Sharisa Robertson, known as the Forgiveness Facilitator, is on a mission to heal the mangled relationships between mothers and daughters as well as rip the band-aid off the bullying epidemic and shine a light on the heart of the issues so that young girls can walk with their heads up and not their fists.
As CWM’s former Interview Maven, she has conducted interviews with many of our featured women. With the release of her latest book, A Letter To My Bully: Sticks, Stones, and Words Do Hurt ; a collaborative effort with several young girls and professionals, she is approaching 2015 with hopes to expand her series into other relationships and issues with her foundation of forgiveness.
What did you want to be when you were a child?
I wanted to be a writer as a child. I had stacked around my room and in my drawer over 100 episodes of a TV show I made up. My room was a fire hazard. I was so attached to my characters and they seem so real. I also use to get visions of myself grown, walking into my office wearing a nice suit, a pair of bad (in a good way) shoes, and a briefcase (it was the 90s every business person had a briefcase then). I would have this vision often but I never knew what I did exactly.
What was the catalyst to you having a passion for forgiveness and the mother/daughter relationship?
I had a strained relationship with my mother starting from the age of 15 up until now, off and on. At the moment we are actually getting along but we are not in communication with each other too much, which for us is normal. A few years ago, I just became sick and tired of being sick and tired of my life. My relationship with my mother would go back and forth. I was still holding on not only to present things that happened to us but past things as well. It was interfering with me as a mother, in my relationship, and just be outright being happy and having peace. I kept blaming her for things and although she should of course be held accountable for her wrong.
I realized I was looking for her to change and make everything better instead of me being accountable for my own healing and my life and recognizing that I am now an adult and not a little girl and I had more control of my life, my feelings, my thoughts, and actions regardless of what happened in my life and at who hands. I also had to take ownership over my own bad experiences and mistakes. I started to see some similarities take place in my parenting and relationship.
So that led me on a journey of healing that although included me forgiving my mother and our issues but me doing a lot of inner work and facing my own issues and how I handle situations. This led me to me doing conference calls for women talking about different issues, which led to my business and writing.
Have you found that it is still something you yourself still struggle with?
Sometimes. I have learned that forgiveness is what we think it is. There are so many layers to it. I have forgiven people but forgiveness is not a onetime thing. , Forgiveness is a process and it is an ongoing one. It has to be a lifestyle that is practice and applied and out into action. The biggest lesson I learned aside from it being a process that has to be put into work constantly, is that forgiveness is not trust. After I forgave my mother, I begin to struggle with my emotions because I couldn’t understand what was going on because I knew for fact I had forgiven her but I was still very hesitant o be around her and I couldn’t figure out why. I discovered that I didn’t trust her because she still did and had the potential to mistreat me if she chooses. Once I realized that and that trust takes 2 willing people to work together establishing trust whereas forgiveness only takes one person, you, I was able to go through that process and acceptance and move forward. Sometimes I revert back to the past, especially if my mother and I have an issue or if something happens that sparks my memory of an unfortunate event in my life. The difference between then and now is I know how to combat the anger, the memories, and the hurt. I am more proactive in my healing and times when I am not I know I am making a conscious decision to not do it because I don’t want to. So I allow myself to have my moment then I do the work and move on again instead of holding it in forever like I use to.
What do you do to break the cycle and make sure you do not pass that mindset on your daughters?
I had to listen to my daughters and their feelings. My voice was taken from me as a child and sometimes I am still fighting to remind myself I deserve to be heard. I have conversations with them instead of just talking at them. As parents we tend to look at our children as property more than them being human because they are under our authority and guidance but they have thoughts, feelings, questions, dislikes, likes etc and although these things may need nurturing, direction, clarity, or even warning against they have to still be acknowledged as a person, now that takes the discretion with the parent on some things not being up for discussion, how you handle situations, what to or not fully disclosed due to age or subject matter.
I try to be active with them, encourage their talents, gifts, and interests. Encourage and empower them. I also try to take the lessons from my childhood good and bad and create my own mommy/parent template from that and see what I will keep, get rid of, or make better. But I find most importantly to break the cycle I have to start with myself and break what needs to be broken off of me because I realize I am always teaching my daughters (and son) how to behave, think, feel, react whether indirectly and directly. Our children hear what we say, sometimes but they are for sure watching us and can see the difference between our actions and words. So they can and do immolate who we are based on what we show them, intentionally or unintentionally and not always what we say. I find myself getting on them for things that they were doing and I realized they got it from me and it was me that had to change. I can’t expect my children to master this attribute or that attribute at 12, 9, and 4 when it has taken me all of my life to even attempt, admit, and realize that I have to do something about it. So it starts with me and as I grow as a person, I grow as a parent and I am able to teach or un-teach accordingly. I am set on breaking all generational curses.
Your own daughters were contributors to your latest book. Tell us how it was working with them on the project and explain to our readers how their own experiences motivated you to tap into this topic.
It was great. I did the book project A Letter To My Bully: Sticks, Stones, and Words Do Hurt because my daughters’ were being bullied. So I was inspired to do the project because of them and because of them I didn’t quit the project because I sure did want to at times. They had been getting bullied for years but the 2013-2014 school year was the worst for both of them.
So they actually were victims but were also becoming bullies themselves which was weird because neither of my girls were and still are not fighters. That let me know that they had a lot of negative emotions in them that was displaced and needed to be released and dealt with beyond just going up to the school , telling them to stand up for themselves, or ignore the kids, or tell the teacher. So after being drained myself and feeling hopeless and hearing so many stories about others being bullied, kids committing suicide due to bullying, one day I got the idea for them to write about it in a book. The idea came from my first book collaboration where myself and 10 women wrote letters to our mothers. That book was a great healing and release for us and for our readers as well, so I figured why not see if this would help not just my girls but others.
A lot of parents REACT when their children are harmed or they feel like the schools are not doing enough. What challenges do you as a parent face when trying to help your children deal with these types of issues? Do you feel like the school systems are failing or skipping around the issue? What are some basic steps you recommend to parents to take to (1) handle the issue once it arises and (2) make sure their children are not suffering in silence?
Yes, when we found out our girls were being bullied and particularly during the time it had gotten really bad we were livid. It is stressful for everyone especially if it seems as if there isn’t a reolution. I believe schools are for the most part not equipped to handle bullying. It may not be intentional but it is evident. Sometimes it gets swept under the rug because kids are kids and everything is not an issue of bullying but teasing and taking into account how the teacher to student ratio and so many other things to deal with it can be ignored or goes unnoticed. But the challenge is when it is brought to a teacher or principal’s attention; especially repeatedly something has to be done. Schools have policies in place and may have anti-bullying posters in the hallways or even have a rally or assembly every now and then but more information, awareness, and prevention needs to be done outside of having a piece of paper (the policy) that doesn’t mean anything until damage had been done and has gotten completely out of hand. My thing is schools moving beyond awareness to prevention. School policy doesn’t just mean saying you have zero tolerance and suspended a child eventually, policy should include keeping our children safe, protected, and going from subpar awareness to true preventative methods, followed by then consequences if violated. But I understand there isn’t enough manpower or funds in most schools to really enforce some things.
We have to do that inner works within our children, talk to them, buy them a journals, affirm over them how great they are, allow them to be themselves and learn to be comfortable with it even if others are not, exposed them to other types of people, forewarn them about the different type of people out there, good and bad and all with different views, households, interest, issues, family structures. We have to listen to our children even when they are not saying anything. Include them in the conversation with the school about the bullying and what would realistically make them feel safe and even come up with a plan of action with them and the schools on how to handle bullying if it was to happen again.
As parents, we cannot give up, stay consistent and keep advocating for your child. Follow the chain of command in your school, document all incidents and times of communication, copy of any letters you sent, inquire about the bully getting counseling or help, ask for a meeting with the parent, become active in the school so that you are seen and your presence if felt, and keep seeking solutions. While doing these things keep empowering your child and uplifting them at home, monitor their behavior at home, keep them around likeminded youth so they can foster true friendships, get them involved in activities that teaches courage, confidence, strengthen them, allows an outlet and lets them have a good time.
Transferring them to a new school is an option but may not always change things because at the end of the day your child will meet people who are mean, bullies, etc from now until their adulthood from school to work and this could be a teachable moment to teach them how to handle themselves, how to overcome it, how to not be defined by it, how to process their feelings, how to handle their feelings, how to assert themselves, and to build their confidence.
Don’t ignore the issue, even if your child tells you not to go up to the school out of fear of being teased same more, they re already being teased anyways. Please don’t you’re your child to ignore it either because that doesn’t make things stop, it just encourages the bullying. Don’t just think the school will fix it or it will just go away. DO something and keep on doing it.
I read in the news all the time unfortunately about children taking their lives due to bullying. What advice would you give to children who feel like they have the weight of the world on their shoulders and may not even have that parental support at home to armour them with love, self-worth and esteem?
This is such a hard question to answer. The suicide rate is growing within our youth, and it is more and more being linked to bullying. I would try my best to meet that child where they are at. I would first genuinely listen to them, be a shoulder to lean on if needed, and then empathizing with their feelings but reminding them that the problem is not solved at all because suicide is a finalized decision that eliminates all possibilities of change, of a solution and that there is no going back from it. I’d let them know I understand their desperation, pain, anger, and it may seem like here is no end to it all but if they could focus their energy, strength even to thinking or even trying to commit suicide then that same decision, energy, and strength and even courage can be directed towards a more proactive approach which includes them staying alive. I’d tell them they are stronger than they think and they ae valuable to this world and although times are rough this situation does not defined them. There are so many options out there to help them get through even if there is some level of parental lack, like finding a mentor or someone that they admire even if that mentor is in their head. What positive qualities does that person have that they admire? I would tell them that what they see in that person is also within them and it just needs to be realize, embraced, and cultivated. If your parent is not helpful in the situation I would find someone that they could talk to in their family, aunt, sibling, uncle, grandparent, a teacher or staff administrative one that they know truly cares. They can call hotlines for help and to just vent to, ask to go to counseling. We all need a release so they can write even if every day in a journal and dump all of their feelings out on paper, create art or something, get involved in a hobby or activity that keeps them focused and busy. Every day before school look in the mirror and hug themselves, tell themselves I love you, that they matter.
Find a quote, affirmation, scripture to recite to yourself to keep you uplifted. Go to someone in school or even the PTA and suggest doing a bullying campaign, take their pain and turn it to their purpose, because they are not alone. No matter what have the courage to be who they are regardless of what anyone says. Instead of focusing on what the bullying is saying or doing regardless of how horrible find what they can do to be better not because of the bully but to help themselves be better, walk with their head high, give eye contact, smile, get involved in activities, be more vocal in class answering question, don’t coward in the back of the room, let their opinions be heard, try a different hair style or color, stay focused on their work, find likeminded friend who they can relate to and have a nice time with, and even in their silence if they prefer to be by themselves sometimes do so confidently.
The goal is to like themselves, love themselves, know themselves, and be themselves and not trying to get a child who is troubled themselves but displaying it differently to like them or accept them or be their friend. Steer away from the negativity as much as possible. Don’t be around things that feed the suicidal thoughts, sadness, or depression. If the bullying is happening online steer clear of social media, delete your accounts, change your phone number, email address, don’t hang out in the park where the bullies are, take the opposite hallway from the bully, don’t watch shows that influences your self esteem, choose happier music with a great message, read great books whether fiction to nonfiction. And always stay hopeful and know that they were out here to suffer, to be bullied; to fail this is not the end of their life. You are not alone but they have to reach out for help because this isn’t a burden that they should carry alone and someone will listen and keep finding a trusted adult to one does listen and does something to help them. Talk to someone. Know that your life is worth fighting for and worth living out fully. This is something that can be overcome and a testimony to look back from and learn from. Their life is worth fighting for and giving up is not the answer and not even mention the people that they leave behind, hurt, confused who truly did love them. Suicide has no return and is forever but bullying does not have to be and they have to take a stand for themselves not just against bullying but to live and want to live their life because there is so much more out there for them.
Peer pressure is real and completely different now than in my day. With cellphones and social media, kids today are exposed to way more than they need to be. Other than completely banning your children from any of this, how can parents build their children up so they make good choices and don’t believe the hype of people hiding behind social media or even in the halls at school or even on the bus?
Peer pressure is rough for children and even for some adults still. Parents have to open the door of communication with their child and be real with them and even at an early age because the access to things that you think they would not be exposed to they can and may be already having unfortunately. We don’t know what our children are doing when we are not looking or around whether they are the ones peer pressuring others or falling victim to peer pressure or whatever else in between.
Explain to them that peer pressure is real and may be hard to resist because they want to look cool or even if your child is the one doing the peer pressuring, explain to them and show them their uniqueness, being an individual, what it truly means to have good friends who accept you for who you are and not try to get you to do things that are not right and what being a friends is as well. I tell my kids every day before school and they have to repeat it back to me as well; “You are a leader, not a follower unless you are following behind somebody great who will lead you to your greatness. And if you are the leader with others following you, it is your duty to be great and help them see the greatness within them and keep them on that path to continued greatness.” In your own words and way remind your child who they are, who they have the potential to be, who they should surround themselves with and not to fall prey or cause others to fall prey to peer pressure because it all seems cool until something bad happens and the point is hopefully keeping it from getting to that point.
Also touch on what you think the issues are with the children doing the bullying? What are they missing at home? What do you think should be the consequences of their actions?
I told my daughters that bullies are no different from you they just use their fears, issues, insecurities to “benefit” themselves as a way to cover up for what they are dealing with. Every bully doesn’t have home issues but it can be a reason for the bullying, whether they are being bullied by a parent, adult, or sibling, being neglected because maybe the parent works 2 jobs, parents could be divorcing, some type of abuse, even sexual could have occurred, or they have experience something where they felt weak and not control and so they come to school and take on this role as an aggressor as a way to lash out and a way to have a sense of control or to do to others what was done to them. They are trying to find their voice and identity too in a sense even at the expense of robbing another of theirs.
I shared how my daughters turned into bullies even if only for awhile do to them being bullied and not dealing with their feelings. They could be hanging around others and trying to impress them. They could see a child doing something that they wish they had the ability and/or courage to do and attack them-get good grades, etc). They also seek out children that they think are weaker than them and have “power” over them. Overall, I believe it is some type of emotional and mentally issues that they are not dealing with effectively.
We don’t acknowledge it or realize because it is hard to see when they are the aggressors, especially if it is your child that is being bullied, you only see the hurt from that angle but bullies are victims as well and they get overlooked for seeking and getting help. I have begun to see that there is a difference among bullies, some are pains just because and maybe don’t see what they are doing is wrong until it is pointed out because kids do tease, some are pains just because they are obnoxious, and some are pains because of the pain they are experiencing because of a hidden issue. That is not to say that one is better than another or has a better reason to be bullied, that is just to say, the approach may need to be different depending upon the situation.
Some consequences is of course suspension but I think depending upon the magnitude of the situation or as in an addition to that, other measures should be taken, like volunteering somewhere or within the school.
As I mentioned before, that they need counseling, that should be for certain. This isn’t a consequence but mentorship could be helpful.
President Obama appoints you as head of his new National Youth Bullying Campaign. What is the first thing you would do/implement in our schools?
I would implement a program within the school so that when bullying is suspected, no matter how big or small it would be reported to a department that would be within the school and each case would be investigated. This department would serve as the middle man between the bully, the bullied, teachers, principals, and parents and consist of offering help, resolution, prevention, elimination through different services.
What is your favorite TV show?
I don’t have a favorite but I like reruns from my oldie but goodie shows as well as some current favs like The Walking Dead and Blackish and cooking channel shows.
Tell us about your first book and where can it be purchased?
My first book is actually Cheer To Your Success: Women on the Rise and Owning their Destiny, which is a book collaborationby visionary Carol Sankar and it was my debut as an author. But My first book I did on my own, is A Letter To My Mother : A Daughter’s Perspective. After going through my process of forgiveness and sharing my story in Cheers To Your Success it helped healed me and I figured why not do my own book collaboration because I was hearing about so many women having issues, still having issues with their mothers and how it impacted them, where all of my life I thought I was alone in this struggle. So I thought if they had the opportunity to write to their mother it would help heal them. The book shares some deep personal testimony, struggles, and perspective of 11 women who I am grateful to for trusting me with their story especially on such a taboo topic, many of us, myself included experience a tremendous amount of backlash from our mothers, families, and others for sharing our testimonies. The book was a blessing not only to us but I know I received a lot of positive feedback from other women who thought they were alone and found themselves in some of the stories and also found hope on letting go and moving on. Both books are on Amazon and also on my site.
On the topic of Forgiveness in general, there are a lot of people walking around with past hurts and animosity towards someone that that are letting eat them up from the inside out. Why is it important that they let this go- which doesn’t mean they have to now go on a picnic with them- and forgive?
Forgiveness is so misunderstood which is why many stray away from it. It is important to forgive because it is important to your health, emotional and mental well-being, present and future state, relationships, purpose, etc. I am going to actually explain this from the opposite perspective. We hold on to un-forgiveness for many reasons. We are scared to be vulnerable. We don’t know how to process all of the pain that we have experience. We feel entitled to our feelings and feel the un-forgiveness if we are unforgiving then we have a reasons to be victims, to lash out, to separate ourselves from her, to argue with etc. Un-forgiveness gives us a false sense power when we are under the influence of our emotions, negative emotions at that. Un-forgiveness is not a defense mechanism. It is not a shield of protection. It is not healthy. It is not the answer to your problems.
Forgiveness does make you vulnerable but not to your offender but to yourself because you have to dig deep within yourself, confront issues, be honest about your feelings, what happened, and even any parts you may have taken part in, you have to most of accept that t has happened and that you cannot change it but you can learn from it. You don’t have to befriend or get back in the relationship with person. You don’t even need them in the picture to forgive them.
What’s next for you?
I am excited about some things to come. I am doing a huge rebrand of my business, huge to be launched next year. There will be a lot of changes, from the name, colors, logo but I still have the same mission helping people heal but a deeper purpose. Under my new brand I will have numerous services that allow me to go from just working with woman to other demographics and even specific issues.
I just finished my first solo book, which is a continuation to A Letter T My Mother, where that book highlighted the issues from many perspectives, this new book, A Daughter’s Struggle provides a solution for women from my personal perspective and experiences. It will be released early 2015 and will be incorporated with the rogram for adult daughters.
How can readers find out more information about you?
Anything to add?
I want to make it clear that when dealing with bullying it helps to gain a complete sight of the situation if you can so you know what you are up against. When being bullied it still boils down to someone usually deflecting their pain and/or issues on to you. But when you are able to grasp the situation fully you can see how to combat it. A racist or a sexist can be a bully and use bullying tactics but a bully doesn’t have to be a racist or a sexist to bully you.
My message overall for all people is that no matter what has happened to you or what you may be up against, you can take your pain and turn it into your purpose and that purpose isn’t defined by anyone but you and God. Nothing you have experience has to be in vain and with each occurrence find a lesson to learn from and apply it to the present so it will redirect your path for your future. Do not allow yourself to just be the person you became due to all that has happened to you (whether good or bad), keep growing, keep evolving, and allow yourself time to heal.
A Letter To My Bully: Sticks, Stones, and Words Do Hurt features seven young girls ages 9-14 years old, who decided to turn their pain into their purpose by writing an open letter to their bullies, all bullies. Taking full advantage of this opportunity, the girls courageously express and release all of their questions, resentment, hurt and anger that has been experienced from their perspective, while standing and affirming their confidence, identity, and power. As they turn their pain into their purpose they are also raising awareness and being advocates to an awesome cause.
A perfect complement to the letters is the expert contribution from five amazing women who have personal and/or professional experience concerning this issue, taking us into a more in-depth look into bullying.
This book collaboration informs and gives insight that is great for others being bullied but also an eye opener for bullies to reflect on the negative impact caused by their actions. A Letter To My Bully also serves as a remarkable tool and conversation starter for youth, parents, teachers, and anyone who works with our young girls. (from Amazon.com)Purchase Sharisa’s latest book here
Answers may have been condensed for clarity, relevance and length. All CWM interviews are conducted via email and presented as is otherwise. To read full interview go here.
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