Overcoming bullying is a life-long process because you have to constantly decide to believe the truth about yourself and let it drown out the voices of those who criticised, rejected and verbally or physically abused you. Bullying today takes many forms including cyber or online bullying as the photograph depicts. Fortunately, that has not been my experience but as a Christian and as an author I know I will face some degree of persecution or criticism. Thankfully, I have learnt the process of overcoming bullying of all types.
For me, the primary message of the bully is that ‘you are not good enough’ and that is simply not true. In this post I share some of my story of overcoming bullying as an encouragement to those who struggle, even today, to find their confidence. The good news is that there is hope in God and He is faithful to heal all our wounds if we let Him. In Him our weakness is made strong.
I was born into a British family in Africa. My mother was from Northern Ireland and my dad’s family were from Scotland. My parents were Christians and my brother and sister and I knew the truth of the Gospel from an early age. Of course, the enemy comes to steal the truth and trip up our God-given destiny. He tried to lead me astray via a mentally retarded uncle. They now call his condition a learning disability. Whatever the term, he didn’t understand what he was doing or the chaos it would cause in my life.
Violated boundaries made me vulnerable and the target of bullying at school, especially as a teenager. The message of the bullies was relentless. ‘You don’t fit in. We don’t like you. You’re not good enough and never will be’. So, like many people I grew up with wounds that would take much renewing of the mind to overcome. I would also need to learn to forgive. But God… Don’t you just love those two words. But God causes all things to work together for good for them that love Him!
And I was able to overcome the insecurities that stemmed from childhood shame and rejection. Well, confident enough to share this with you today. I guess you could describe me as ‘a wounded healer’, with a heart for those who struggle. And with a knowledge that God can turn situations around. The truth of God’s Word sets us free and is essential in my opinion for overcoming bullying.
It was clear from childhood that I would become a journalist as I was always asking questions. So I studied Journalism and Communication Studies at Uni and graduated with a B Journ. While I was a student, I nearly became unstuck in my Christian walk. The enemy offered many lures to take me off track. But I remembered that verse: “What profits a person if he or she gains the whole world and yet loses their own soul.”
As a journalist I was not about to settle for a false narrative and thank God I discovered the truth. Through my mother’s many prayers and the support of my church family, it finally dawned on me, that I am not a victim but a victor. As you can imagine, this wasn’t an overnight process. Overcoming bullying and the accompanying insecurity takes time and one consistently needs to reinforce your victory.
It was back then that I started to care about telling the stories of people who’ve overcome obstacles. This is why I’ve written books like Mother of Malawi which tells a story of life out of death, hope out of despair. This is the biography of Annie Chikhwaza who has experienced every danger a woman could face. Yet was able to overcome every obstacle through God including overcoming bullying and abuse.
Though she was attacked and left for dead she started a home for orphans in the same place where her blood was spilled. Today she helps many young children to live a life free from lack and abuse. It was a privilege to go to Malawi and experience the oasis of love she has created in a nation of orphans. Today I am a trustee of Kondanani UK which supports this work and its children’s community hospital.
Getting back to my testimony, “I decided to follow Jesus, no turning back. The Cross before me the world behind me – no turning back.” This was a song we sang at Scripture Union and I knew when I came to that crossroads there was only one way. It’s an old song. But still has power. Never underestimate those memory verses learnt in Sunday School. God often reminds us of them in our darkest hour. We all come to that same crossroads and it’s important we make the right decision.
God gives us a choice. He sets before us life and death. Then He gives us a clue. “Choose Life!” Thankfully, I chose to follow Jesus. Following Jesus is a great first step in finding victory over every problem in life including overcoming bullying. So, after Uni, instead of embracing the ways of the world, and embracing the loser lifestyle the bullies had in mind for me, I decided to go to Bible School.
At the same time, I started my first job as a sub-editor at one of South Africa’s main newspapers. Unfortunately, my immediate boss started to make my working life unbearable. I was at Bible School in the morning then I would rush to work at the Rand Daily Mail from 2 to 10 pm. I don’t know whether it was because I was a Christian or because I didn’t respond to the improper advances that were coming my way, but I felt severely bullied.
Overcoming bullying is refusing to succumb to enemy attack
It seemed like I was constantly under attack and that was surely the case when I was involved in a car accident that very nearly killed me. I knew the power of the name of Jesus and started shouting it at the top of my voice as a car spun out of control heading directly towards my stationery vehicle on the side of the road. I knew where the attack came from, not from God, but our enemy who prowls around like a lion. He is at the root of all fear and bullying. He comes to kill, steal and destroy.
I barely had the second ‘Jesus’ out of my mouth when the rogue vehicle hit, just behind my seat almost splitting my car in half. Everything I owned was in that car, as I was moving home at the time, and it was all destroyed. The only thing that seemed to remain intact was the fish sticker on the back window. Though the window was smashed it kind of remained as a sign of God’s protection.
This was a low point in my life, having lost my job and my car at much the same time. My journalism dreams were in tatters and I almost gave up all hope of becoming a writer. But God, wasn’t finished with me yet! To cut a long story short, He showed me that he had indeed called me as a writer and I shouldn’t let anybody or anything intimidate me. It also became clear that writing is an important means of addressing injustice and seeking restoration.
We have all heard the saying, that “the pen is mightier than the sword” and that is truth right there. So with this knowledge, I progressed from newspapers into running an editing business in Johannesburg. God’s direction in my life was clearly not in secular journalism and I ended up managing Christian magazines. So even though my confidence took another knock, God used it to set me on the right road for my future path in life. And He opened many doors for me to interview prominent Christian leaders like TD Jakes.
I mention Bishop Jakes, not to name drop but to give credit where it is due. I was so inspired by his eloquence even though he stuttered. This was something I could relate to. Not that I stuttered but I had to overcome nervousness, anxiety etc – all the things people who have been bullied have to deal with. I loved Bishop Jakes’ creativity and message that “God has deposited greatness in each person”. He said that our challenge in life is to extract that inner greatness and share it outwardly with others. What a quest and I was so positive in those days and ready to take on this challenge. I was married with four children and everything seemed great.
However, the dreaded D word struck. Divorce. It’s a terrible thief and I felt that all was lost including my Christian witness. My confidence was in tatters once again and making a new start in England seemed to make everything worse. I went from somebody to nobody. From the familiar to the unknown. And the insecurities of my youth came back to haunt me. I was living in London facing an uncertain future But in this time of trial, God suddenly turned things around. He can do the same for you!
He is the “God of the Turnaround”. One minute I was desperate for breakthrough. The next I was on the move. Within hours of a phone call to GOD TV I was dashing across London on the Tube to Kings Cross to catch the train to Newcastle. And I managed to get on board with seconds to spare. The timing was so tight I knew only God could have orchestrated this! The result was that I worked at GOD TV for 18 years doing my bit to help build the GOD Channel into a global network.
We witnessed so many miracles first-hand during this time. I laughed when I looked back at my uncertain days as a sub-editor who was constantly on my nerves, and how God had raised me up to edit a TV Guide that went out to over 100,000 readers internationally. More importantly, it was a joy to be part of a ministry touching the globe. Inspirational people were constantly coming across my path including Wendy Alec who exemplifies creative evangelism. She is a great writer and I love her message that “God has not forgotten you”.
In recent years I managed GODTV.com a website with millions of hits as well as mass social media accounts. It was always challenging and I had to rely on God every day. We knew we couldn’t achieve what we did in our own strength. It was God who was at work. And every day we received testimonies of changed lives. I sometimes was on the phone lines and my most memorable conversation was leading a Muslim caller in the prayer of salvation. Again, only God could have orchestrated that.
GOD TV continues to make a global impact and I still blog for GODTV.com which has a large archive of my blog posts. Many of us who were there in the beginning are no longer, but God isn’t finished with any of us yet. He has given us new harvest fields.
While at GOD TV I once interviewed Richard Roberts and asked him about remarriage. He told me about the God of the Second Chance. That divorce is not the unpardonable sin. That one can be forgiven and God can still use you. So that is a bit of my story. I’ve now been married to Jeanine for 15 years and we’ve lived in Exeter for most of that time. We have six adult children between us, and there is always some challenge, but we face it together.
Having left GOD TV we now have a business, Countdown Creative that we started in lockdown. Yes, it was the very worst time to start a business and yet God has provided for us. He is faithful. He is the God of the second chance and the third and the fourth and He will also provide for you. And just because you’ve failed before doesn’t mean your next venture is doomed.
I now feel called to share the experience I’ve gained in 30 years working in communications. This enables me to combine old-school concepts that still work with modern technology. When the first lockdown hit I decided to start a new blog, UK Christian to see if I could duplicate what I’d learned about digital publishing. Since then I have used this experience to establish other sites and social media pages with significant traffic.
My challenge today… silencing the voices in my head that say, “You are not good enough” to succeed in business in the UK. But I know where those voices come from, and I refuse to let them back into my life! You may have had setbacks. Been bullied or told you aren’t good enough. I want to tell you that we are good enough, that our voice is valid and no matter how old we are, our voice still counts. God has great plans for our lives – for us to finish well. This includes overcoming bullying in every way and confidently rising up to serve Him. I no longer listen to the voices of the bullies, those who criticise me. Hopefully, like you, I found we are good enough.
Also read: Meet one of my faith heroes: the late Reinhard Bonnke
[…] Also read: ‘You are good enough’ – My testimony of overcoming bullying, divorce and despair […]
This is my brother! ? ? ? I am so proud of the overcomer and very brave man that you are Al… you are an inspiration to me. Never give up!