I wasn’t a cool kid. When I was growing up, I wanted to be in the popular crowd and I wasn’t. We moved around every few years, so just when I would make friends, we would move and ‘the friend clock’ would reset to zero. It didn’t help that school was mostly a breeze to me. When you’re an A student but socially awkward (as well as culturally tone-deaf), social things don’t always come easy.
For a few years, I was bullied. A lot. As a young teenager in middle school, I was skinny, weak, and timid. The cool kids dressed in cool clothes and had lots of friends. They were picked first in gym class, and social popularity just seemed to come naturally to them. They didn’t struggle with walking down the hall, wondering which kid would slam you into the lockers this time. I was jealous of them, envying them for the ease with which they navigated this awkward time. As it usually does, that envy turned to self-pity, which made me spiral. The friends I did have largely suffered from the same thing.
Sometime early in high school, I prayed for help, and Jesus responded. He responded by showing me friends who didn’t care what anyone else did or said. They were simply themselves; they didn’t care if the cool kids liked them or not, or if they got picked first in gym, or if things came easily.
From them, I learned not to disdain those I’d held in high esteem. Instead, I learned to pray for them, to breathe in and out, and to move forward. I left the bullies behind by letting God let me let go of the hurt and move on. Not long after, we moved away, and I landed in a new place where the friends I made immediately accepted me without pretenses. Over the years, Jesus softened my heart, too, and I got to the point of praying for those kids who’d hurt me years before. Forgiving them, praying for their well-being and prosperity; praying that they had grown up, too.
In today’s verse, Paul reminds us that the only person we need to hold in high esteem is Jesus. He modeled the life we should strive for. That means shaking off the hurt, the envy, jealousy, and the petty, angry grudges that hurt only us. Sometimes hurt happens anyway. Yet Jesus always lets us let go and let God. The message He gives us is the only one worth knowing, popular or not.
For further reading: Acts 10:34, 1 Corinthians 15:11, Revelation 2:23, Galatians 2:7
Lord, I forgive people who hurt me. Prosper them, and I pray they know Your peace.
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