Born without arms and legs, evangelist Nick Vujicic shared his own experiences of being bullied as a child and how he was able to overcome the trials during a webcast Thursday focused on countering the bullying epidemic in the U.S.
"Not only did I look different, but I had a lot of unwanted attention," said Vujicic, of his elementary school days, as he began the webcast. "People were looking at me, laughing at me, calling me names. And obviously I couldn't be involved in a lot of the things that everyone else was doing."
Nick, founding president and CEO of the non-profit organization Life Without Limbs, said the free webcast from a classroom at the Oaks Christian School in Westlake Village, Calif., was in connection with the release of his book, Stand Strong, coming out on April 15.
The book is meant for teenagers, but everyone will benefit from it, he said.
During his youth, Vujicic began to wonder, "Who am I? Why am I here?" He said he eventually found the answers. "But there are times when circumstances do not change because of your prayers," he said. A believer should seek "the perfect will of God."
He explained that when a person can't change their circumstances, "you have to change your inside, your mind, your spirit, you heart... your values."
A person's values do not depend on what they have or what they do not have, he explained. "There's never been another you, and there would never ever be another you… You are here for a reason, and God indeed does have a mighty plan for you," Vujicic said.
The biggest bully in the world is the devil, the Australian evangelist, 31, said. "He's nothing; he just tries to get us down. I just want you to know this, you can overcome ... any form of bullying."
To stand strong against bullying, the first thing one needs to do is know the truth of one's value, he stressed.
"I was looking for my identity; I was looking for my place in the world. I was ready to do whatever it took to fit in," he recalled, adding he failed to recognize his identity as a child of God. It was difficult, he said. He was the only child in a wheelchair, and of course the only one without limbs. "No one knew what was going on, and no one could really understand me... or help."
While trying to deal with bullying, his first hope came with the realization that, he says, "I'm weak but He is strong; my Dad, my Heavenly Father has a plan for me... I don't need to change anything about my physical appearance; I need to change who I am."
Vujicic readutload one of the questions: "How did you hold onto God and His truth when people bullied you and said bad things about you?"
"Whatever is planted grows if there's soil, water and sun," he explained. "Different seeds are planted in our lives, and if we nurture them, they'll grow. If a bad seed comes in, a seed of lie, and if we don't eradicate that seed out of our heart and mind, then it will grow and grow, he said. If you don't know what truth is, how will you know what a lie is?
"Don't get swayed by people's judgment of you," he advised. "Do not think you need more money or you need to be smarter in your pursuit of happiness," he added.
Vujicic said he believes there needs to be a bully defense system for young people suffering from abuse. The system includes a group of people who love, encourage, and remind the victim of the truth of who they are.
"If your bullies see it's not working you, they may actually give up on picking you," he said.
During the webcast, another person asked, "How can I get away from bullying when it seems everywhere?"
"We cannot eradicate evil, but it's a kind of temptation to believe in a lie, to get discouraged," Vujucic said. "Resist that. Ask God to help you every day, "to be a light and a beacon of love" for all the people around you to know there's so much more to this life than bullying or being picked on it. "It starts with us, be the change that you want to see."
When asked about how someone can stop caring about what others think, he said that when he was a child and people were teasing him, he never thought he would get married or have a job. "But that was not true. Let your faith override the fear of what others think of you," he said. He encouraged listeners to read Psalm 139 and other passages from the Bible. "Take time to pray to God," he said.
When a young person thinks they can be harmed physically in any way they must tell an adult and get out of that situation, Vujicic said. "If it's a verbal, emotion, mental or spiritual attack, sometimes – not always – it helps when you tell the bully to stop because it hurts," Nick said.
Nick answered the question with a question, "Does it help?"
He was asked, "Do you believe in giving bullies a second chance? If they changed their ways, would you be their friends?"
"Absolutely," Nick replied. "Don't I fail God every day? When we do something wrong in God's eyes, it is as bad as bullying."
Nick was also asked about the most important piece of advice he'd give to someone being bullied. "Jesus loves you, and He knows how you're feeling... Take one day at a time," he replied.
According to Vujicic's publicist, his new book will help readers learn how to: create a safety zone within yourself; establish strong values that no bully can shake; deal with cyber bullies; develop a spiritual foundation to stay strong against bullying; monitor your emotions and control your response to them; and help others who are being bullied.
Vujicic, a motivational speaker who has shared with hundreds of thousands of people around the world his story of hope, shared recently with an "Oprah's Lifeclass" audience that the power of faith in action is what has helped him persevere despite his physical limitations.