• Ew! Why are you so smelly and oily?
  • Haha, look at those ugly, disgusting pimples on your face!
  • Do you cry at home because of us?

Phrases like these were constantly flung at me throughout my primary school years. Those words were like daggers, piercing through my heart. They taunted me and lingered in my mind even long after they were said.

But words were not the only things that tormented me: I spent most of my time being lonely. From leaving me out of group chats and leaving me behind after music lessons, to even stealing my pencil case, those two years were an endless pit of despair.

Over the months, I harboured a grudge toward those who had hurt me, and anger festered in my heart.

There were times when I replayed the scenes in my head, crying out of frustration and hurt.

At night, I would lie on my bed, lamenting to no one in particular, questioning what I did to deserve this.

Those few years were also the years where my attendance in church virtually dropped to zero. Faced with schoolwork and extracurriculars, God was just something my parents believed in.

The bitterness took a toll on me, and forgiveness wasn’t even the last thing on my mind – it just wasn’t on my mind. Day after day, I would go to school and come out feeling even more worthless.

Eventually, at my lowest point, this culminated in a desire to no longer live.

How do you forgive your bullies?

Perhaps this story sounds familiar, and, sadly, I wouldn’t be surprised if you resonated with some of what I said. It is an age-old tale of a person getting bullied by some mean girls, and my story isn’t so different (that is, if it stopped there).

Fast forward to secondary school, where after a few months of being back in church regularly, one particular service covered the topic of unforgiveness.

The idea of an unforgiving Christian is impossible.

To this day, I still remember the exact words that left the pastor’s lips and the defining moments afterwards.

The idea of an unforgiving Christian is impossible. Upon hearing those words, something seemed to click inside of me. The dam that contained all of my bitterness was unleashed, and at that moment, tears welled up uncontrollably in my eyes.

Of course, as most self-conscious thirteen-year-olds would, I immediately dabbed those tears away. But while my facial expression might not have changed much, inwardly everything was being upheaved.

How could I, as a person who claimed to love God and others, hold on to such hatred?

More so, how could I, a person as sinful as any other, not forgive others when God has already forgiven me? C.S. Lewis puts it even more poignantly, “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”

I had held on to my bitterness hoping it would simply fade away, but that sermon, which centred on the parable of the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18:21-35), highlighted a core conviction: forgiveness is something we live and embody every moment.

We forgive because God has forgiven the inexcusable in us. God’s will is for us to forgive those who have wronged us, and to put away all wrath, malice and bitterness.

Just as we have received this abundant love that we are fully forgiven of all our sins, we are now to exemplify this love and forgiveness outwards towards those around us, including our enemies. (Ephesians 4:32, Colossians 3:13)

During that service, I went up to the altar and poured my heart out to God, asking God for the strength to forgive those people. Unforgiveness had been a heavy burden, a blood-sucking leech in my spiritual life — and I was tired of it. I was ready to forgive, ready to release the debt.

I would be lying if I said this journey simply ended there. While I did experience an inexplicable sense of peace and freedom that day, there were times when my anger would resurface, and I would struggle with the same feelings of unworthiness.

Yet, through the help of my community and God, I continuously hold on to His Word and chose to love (Romans 13:8).

Today, I live at peace with those who had wronged me all those years ago and have even reached out to them in hopes of reconciliation.

Nevertheless, my story about unforgiveness is certainly far from over. I will continue to trust the author and perfecter of my faith, Jesus Christ, to guide me through the storms in life!