On average, we moved every nine months, but while I attended the fifth and sixth grades, we lived in the same house. So, when I started sixth grade, I already had a number of friends from the year before, something I had never experienced before. It was a great year. I was doing well in school, had friends, and even participated in an extracurricular musical club after school. It felt so nice to be able to start to put down roots and develop stable friendships with other kids.

The tranquility of this idyllic life was shattered about two-thirds of the way through the school year when a new boy moved in and joined our class. His first language was Spanish, so he struggled in school. He was angry and mean to everyone, so nobody liked him. He was bulkier than his classmates, so most of the kids were scared of him.

He soon started picking fights and beating up boys who annoyed him. One day, I was startled to see one of my good friends terrified and running home as soon as school was over because this bully said he was going to beat him up after school. This new kid had crossed the line. He was now directly threatening my group of friends. Something had to be done. So, the next day, I let it be known throughout the school that I was not afraid of him. No one could believe it. I was the small, studious, nice kid with glasses, the least likely one to get into a fight, let alone prevail. That was the whole idea. If I could beat up this bully, then no one else would be afraid of him. He could no longer terrorize people. He took the bait and challenged me to a fight after school at the bus stop.

Nobody knew that my dad had taught me how to box. We had boxing gloves and a speed bag set up in the garage. My brother and I would occasionally spar for fun, and on one occasion, he actually knocked me out. It was a very strange sensation to see his dark purple boxing glove approaching in a left hook, as if it were in slow motion, growing to eclipse my view until everything was black and then see stars explode in the darkness like fireworks when he made contact. The next thing I remember was my brother kneeling over me asking if I was OK. I was no stranger to seeing punches fly in my direction, so the idea of participating in an actual fight was not scary to me, something which accounts for most of the success in battle at that young age.

A large crowd of kids gathered around the bully and me. One of my friends said, “I will stand here behind you to catch you when you fall.”

I stood in front of my opponent and confidently said, “You need to take off your chain and big ring so this will be a fair fight.” At first, he hesitated, but the justice of my demand carried the day with the spectators, so he removed his ring and the chain around his wrist and handed them to one of our classmates. We faced each other and stared. I said, “You have to throw the first punch.” I felt that equity would be on my side if I was defending myself.

The punch he threw at my face was the trigger that released the flurry of blows I had pent up inside me. My hours of practice punching our speed bag now came in handy. I pummeled my foe’s face while his wild swings made little contact. He soon turned around, bent down, and covered his head with his arms. I won! By then, a couple of carpenters building a house across the street had arrived to put an end to the fight.

Word of my victory swept through the school like a wildfire. Even when I went to visit a friend at his house, his father was surprised when he saw me, a small, mild-mannered boy, and asked in astonishment, “You are the one who beat up the bully?” My strategy had its desired effect. No longer was anyone afraid of the school bully.

I basked in the glory of my triumph for a few weeks and then noticed how dejected the defeated bully was. I realized that I had robbed him of his identity. He sat all alone at lunchtime, isolated from all social contact. I began to feel sorry for him and realized he was probably upset that he had to move to a new school where he didn’t know anyone near the end of the year. He was probably scared because he didn’t have any friends, and English wasn’t even his first language. He likely projected a strong façade to protect himself, especially considering he most likely was subject to racism because of his Latin American ancestry.

I felt bad. My victory turned into a feeling of shame. So, one day, I walked over to him during lunch and invited him to join me and my friends at our table. He hesitated, probably because he was not sure whether he would be the subject of more ridicule, but he finally agreed. He ate lunch with us for the remaining few weeks of the school year, but I really never got to know him well, and to this day, I feel bad for not finding a better way to deal with this situation.

This was the first time I consciously realized that people often act out when they are suffering. The concept had never occurred to me before. Over the years, my realization that dysfunction is generally the byproduct of emotional pain has grown to the point that it’s now a cornerstone of my personal philosophy on life. That is why I strive to direct everyone to Christ, so he can heal us, which then changes our behavior. We each offend and get offended, but the more whole we are, the less offense we give and the less offended we become when others mistreat us.

God came down to suffer, bleed, and die for us because He loves us. Just as our body is made up of many parts, so is God and eternity. It is all interconnected. (1 Corinthians 12:12-27). When we sprain our ankle, our whole body suffers. Even though it hurts, we don’t attack it or cut it off. Instead, we nurse our ankle, the injured member of body, until it recovers. It becomes the part of our body that we care for and show love to the most. The same is true with God. When we suffer, he is there, offering us his comfort to sustain us through our trial. He feels our suffering and wants to ease our pain. He does not abandon us but stays by our side to sustain us, if we are willing to receive his love. However, it is often through individuals that God touches and helps those in need. Unfortunately, too many of us are unwilling to accept the love Jesus offers us, especially if another person is the conduit of that love.

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