I was severely bullied in high school when I was only around 14. (And also went through quite rough time in primary). I heard that suffering is in order to cleanse us from our aveiros, but at that age, how bad could I have been? I know I really didn’t do so much wrong especially to be punished to such a severe extent. It’s been years since then and I’m still finding it hard building trust in others. So even if it was for my growth, I feel like in a sense, it was detrimental.
I’m wondering how I can accept what happened to me with love, because I find I struggle a lot with doing so and feel pretty resentful that this is what Hashem has given to me. I know that we don’t know חשבונות של מעלה but I still found that what I went through was over and above extreme and I just find it hard to accept that it was to cleanse me when I was so young. (I also was told that ppl. don’t get punished for future sins.)
How can I get rid of this ‘grudge’ that I still have?
Secondly, what are we meant to think when children or even young adults suffer in ways that are way beyond what others their age go through. Why do some get illnesses and have to be hospitalized from such a young age, for months on end?
You are asking an important question, a question which was asked by Moshe Rabeinu, it is discussed in gemora, and throughout the generations. How do we understand the phenomenon of tzaddikim suffering in this world, after all they are tzadddikim?! To make he question sharper, how do we understand a new born baby born with a severe disability, one day old and the child is already suffering. He surely didn’t do any aveiros yet?
Before getting to an answer to your question. It is brought from one of the Baalei Tosefos on the posuk ‘b’tzedek tishpot amisecha”, to judge your “friend” with righteousness, and to be dan lkaf zechus. Says the Baalei Tosefos that if one sees midas hadin coming upon him, one has a n obligation to be dan Hashem l’kaf zechus, and to say, “Hashem you are right”! He also writes that when this happens down here, it is considered a tremendous praise for Hashem in heaven.
We are taught that Hashem, does everything with mercy, and for our benefit, the problem is that we don’t exactly see things this way, when we suffer, we see pain, not mercy! We don’t understand the ways of Hashem, however there are a number of things that will help us out. The way we look at the world, is limited to what we experience, see, hear, and feel. We have to understand that this view of the world is tremendously limited. As a simple example, chazal, the Arizal and others, have told us that not only does our neshoma, have a tremendous future, but our neshoma also has a past. What we experience in this world in the 70-90 years that our neshoma is encapsulated in a physical body, is only one very small phase of our existence.
Let’s take a moshul of a person who went to see a rare exhibit of a fabulous painting on display in a museum. The person came late and the exhibit was already closed, but he was able to peek into the keyhole, and get only a small glimpse of the painting. The person was appalled at what he saw. All he saw was a blob of black! “This is the painting that everyone is going crazy over” he says. He was only able to see a small fraction of the picture which happened to be black in that spot, however the rest of the picture was the most beautiful picture of mountains, trees, and flowers.
It is the same with us. What we experience in the world, is only a small fraction of our existence, but we have a history, and an even longer future. Additionally, we are taught that his temporary world was not created as a goal in of itself, rather only as a preparation area so that we will be able to enjoy the world created for joy in the world to come. Therefore often, Hashem will send down a neshoma that needs to get cleansed with certain suffering, specifically in order so that when this stage of our existence finishes, we will be able to enjoy the tremendous joy of the world to come without any inabilities, blemishes, or problems. Similr to a hospital, where often surgery has to be done, and the patient suffers for a few weeks, but after that the patient is free of the previous ailment that they had.
But there is more to it than that. Rabeinu Bachya (Deutoronomy 22-8) brings an eye-opening, life changing Midrash, that has potential to help all of us though all of our difficulties. The Midrash says that before each neshoma was sent down to this world, it was shown what is going to happen to it, it’s difficulties, trials, goals, etc. It was then asked if it consents to come to this world under such conditions, and it isn’t sent to this world unless it agrees. The reason it agrees, even though many of us go through hard times is because in the world of truth the neshoma sees what it has to accomplish, and it also sees that it is these very difficulties that will bring it to it’s goal, and therefore it readily agrees.
There is a moshul given from the Chofetz Chaim, of a certain neshoma that came to the heavenly court, it did many mitzvos, but unfortunately, it spoke a lot of lashon hora. They wanted to let the neshoma into gan eden, but because of all the lashon hora it spoke it could not be let in. It was barred entry for eternity! The neshoma pleaded to be given another chance to go down to this world, and this time it will be more careful. Because the neshoma did so many mitzvos, it was granted it’s wish, that it can come down again for another chance. The neshoma then complained, “but what is going to happen this time, I might fall into the same pattern again”. So the heavenly court told him that if he wants he can be created deaf, and this way it will be much easier for him to abstain from speaking lashon hora. It readily agreed and was sent down to this world. While in this world, it was hard managing without hearing, but this was in fact the whole purpose of it’s coming to this world in the first place. Then the neshoma came back to heaven, accomplished its goal, and was able to enjoy eternal happiness. It is the same with all of us. We came here to accomplish a spiritual goal, and we were given exactly the right conditions that WE need to get the job done. (See Rashi Rosh Hashana 11a D:H L’daatom, seee also Raberinu Bachya Devorim 22-8 who explains this.)
Again, we don’t know the exact reason why Hashem has sent us certain pain and suffering. But what we do know is that, the one who created us, and cares or us more than our father and mother, has our best interest in mind. Our job however is to, accept it, and have the proper emuna, that Hashem knows best. There will be a day that we will see all of this clearly, and we will all agree that the suffering that we endured was indeed worth it.
Another thought. The bullying, and harassment that you suffered, can be turned into a positive experience, if you will use it to be more thoughtful and caring to others. Many people have used their childhood difficulties, to help out other people having a hard time. This will make you a better person, and despite the pain you will have grown from it.
We have to continually think such thoughts. That Hashem knows what is best for us, and that we have the capability to use the hard times to grow from it and help other, this will help us overcome that negative feelings.