“Pull in your horns,” the principal said and scowled at me. He held up two fingers on either side of his head to mimic his words.

Suddenly I was not like any other twelve-year-old lined up in the hallway. I was the devil. I was everything everyone hates. I don’t remember what I did that day to garner such negative attention, but I do remember the crushing shame.

Not long after that, the principal came to school with a black eye, a big bruiser.

Apparently he was fooling around with the secretary, and her husband found out. That was the rumour I heard in the same hall, spread by my giggling peers.

I can see now, nearly fifty years later, that I was bruised by the shame the principal couldn’t reign in. I can understand and forgive the man, but my body doesn’t forget being judged.

Last week I felt it in two different conversations. Twice I found out I’d done something wrong and people were irritated with me. In each case, their anger was short-lived and the situations resolved, but that dreaded feeling of shame lingered into the night.

It came a third time when I was driving. The car began to tremble at low speeds ten kilometres from home. At six kilometres, a warning light came on. At one, the light started flashing at me. The car growled and rattled while the garage door took forever to open. Finally, I parked the car and got out.

I was okay but my body wasn’t. My heart pounded, and I felt as if I’d just downed ten espressos. What was the warning light telling me? What if I ruined the engine by driving it home?

Once again reason tried to soothe me. “It’s only a car; no one was hurt.” My body couldn’t hear it. Something louder was jangling my nerves.

I was greatly relieved when Fred diagnosed the problem–a misfiring cylinder–and fixed it the next day.

I didn’t recognize what fuelled my panic until I woke in the night and noticed that in all three incidents I felt ashamed. Three times I heard “Why did you do that? You should have known better.”

As I came fully awake, I realized: that’s what I do when I get angry at people. I want them to feel bad for what they’ve done.

But in the morning when I came to prayer, something else happened. I remembered the principal and being called evil. If he’d been the first to intimate that, I would never have believed him. He was simply confirming what I feared was true after all.

Now I knew what those incidents of panic were telling me. They were telling me that I still carried the bruises of what happened that day. God was taking me back to that moment to heal the misfiring memory my body held.


A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out.
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice.

Isaiah 42:3 (NIV)

* * *

Love Mischief for the World

“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love,” said Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Today I tip my hat to all of you who do small things with great love. I’m thinking of Heather who notices lonely people in coffee shops and gives them her time. I think of Colleen who faithfully visits a friend in long term care. I think of volunteers who make muffins and neighbours who shovel snow. I think of patient drivers, thankful bus passengers, and shoppers who smile at cashiers. You are saints.

What love mischief are you and God doing to care for the earth?
 Let me know and I will include it in an upcoming post.

Credits and References:
First image is a study in human nature, being an interpretation with character analysis chart of Hoffman’s master painting “Christ in the temple”; (1920) by uploaded by CircaSassy. This image is in the PUBLIC DOMAIN. Attribution is not necessary. The original book is available at the Internet Archive
“Angel of Healing” sculpture by Susan Lordi. Photo by Anne Davis 773. Used with permission.
Photo of Mother Teresa by India7 Network. used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2017.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013-2017.

About Esther Hizsa

Esther is a spiritual director and writer. She lives in Burnaby with her husband, Fred, and they have two grown children and two grandchildren.
This entry was posted in Childhood, Reflections, Stories and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Bruised

  1. Pingback: What I Knew Then | An Everyday Pilgrim

  2. Pingback: Wait for It | An Everyday Pilgrim

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