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Monkey Bars and Emotional Scars

When I was in about the third grade, I got caught harassing the girls by looking up their dresses while they were on the monkey bars. I really couldn’t see anything and really did it just to be annoying. Still, it incurred the wrath of my gym teacher.

I remember standing up after one particularly troublesome moment and turning around just in time to see him swinging his tree-trunk-like arm in my direction. He had crept up behind me without me noticing and was about to swiftly and literally knock some sense into my little head.


He slapped me in the face so hard that it literally lifted me off my feet and sent me flying backwards. I landed on my backside staring upward at the clouds above the schoolyard. Unlike today, teachers often used physical discipline on students back then, so my first thought was NOT about filing a lawsuit or starting a child abuse petition to have him fired.

No. My first thought was, “I hope he doesn’t tell my father!”

I knew that the consequences at home would be worse than a moment of pain and embarrassment during gym class.

I've thought about this incident often when I hear people discussing emotional scars. While some have been through far worse, some of the events I've heard blamed for emotional scarring are similar to my monkey bar smack-down. Still, I don't feel emotionally scarred by what happened. If anything, I think it helped change the course of my life to some degree.

I've never harassed women since that time. In fact, my respect for and treatment of women has been called exemplary. Is that 100% due to my gym teacher's reaction? No. My parents had even more to do with my discipline and attitude toward the opposite sex. Still, I KNOW that I never forget that day on the playground and was VERY careful not to repeat the behavior that led to my first round knock-out.

I think there are a few points to consider here:

1.) Emotional scarring is personal. What scars one person may not scar another. Thus, grace, patience, and empathy is critical when dealing with someone's hurts from the past. Again, this event didn't scar me or cause me negative side-affects, but someone else might have had a different outcome.

2.) Even when we are hurt or negatively effected, we have the responsibility to deal with it and work through it. Other events in my life HAVE hurt me and I know that I have a duty to forgive and work with God to heal. There are often spiritual components to this and I must both submit to God and resist the Devil to avoid long term damage (see James 4:7-8).

3.) Sometimes, there's a process of counsel, and there are stages of healing which must be negotiated. Dr. Neil Anderson's "Steps to Freedom in Christ" can be helpful in this regard. I've used them for years and recommend them along with his books, "The Bondage Breaker" and "Victory over Darkness."

The goal is always to grow through the difficulties in life. Whether self-imposed, brought about by others, or even if they're just a result of "time and chance," our opportunity is to be better, stronger, and more successful on the heals of any potential emotionally-scarring event.

To that end,

Pastor Joel

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