My Left Elbow

The internet can be a useful tool for doing research. And sometimes the research can uncover uncalled-for surprises. It did for me one day a few years ago when I found myself staring at a picture of Bruno (not his real name), the Director of a large trucking company. I recognised that gap-toothed grin straight away, and I instinctively reached for my left elbow to protect it.

Bruno had been in my class at high school many, many years before. He was the big boy that used to hang around with my older brothers. And I was the little guy, the late developer, the smallest boy in the class – a ripe target for a bully. Bruno was a bit of a charmer and he could be quite entertaining. Trouble was he often used his charm to veil his bullying. He’d flash a grin as he pummelled or punched a smaller boy unsuspectingly. It was a joke, right?

One day he got hold of my left arm, twisting it behind my back – and kept on twisting. He laughed as he mouthed a funny remark to amuse the onlookers. The pain was excruciating. He only stopped when I began to scream.

The pain persisted well after the incident, so I was eventually taken to hospital. There the arm was cast in plaster in the hope that the severely torn ligaments would heal over time. The option of surgical re-attachment wasn’t available then, and the pain persisted after the cast was removed. As the pain continued for many years afterwards, it was only occasionally relieved by cortisone injections – a painful exercise in itself. And I was never again able to straighten that arm.

When I found myself, now in my fifties, staring at Bruno’s mug on the internet, the constant pain had finally receded. It wasn’t there all the time, but whenever I had to carry anything heavy, the pain would be there. And it ached after every session of lap-swimming that I did on a regular basis. I’m a keen swimmer, so that was quite often. Whenever I felt it, I would invariably think of Bruno and wonder if he ever realised the consequences of his bullying. Perhaps now was my chance to let him know.

I wrote Bruno a letter, mailing it to the trucking company’s address displayed on the internet site. I told him about the pain and disfigurement, of all that I had gone through over the years, and of the constant reminders I would have of his abuse every time I swam or carried the shopping from the car. I also told him that I believed in forgiveness and that I really wanted to forgive him. And then, as I concluded the letter, I received a special grace from God: I realised that I had been harbouring a resentment towards this man for years.  I recognised that on almost every occasion of pain, I had entertained thoughts of blame and retribution. So there and then I confessed this to Bruno, and I asked him to forgive me.

A few weeks later I received a reply. At first, I was a tad disappointed. Bruno had not remembered the incident at all! In fact, he said he could not remember ever bullying me. But he was gracious enough to say that he was sorry if he had caused me pain. And then he expressed a desire to make things right, to start afresh, to move on from there in a new way. “Let’s forgive and go forward from here”, he said. So, we took up a friendly exchange of correspondence, sharing news about family, common interests and so on.

But it wasn’t until a few months later that I became fully aware of the miracle that had happened. The pain in my elbow had disappeared completely! I wrote and told Bruno the news of the healing. He wrote back expressing his delight – and relief, since he had been feeling “regret and shame” over the incident. We both acknowledged the liberating effect of the healing that we both experienced during the giving and receiving of forgiveness.

Today, though my left elbow is still crooked, there is no pain in it whatsoever – and there never has been since that first letter was sent. I am now able to swim a kilometre and carry a heavy weight in my left hand without feeling the slightest bit of discomfort. And I reckon that I would still have got that healing if Bruno had not been so gracious. It was the letting go of resentment that did it. And because I couldn’t do that by my own strength or insight, God’s Holy Spirit did it for me.


Credit : Charles Fivaz (Victoria AUSTRALIA)