When I was in high school, there was a girl named Becca who was labeled as the social outcast. Becca had thick glasses and she dressed a little odd sometimes. She didn’t always smell clean, and she was a bit awkward at times. Passing her in the hallways and observing her around school each day, it was evident that Becca had no friends. Seeing that she was completely rejected, no one dared go near her as to receive the same fate themselves. I can remember watching her sit alone at the lunch table without a single friend by her side. I remember walking by when other girls were taunting her about her clothing or calling her demeaning names and questioning her intelligence. She kept her head down and tried to escape those encounters as quickly as she could.
My teenage self felt sad for Becca, and I knew it was wrong how other people treated her. I wanted to be her friend and show her kindness, but I was afraid that reaching out to her and befriending her would end in social suicide. I cared more about what people thought about me, people that weren’t even my friends or knew who I was, than in doing what was kind and caring. I had a small group of friends myself in high school, and I didn’t want to lose what little I had there. It was my goal to fly under the radar at school, to disappear into the crowd and go unnoticed.
If I could have been honest with myself, I would have admitted that I was glad that it wasn’t me. Maybe I was a nobody in high school, but at least I wasn’t the Becca.
I had my own share of troubles in high school as I dealt with depression when my home life began to fall apart. Like many high school girls, I also struggled with a lack of self-esteem and had a terrible self-image. Nevertheless, I knew right from wrong. I knew compassion from cruelty. I knew that standing by and doing nothing – watching this girl endure endless teasing, sitting alone day after day in the cafeteria, leaving her to fend for herself without a single ally or friend – was just as wrong as what everyone else was doing. I let it happen. I stood by because I was too afraid of what would happen to me if I stood up for what was right.
I have been out of high school for over 15 years now and I can still struggle with these same exact things. I can forsake doing what is right, kind and compassionate, because of fear. I’m afraid of what others will think about me, my beliefs, and convictions. I’m afraid to befriend the person that others avoid or talk badly about. I stand by and watch all of these horrific atrocities happen in this world, which is now almost on a daily basis, in silence. All because I’m afraid.
What would I do if I wasn’t afraid of what people thought of me? What would I do if I wasn’t afraid to speak up for what was right, for what I believed in?
We face a myriad of issues in the world we live in today. After recent terrorists attacks, shootings and tragic acts of violence, my Facebook and social media sites seem to burst with opinions and thoughts. I choose to keep my own places of social media free from politics and debatable conversations. But with all that is happening in the world though, it is clear that my silence and standing by as things unfold and do nothing is contributing to some of our world’s problems. I can desire to build bridges, I can hope for racial healing, and I can talk all day long about extending love and compassion to the LGBTQ community. But my actions don’t match my convictions or beliefs, and I am realizing how much that needs to change.
Jesus said in John 13:35, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” I’m don’t know how much the world knows that I’m a Jesus follower. I don’t know how evident the love I have for another really is. I’m no longer okay with that.
It takes a certain amount of courage to step out of our comfort zones, to act on our convictions, and to speak up when our words are needed. I didn’t have the courage to not only be a friend to Becca, but to stand up for her and speak truth to those who teased her. But, I’ve waged a few wars and gone to battle a few times since high school. I’ve been called a warrior princess and a dragon slayer to those who have seen me fight. I have experienced hope and healing, and I believe that hope and healing are the things that make room for courage. I have the guts that are needed to be a kind and understanding voice, to be hands and feet to the needy, and to play a part in finding and creating real solutions instead of standing idly by.
Today, I am curious about what those things could look like for me, about who I need to partner with and where I should begin. What will bravery will look like as I encounter opposition to those who may question my beliefs, my world view and my own thoughts and convictions on the issues we are faced with this day and age? What will it look like to be courageous if I become more vocal and active in the places that no longer deserve my stillness and silence?
What would happen if we could all be brave? The world might be a very different place.
But, one thing is for certain – every Becca in the world, just might have a friend.
Deeply rooted in South Texas, Jennifer Stamness is a sunshine-lover, wife and mother to two young boys. She enjoys creating beauty in places like writing, music, decorating and throwing parties. She desires to follow Jesus into the unknown places He invites her to and is thankful for His abundant and amazing grace. Jennifer writes, dreams and shares pieces of her story here.