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Hold Fast…..We Believe in You

Hold Fast…..We Believe in You

I’m crying and watching blood gush over my right eyebrow as I sit in my laundry room with my Dad. He is the nurse in the family. My mom has gone over to yell at the other teenage boy who punched me in the face and all I can think is, “I am such a wussy. Even my mom fights my battles for me…

I am an awkward 15-year old who can’t seem to fit in with anyone at my high school. I weigh 120 pounds sopping wet and have long hair that makes me look like a girl. A few weeks ago, I used to hang out with the guys that rode skateboards, wore JNCO jeans, and smoked pot, but they kicked me out of their crew. Apparently I wasn’t cool enough. I still have no idea to this day how you get kicked out of a group of potheads for not being “cool enough”.

Sledge child

Recently I tried hanging out with my neighbor who is two years older, likes rap, basketball, and hangs out with a rough crowd known for “gang-banging”. He invited me over to play basketball. When I got there he punched me in the face and split my head open.

I didn’t mind getting punched really. I had been taking karate for a little while and was used to it. I even stumbled back and asked what he punched me for.

Then I saw all the blood.
And I panicked.
Started crying.
Ran home.
And called my mom and dad sobbing.

“Why didn’t you use some of the moves you learned in karate?” my Dad asks gently.

“I don’t….I don’t know….I just saw blood…please don’t make me go to school tomorrow….please…..…everyone is gonna know….”

The next day when I show up at school with stitches I lie.

I fell.
My brother and I were wrestling and I hit my head on the coffee table.

But people already know. And I can hear them whispering and laughing.

“What a fag…”
“Loser.”
“I thought he took karate or something? What a pussy.”

I get shoved into lockers and pushed through hallways. This is common though. I’d been bullied since the 6th grade. I didn’t realize how cruel kids were as I was raised to always make friends. So when middle school started and you’re a gentle, artistic boy people think you’re gay or weak. I was a natural target.

To encourage me, my parents would always tell me how high school is like Disneyland. It didn’t really exist. It was a place you went and visited, but in the end it was fake and didn’t define your life or what people said about you.

I hated high school. And even though I found some really fantastic friends that liked me for me, I was tired of being a nobody. I didn’t want to be picked on or hurt the way I did. So I dug a grave in my heart and buried the scared little boy in a shallow coffin and dove head first into what I thought would make people respect, like, and fear me.

I began lifting weights to get bigger.
I started competing in martial arts tournaments that were bare-fisted full contact and winning.
When I lost a wrestling match to my roommate in college I took Brazilian ju-jitsu.
I joined the military and went to war.

Always running from the little boy banging on the lid of the shallow coffin in my heart.

From the crypt - Day 226 of Project 365

When I finally returned to my hometown after the wars and college, ready to prove who I was to all who had made fun of me, I discovered I really had nothing to prove. What I found was a sad cliché in every sappy movie about high school you’ve ever seen.

High school didn’t matter. College didn’t matter. How cool you were didn’t matter. The all-star football player who picked on you ended up chasing a NFL pipe-dream only to blow his knee out. Now he works at the local gas station at a job he hates so he can pay child support to the girl he knocked up in college who left him the minute his injury stole his career prospects. He’ll invite you out for a beer to lament the “good ‘ol days” but you’ll decline and wonder why he wants to relive his “glory years”. The homecoming queen that every guy wanted smokes like a chimney and the years haven’t been kind. She chased down a modeling career, only to become bulimic, and even though her career was short lived, she’s still addicted to the lifestyle and bulimia. Other people you know will have chased money and done well for themselves. They’ll appear popular at local clubs where you have to be on a list to get in. They’ll toss money around and buy girls drinks or turn the heads of young men at tables. But behind their money, good looks, and party lifestyle you can see the empty, vapid look that tells their soul has been drained of all joy and they have sucked out all the marrow and are chewing on bone. Others you meet will just be living day to day. Making a paycheck. Buying a house. Having kids. Building a 401K so they can retire and then ultimately die. Each person grasping at holding onto sand.

And the years I spent becoming what I thought other people would like and respect, I discovered is nothing more than vanity and chasing the wind.

I am just now, at age 32, opening the coffin and facing the scared little boy that is afraid of what people think of him. I so desperately wish I would have faced him earlier in life because now he’s grown and even more scared of his reputation.

I wish somebody had written to me to tell me to hold fast. That they believed in me and it was okay to be me and even okay to be a little scared in life. That we were all going to have really tough situations we were going to face in high school, but if we held fast, believed in ourselves, it got better. Sure, I heard it from my parents, but who really believes mom and dad half the time?

And so I know some of you reading this are going to go back to really hard situations. You get picked on in school for being awkward and weird. But you know what? God made you that way to be unique and be a joy with your uniqueness and odd sense of humor. Hold Fast. We believe in you. Some of you are getting name-called for reputations you may or may not have earned, but we don’t see you that way and neither does God. Hold Fast. We Believe in You. Some of you are hurting and just want the pain to end. We love you and so does God. Hold Fast. We Believe in You. Some of you are in college or a job and you don’t know what you want to do in life or if you even have purpose. You, like me, have bought into being what people have told you to be because you’re afraid. Face the fear and the storm that will follow and hold fast. We Believe in You.

My deep prayer is that you don’t end up like me. 32 years old and just realizing you’re a coward. That instead of facing down your fears, or difficult circumstance, you ran to an altar where you sacrificed the beautiful, vibrant person God made you to be for a fake that people “tolerate”.

If you’re willing to face the tempest now, then the payout will be worth it. And we’re in your corner….cheering you on and encouraging you to hold on for dear life.

Hold Fast. We Believe in You.

Communicator, writer, speaker, and a college pastor for Gateway Church in Austin, TX. Veteran of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and recipient of the Bronze Star and Purple Heart. Most passionate about Jesus, his wife, art, tattoos, and Texas BBQ (in that order). Email: ben@heartsupport.com
  • HeyJude9604

    That was a really inspirational article. It seems like every article I read on heartsupport.com makes me look at my life in a more positive light. I’ve had a fair share of people thinking I’m odd or they just don’t understand me. What I learned to do was embrace it, because if you can’t accept yourself for who you are, how is anybody else going to do the same? Don’t change who you are to fit in with others because it is not worth it. If a person truly cares about you, they will accept you with all your quirks, flaws, and characteristics that make you an individual.

    • http://www.heartsupport.com/ Benjamin Sledge

      Man, keep on being quirky. Too many people hide from who they are and like you said “Don’t change who you are to fit in with others because it is not worth it.” Be you, because you is awesome.

  • Alexis Lynch

    Loved this article! Sometimes I have to sit down and ask myself if I’m doing things just to make other people happy, and a lot of times that’s the case. I’m going to be a senior in high school and ‘finding myself,’ as some would say, has been a process. I love the quote “Hold Fast. We believe in you” because it reminds me that even if I’m feeling alone, I have not only God, but this whole community I can come to that will support me through anything.

    • http://www.heartsupport.com/ Benjamin Sledge

      Jake is the one who actually coined the term and it really resonated with me and why it’s on all our shirts! So glad you’re a part of this community and hoping and praying your senior year leads to more self discovery and belief in yourself!

    • HeyJude9604

      Wow, you’re going to be a senior in high school too? So am I! That’s so cool. You’re right that you are not alone with Heart Support. Seriously, these guys are the most sincere and caring people you will ever meet. I haven’t had the chance to meet them in person but a lot of them have responded to my comments. The fact that they take time out of their days to spend time to help people with their everyday struggles is amazing. God bless!

  • Anon

    This is about the most personal thing I’ve read from you. Very real, very inspirational.

  • J.

    You can’t imagine how pertinent this is for me today. Too much to say in public, but caught a glance of light where the weight of darkness is pretty heavy today. Your story mirrors mine in huge ways. Thank you, thank you.

    • http://www.heartsupport.com/ Benjamin Sledge

      So glad it could inspire you in tough moments when it gets dark and heavy. We’re here for you brother

  • Jen Riddlebarger

    I love this. I met you a few years back through Jon U so you probably don’t remember me but I am really inspired by your words. I actually teach high school and am part of a huge anti-bullying initiative at my school and feel like the other teachers would be moved by your words as well. Do you mind if I share?

    • http://www.heartsupport.com/ Benjamin Sledge

      PLEASE share! We encourage all our blogs to be shared! Thanks for reading and am so glad teachers are moving on this issue as well!

  • page

    Your a huge influence in this world ben, keep rockin on!!!

  • Morgan Robinson

    Wow, my friend. I went to high school with you but I graduated in 2004. Thank you for this blog. I will pass it on to my younger siblings.

    • http://www.heartsupport.com/ Benjamin Sledge

      I remember you Morgan! Please do pass along. I would love more people to know there is hope. Great to hear from you!

  • Ben

    All I can say is thank you. Thanks so much Sledge, and heartsupport as a whole.

    • http://www.heartsupport.com/ Benjamin Sledge

      Thanks for being part of the community. This is what we’re here for and want you all to be a part of.

  • Ethan D.

    Holy bananas did I need that. Thanks so much for that Sledge. I’ve felt like crap for the past year, and to know that there’s a crew of people who don’t know me personally are cheering me on in this fight called life, is super encouraging.

    • Philip20

      Dude, you are basically studying music(you wrote before) and you are not worthless !
      I spoken to with many university students last term and i´m not fully understanding yet why they don´t value their
      student position(as there are countless programs,stipendiums etc. available for them-just to get the know-how
      how to apply and speak with the right people to get things going)

      We all have our weak sides.

      I have dealt with the feelings of worthlessness in the past seriously also(even tho i could be classified as a person who achieves things,travels etc.).

      -All that does not matter, we have the same enemy in the spiritual realm. I got into Early Christianity prayer guides(also its exciting how they had real communities and how thru centuries Christianity has basically become so downgraded and uninfluential all around the world) and i´m inspired to learn how to pray with authority.

      After reading posts like these i get inspiration to write as a guest blogger. Potentially inspiring countless others yet risking of losing my reputation in my local communities and circles.

      Yet what is more important-my fear of being laughed at or possibly inspiring people ?
      Its takes character and confidence to be honest. I lack both currently.

      We should have a mindset like that, as i do feel loved at times but God has become distant and hallow experience recently. Something has gone seriously wrong.
      1 Corinthians 16:14 Do everything in love.
      1 John 4:18
      There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

      From the radical viewpoint-what i really have to lose, when each lived day is basically a day lived by God grace ?
      (i should be dead or seriously injured countless times-somehow i got into quite stable state and survived,achieved a lot and then burned out)

      I also have challenge in my mind-to be transparent and honest among my family, friends on how things really are.
      When i don´t address my struggles then the hiding cycle usually begins. And that is not a productive behaviour for my faith and life overall.
      It ends in the self destructive and partying lifestyle usually.

      As for the community-this blows my mind in a good way-people continually are being transparent(not sugarcoating things, not trying to be “look at me i got it all together,listen to my wise words” but are honest, humble and have a motive to inspire others(as i have read now, many writers here know very well what it means to feel worthless and not wanted)

      Never met a community-website like that in my life yet(been here thru times for couple of years, on and off)

      Thank you for writing a honest story high school and life !

  • Johnny

    Thanks for the encouragement, love you guys and gals at Heart Support!

  • James

    Another great message dude, i was picked on a lot in middle school up into highschool to the point where i brought brass knuckles to school to get back at the kid but luckily he wasn’t there that day thank goodness. As i am reading this though i was slowly starting to realize at that point that i was too just became the biggest asshole to stop people from messing with me. Its a weird feeling & even now i still get criticized for being the nice guy, jst gotta remember that people telling that to you in a serious manner they probably aren’t you true friend. Thanks again dude

  • Ann Scott-Moses

    So proud of you & the man you’ve become! How bold, inspiring,& courageous of you to be so transparent-I’m in awe & amazed by all that you’ve overcome! God is good!

  • Dee

    I have no words except thank you. I’m sure I’m not the only person who needed to hear this.

  • OscarGareskog

    Thanks so much Ben!! God bless you and the team, and this community!!

  • Sean

    This is awesome, Ben! I myself still deal with my insecurities to this day. I’m a 23 year old guy who still has problems with showing the world who he really is. It’s frustrating, but I do have faith that I will grow out of this phase one day. At times, I feel like I’m supposed to know all the answers to life because of the fact that I am 23 and I’m almost in my mid-twenties, but the truth of the matter is that I have no idea what is going on. I mean, I go to school part time and I am in the military, too, but even with a sense of direction in my head, I still feel lost and discouraged about a lot of things. At this age, I’m supposed to have already graduated college, party my life away, and just be shy of preparation for my post-grad job. But with me joining the military, going to college is very hard, and I do feel a little down about not coming in compliance with todays standards. But ya know what? After reading this, I realized that I’m going to school for the wrong reasons. I need to stop worrying about who’s done with college and who isn’t. I need to do this for myself and for my future family. I’m where I’m at because this is where God wants me. I am beyond determined to finish my degree, but I do know with me being military, it’ll be longer, but I will do it. I will do it for me and only me. So thank you, Ben. This helped a lot.

    • http://www.heartsupport.com/ Benjamin Sledge

      Sean….that’s so awesome to hear man. I’m glad I could point you to seeing yourself for who you’re destined to be and not by into “keeping up with the Joneses”. Oh, and thank you for your service friend from one vet to a generation that keeps it going!