Growing up, I vividly remember having a big heart for life and for people. I wanted to connect with people and get along with others.
I was a different kind of kid. I didn’t really get along or connect too well with most of the kids I went to school with. I didn’t really enjoy all too much the music they enjoyed. I didn’t watch the same stuff on TV. I was not into sports at all.
I was a book reading, story writing, comic book collecting, cartoon drawing, science obsessed, TV news watching boy with an imagination that was more active than a volcano.
I could imagine that if I had not spent half of my boyhood daydreaming and drawing cartoons or writing I would’ve lost my mind from all of the bullying and the experiences of being a social outcast.
From elementary to college, I was often accused of “acting white” and my racial identity was constantly being challenged because of what was considered the social norm for a black male.
It was the beginning of war on my heart and mind.
When Bullying Mutates To Hate
On the surface, I didn’t think I had an issue with race, or even with my identity as a black man in America, that is until things started coming up in my 20s.
I thought I had the issue of race straight in my life. I didn’t have an issue with white people, but, I did have an issue with my own people.
I always felt completely unaccepted by people from my own community. Often ostracized and humiliated before my peers, I came to the conclusion early on in life that when it came to being yourself, you couldn’t be you and be black at the same time.
To be black did not mean being Kendall Lyons. It meant being something other than.
For a long time, and most people don’t know this about me, I held a kind of disdain and hatred for my own people and for myself. The years of bullying mutated my view of race and black America into something ugly, bitter and void of compassion.
The kind of self-hatred I struggled with also turned into classism.
I saw myself better than people who were “ghetto.” They were the loud, obnoxious “cool” crowd who thought they could get whatever they wanted through displays of blissful-like ignorance and prideful arrogance. This was the best classification for the people who treated me terribly.
Ironically, I gained more acceptance from people who didn’t look like me. I was considered unique, charming, different and someone that was good! They wanted exactly what I wanted, to be accepted and to accept others and treat them as the way they desired to be treated.
I wouldn’t confront the issue of racism and prejudice and classism until a little after college. I was working for a major bank at the time and it was there I met an older black man.
We quickly became friends and he later would be a mentor. I thank God for placing him in my life. He actually paid attention to what I was saying and sharing about my life. He was genuinely interested in who I was as a person.
He asked about my love for cartoons and comics. He asked about my Faith in the Lord. He shared his relationship with God and Christ Jesus with me.
He actually cared about me and I was not judged.
Then, he encouraged me to consider the plight and the pain and the poor treatment of black Americans.
Yes, the black kids who did bully and talk about me throughout school, as my mentor and friend said, might have been kids who just didn’t understand. In fact, they might have been kids who have never been exposed to the things that I was exposed too…music, culture, art and the list could go on.
Because they’ve never seen someone like me before, I was a prime target for teasing and taunting.
But why did I not acknowledge those facts so quickly? What made me so reluctant about accepting that?
Because it felt like the bullies won if I chose to do so!
I didn’t want to be a perpetual loser of a war that was still going on inside of me. It felt like…since I couldn’t fight them on the playground of boyhood, I could win on the battleground of manhood.
Looking back, that was foolish. I would’ve merely destroyed myself.
I thought like that because I was hurting. I was angry.
I still struggled with self-esteem and self-confidence from those days. I struggled for a while to forgive and move on.
A few years after college, a few issues had come up to the surface in my life that I knew couldn’t be ignored any longer.
I met a Christian counselor in Dallas, Texas to talk about my identity and to talk about the issues I dealt with. He was a black man who not only understood where I was coming from but also got to know my story just like my mentor and friend did.
As time went on, I got a better understanding about the condition of black America and the systemic racism and prejudice that placed us in less than decent conditions throughout multiple American institutions.
During the time I was praying and asking the Lord to walk me through this issue, to heal the broken places in my heart regarding the issue of race and identity. Mainly because I would find myself getting angry and frustrated with the obvious racism and prejudice that I observed. And yet, wanted to believe that there were surely other explanations to the moments that I saw unfold whether it was on TV or even in person.
The Lord said to me, “I couldn’t claim to love God and hate my brother.”
It was the beginning of conviction, but, it was also the beginning of healing. The Lord knew that a lot of unjust and cruel things were done to me and towards me. Jesus wanted access to that part of my heart, but, I also had a responsibility as a believer.
I had to want to change. I had to repent and never, ever return to that dark space in life.
Because of the change in my life,
I’ve also stopped telling people that bullies will someday get theirs. The truth is, though, they might not.
I wanted to believe that those who bullied were going to receive some kind of major punishment in life. They would get pay back for the things they did.
It was my own little piece of solace to remind me that somewhere, somehow, there was justice for me in my time of trouble and need.
But, I learned that my real victory over bullying came from Jesus…to live and love like Him regardless of what people say and think. The real victory in Christ over bullying and other issues took the place of what was originally my hope for the bullies and enemies in my life to get their punishment.
Victory in Christ removed the necessity for me to have vindication.
The Way I See It Now
It has been a long time since I believed and thought the way I used too. I am still in the growing and maturing process as it relates to my identity in Christ and as it relates to who I am as a person.
My Pastor preached on Romans 12:14-21, and verse 21 stuck out to me:
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
In some ways, I can see how someone can be driven to a kind of hatred that it leads them to believe they are either justified or threatened.
And yet, whether you are Christian or not, there’s still no excuse.
Once we release our just or unjustified hatred towards one another and learn to love one another even to the depths of our imperfections can we really experience true freedom.
As for me, I’ll take the road less traveled, the narrow way, the freedom and victory that is in Jesus. It is far better for me to do that than to try and protect my heart on my own. And if I am called to suffer, at least I know its real love that’s in place for me to do so…genuinely.