Uncool

When we moved to New Bern just before my sophomore year of high school, coming from a school of around 500 kids where I knew everybody, to a school of about 1600 kids where I knew nobody, I wasn’t under any illusion that I had the slightest hope of being popular. But I was more than willing to settle for mediocrity. My goal was just to not stand out, because that would make me an easy target. But when you’re new and overweight, with braces and the self-esteem of a bucket of worms, you might as well wear a neon sign that says, “Torment me.”

And they did.

The girls alternated between talking behind my back about my clothes and flatly ignoring me. But the boys…

I guess I thought that because my older brother made it into the cool crowd (he was a wrestler and on the baseball team), that I would somehow get a respite from the teasing, but no. And in 11th grade, when I ended up in classes with large groups of his friends and teammates, I found that each day brought a new insult or stunt designed to humiliate me. It frustrated me when they would try to get me to let them cheat off my papers. It bothered me whenever I’d get a new boyfriend and they’d tell everybody that he must be gay. I don’t even want to list the names they called me. But then, they pulled the prank…

Almost the entire baseball team was in my fourth period Spanish class that spring. And each day after lunch, I’d have to come upstairs and spend an hour with them. That particular day, when I passed their lunch table in the cafeteria, I noticed that they were watching me and whispering. So, when we went upstairs after lunch, I was preparing myself for the verbal jabs or the insulting notes taped to my backpack.

I got upstairs first and waited by Mrs. Davita’s locked door, with my arms crossed. I saw them coming up the hall laughing, and wondered what they’d cooked up this time. I didn’t have to wait long to find out. The tallest, cockiest, most obnoxious one of them walked straight up to me, grabbed me, and planted a huge kiss on my lips.

The shock didn’t last but a second before I started fighting my way out of his grip. The entire hallway had stopped and was watching and cheering—the baseball team the loudest. And as soon as he let me go, I balled up my fist and hit him as hard as I could. And that just caused them all—including him—to laugh all the harder. By the time the teachers got up there, they had missed the whole spectacle. Funny, I don’t think anyone else had.

I sat in class that day to the sound of snickers and giggles. And the guy who had done this just happened to be the guy who sat directly in front of me and who the teacher always assigned me to do group work with. He leered at me throughout the entire assignment. I just sat there wishing I could kill him. But when my brother came home that night and laughingly told me that the group had dared the boy to do this to me and paid him money to do it, I knew exactly who I wanted to kill.

Me.

You see, these boys had put a price on me and had paid money for my humiliation. And knowing that made me feel worthless. And also knowing that nobody cared enough to defend me, sharpened the edges of the pain and worthlessness. The cuts have lasted for years.

Thirty pieces of silver. The religious leaders paid one of Jesus’ friends thirty pieces of silver for the privilege of humiliating Jesus. A simple carpenter-turned-preacher, but they paid the money and then stripped off his clothes and eviscerated him. They hung this innocent, naked, bleeding man in front of the entire city, spitting on him and killing him because they found him worthless.

But he let them do it because he found me not worthless. He found me priceless.

The words of my friend, Bonnie, come back to me often:

It’s okay that nobody defended me, because He’s my defender. I don’t have to be hurt, because He hurts for me. And one day, they will have to stand before my Jesus and explain why they hurt me.

That’s what makes it okay for me to forgive. That’s what heals the humiliation and lifts my head. That’s what gives me value and worth. It brings me closer to Jesus. It makes me understand Him better. And it helps me to strive with everything in me to share His love with others—and to show them their value and their worth.

You are special. You are loved. You have value and worth—not just to me—but to Him. And that’s the most important thing. Way more important than being cool in 11th grade.

About Sarah Salter

Comments

  1. Sarah: thanks for being brutally honest here. As I read your post I got angrier and angrier and thought “how could someone do that?” then I remembered the times I laughed at and was laughed at. Sad part is that I was good at dishing but poor at accepting. As I got past the awkward elementary age I began to realize how wrong I had been to make fun of others and how it hurt to be called names and made fun of. (I have to admit some anger at your brother as well). But i am glad that you learned you were and are loved, that you have value and worth and that this world would be an emptier place without you here. Blessings this week.

  2. Forgot: you get a chance would you mind checking out this post? Thanks.

    http://billgrandi.ovcf.org/wordpress/?p=4942

  3. Sarah, thank you for sharing this. I am tearing up right now. I am ashamed right now as well. I’m ashamed because I was the jerk. I’m so sorry. Thank you again.

  4. Sarah Salter says:

    Bill- This is not the post I intended to write yesterday… But somehow, this is what came out. I’m still processing the pain of the past and learning how to have value and worth. I’m turning my back on self-hatred and shame and lack of identity and learning who I am. I end up putting my journey on this site for others to read and just doing so is somehow a greater risk than the episodes in the past that I’m trying to heal from. But I’m also finding that by taking the risks, others are being healed. Thanks for coming by and encouraging me. And yes, I’ll check out your post. :-)

    Michael- This was not an indictment on you, my brother! You’re not that same person anymore. God has forgiven you and you can forgive yourself. We have all been jerks at times in our lives, but once we’re forgiven, we can lay down the shame and live a life so full of love and healing that the past doesn’t matter anymore. Lay it down and walk in love and healing, my friend! :-)

  5. Dacia Bryan says:

    Human adolescents are perhaps the cruelest creatures on planet earth. I have no doubt that Cain was a teenager when he slew Able. The desire to be exalted above their peers trumps compassion, humility, emapthy, or understanding seemingly every time.

    I’ve been in your shoes … and now that have a daughter, I wonder sometimes what would be worse- to grow up popular or to grow up an outcast.

  6. Sarah Salter says:

    Dacia- Teenagers really can be the vilest creatures on earth. But not ALL of them are. However, what I went through as a teenager has really been the biggest hindrance to my working with teenagers. These kids come to Falcon for events and my knee-jerk reaction is to build up walls and self-protect. But then, I remember that they need my love much more than they need my sarcasm (my front line defensive mechanism). As a youth worker, I’ll bet you can identify with that.

  7. Thank you.

  8. Oh beautiful, amazing Sarah. How brave you are. I can’t imagine how much pain this drudged up but God is redeeming your story. You are a glorious bright light of grace and love. What a jewel. I found your blog via Bill Grandi’s and I am honored and priveledged to have found it. I would like to share it with others, it is a powerful testimony for those who hurt.
    You are so loved sweet one.

  9. I can relate to your testimony as I am sure many can. Through your struggles you are sure to help many others. Forgiveness is a much more powerful weapon ridicule! Way to go and to God be the glory.

  10. Sorry I meant to say a much more powerful weapon than ridicule…

  11. Sarah…your heart has touched mine and I am grateful for your beautiful spirit. God bless you and much love. Namaste.

  12. Sarah,

    Thank you for being willing to share this. What a tragic picture you paint, yet glorious in hearing how you chose to accept Christ’s truth. I am so grateful for what He has done in your life.

    May you have complete and permanent healing from the wounds received by others, that He may be glorified in His willing grace.

  13. I started reading this the other day and got interrupted, but I’m glad I remembered to finish it today. That kind of stuff bothered me even when I was in high school. Seems like you can only blame so much on hormones before it moves into another arena.

    The thing I thought of though when you said they put a price on you was that they put a price on Jesus too. Just 30 pieces of silver for the spotless Lamb of God. It didn’t come close to His infinite worth and neither does what anyone else would pay for us. You’re so right, it doesn’t matter because He put the highest price on us and His love meets us at every point of need.

    Great post, Sarah.

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