor Randy