Standing Beautiful with Chloe Howard
Born with a debilitating foot deformity and undergoing her first surgery at a mere six months old, Chloe Howard has a courageous story about embracing physical differences. She went on to have five major surgeries by the time she was fifteen, but her parents kept reminding her she was beautifully and wonderfully made. It wasn’t until as a freshman in high school when she was not only bullied, but became a victim of assault when her peers pinned her down and exposed her foot against her will, that the way she felt about her clubfoot, and herself shifted.
Ironically, or divinely, it was Bono, the lead singer of the band U2, that inspired her after hearing her story, to find her voice and use it for those who have none. Howard took this to heart and has since authored, Stand Beautiful: A Story of Brokenness, Beauty & Embracing It All, as well as a picture book titled, Stand Beautiful: A Story of Brokenness, Beauty & Embracing It All, as well as a picture book titled, Stand Beautiful.
Risen talked with Howard in 2018 about being bullied and what she did to process the incident and heal.
Howard reflects on her experience being bullied and assaulted at a private Christian school.
“I decided to attend the Christian school instead of the public school. I made that decision because it felt so right; I got in, I was excited, and I selfishly wanted to be surrounded by people exactly like me who loved Jesus and weren’t afraid to talk about it. And then, in November of 2014, when that group of girls assaulted me, my world came crashing down. It didn’t feel right and it didn’t make sense, and I didn’t understand how or why God would have called me to attend a school that would completely break me. At lunch one day I was restrained, and without my consent, my shoe and sock were ripped off to expose my deformed foot to a group of my peers. I froze. Hot shame washed over me, and for the first time in my life I felt ashamed of the very thing I’d always been told made me special.”
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be. Psalm 139:13-16
Howards shares why she didn’t fight back and what others can do to process and heal if they are bullied.
“First and foremost, make sure to give yourself the time you need to heal. Forgiveness is, I believe, the most divine thing we, as humans can do, but it’s so hard. Take your time. Don’t rush it, because when you forgive not for yourself but for others, you risk hardening your heart. Forgive – on your own time –but don’t forget. And to both those that are being bullied and the bullies themselves: only you have the power to determine what your labels are. If you’re being bullied, you aren’t stuck as the victim. You are strong and powerful, and your voice matters. Believe you were made with purpose, and rise above the pain that’s trying so hard to weigh you down. If you’re the bully, you aren’t stuck with that label. You’re more than that. You’re not ‘the bad guy.’ Hurt people hurt people, and I see you and your pain. Choose to speak out, get help, fight the social pressure that says you have to make others broken to numb your own brokenness. Believe this truth: you are special. You matter.”
Stop bullying. Whether it is cyber bullying or making fun of a co-worker over lunch, each of us has seen and experienced bullying on different levels. It might come across as just making fun of someone and in some cases it becomes physical or even assault. Whatever the level, take an active stand. Stop the conversation. Let the group know that this is not acceptable. If need be, alert a teacher, principal, coach, or human resources department. Sometimes people will need to experience consequences in order for the bullying to stop. Be willing to be an advocate for the person that is being bullied or made fun of.
Stand beautiful. Our culture has a tendency to depreciate and devalue others. Instead of putting someone down or criticizing them, say what you appreciate about them or their character. Remember that God made everyone in His image and when we make fun of or bully someone we are putting down God and what He created. We often put ourselves down or complain about features that we don’t like. It often comes out of a spirit of comparison. Rather than comparing ourselves to another person, reflect on all of the things that make you unique. Take time to thank God for making you.
Let your words bring life. Take time this week to encourage others. It could be writing an note to a teacher, pastor or friend on something they did or a character quality that you notice in them. It could be leaving a sticky note with a verse or encouraging saying on a co-worker’s desk or classmate’s locker. Look for opportunities to encourage people that seem like they are having a difficult day or week.
To read our entire interview with Chloe Howard, click here.
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