Bullying began shredding Andrea Rodgers’ self-esteem when she was “the new kid” in third grade at a small Iowa school. After her mom remarried, the move was supposed to be a fresh start. But Andrea quickly became the target of bullies’ taunts and was intentionally excluded from activities.
Andrea Rodgers’ novel, “Caged Dove,” tells the story of bullying and gives hope to victims of bullying.
Immediately Singled Out By Bullies
“We’d moved to a tight-knit community where most people had lived for generations and everyone knew everyone else,” Andrea said. “I guess that made me a real outsider.”
Experts agree anything that causes a child to be perceived as different from their peers can place them at risk for being bullied. For Andrea, the reasons she was immediately singled out and bullied remain unclear. For six long years—from third grade to middle school—she was subjected to many forms of bullying, from name-calling to threatening verbal and even physical attacks.
“This is an apt description of bullying, where one or more children pick on someone who is perceived as weaker in the social pecking order,” explained Nancy De Haas, a licensed professional counselor in Huntsville, Alabama. Bullying, which is typically repetitive, often results from an imbalance of power, according to De Haas, who also worked as a school guidance counselor.
A Cycle of Bully Cruelty
“It was like I was trapped in a never-ending cycle of cruelty. No matter who I told—my mom or my teachers—the bullying didn’t stop.”
When Andrea attended school in the ‘80s and ‘90s, the prevailing thought was that bullying was just a rite of passage.
“I can’t count the times I was told bullying would make me stronger when I got to the other side of it.”
Andrea felt alone. No one would stand up for her. That’s when Andrea started to pray. A lot.
“Maybe I started to pray more because I felt like I was running out of options. My parents told me Jesus was the one true friend who would never let me down. With everything in my heart, I needed that to be true.”
But in seventh grade, Andrea’s emotions spiraled dangerously downward. When a boy who often rallied others to bully her began sexually taunting her, Andrea stopped asking Jesus for help. Instead, she begged Jesus to let her die.
“I got this crazy, confused idea that Jesus must be like everyone else in my life—unable or unwilling to get involved,” she said.
Almost a Tragic Bullying Statistic
Andrea got angry. She became bitter and almost didn’t make it to the other side. At 13, feeling hopeless and abandoned, Andrea made her plan and wrote her suicide note.
“Mom’s the one who got to me in time. But now I see it was Jesus who rescued me. When I least expected it—when I probably least deserved it, but when I most desperately needed it—Jesus gave me a second chance,” Andrea whispered.
“I thought there must be something terribly wrong with me for others to bully me,” Andrea said. With the help of a counselor, Andrea realized she was not the cause of bullying, and more importantly, she never deserved mistreatment.
“My mom bought me a cross necklace to help me feel protected at school. She said she wanted me to know I wasn’t alone anymore. Instinctively, I’d reach for the cross when someone verbally attacked me. More than once, the person would stop mid-sentence,” she said. “I can only explain that as Jesus’ power,” Andrea said.
One evidence of Jesus’ power came in the form of confidence to step out and join school life. By the time she graduated high school, Andrea had shed her image as a target for bullying. No longer an outsider, she was voted head cheerleader, played in the school band, elected to the honor society and named editor of the school’s literary magazine.
Rather than becoming a survivor and champion for others who suffer at the hands of bullies, Andrea could have been a statistic—another in a growing number of teens whose lives end as a result of bullycide.
Healing From Bullying Through Forgiveness
“No doubt, my life got better—but true healing was a more gradual process. Deep down, I knew I needed closure. I knew I had to forgive those who had bullied me.”
“But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!” (Matthew 5:44).
Jesus clearly was up to something when Andrea unexpectedly had a chance to talk with the person who was the ringleader in her bullying nightmare. He’d moved away from Iowa in high school. But, in one of those strange coincidences, his name resurfaced through a coworker’s friend when she was 23 and working at a Christian radio station.
Andrea knew it was time to confront her bully. She got in touch with him, and Andrea says Jesus guided their conversation.
“I had held onto this image of him as invincible,” said Andrea. “Then he asked for my forgiveness. He told me he couldn’t excuse what he had done but that he had been going through some hard things, was trying to figure out the pieces of his own life.”
Andrea said it was as if a spell had been broken.
“I had let this guy have incredible power over me for years. But he was just another human being who made mistakes. We’re all trying to figure out the pieces of our lives, but that’s hard to remember when people hurt us.”
Today, Andrea is grateful for second chances. Andrea is now a successful author who lives near Des Moines, Iowa, with her husband and two children. Her novel, “Caged Dove” was recently published by Ambassador International. She dedicated it “to anyone who is being or has been bullied.”
“Jesus literally saved me from suicide. I was given a second chance at happiness by following His example and forgiving those who bullied me.”