This last Sunday school we had a major discussion about bullying. It wasn’t planned. It came indirectly and then wouldn’t go away. The kids in my class had deep wounds and the more they talked the more apparent that became. So, halfway into the hour I scratched the original lesson and we talked about bullies.
The following is what I taught (and also what I would now add to my lesson). If your kids are struggling with bullies, whether they are the bullies, bystanders or victims, this is what I would tell them.
I have never met a kid that wasn’t a bully in some way, at some time. Whether they have bullied a young sibling, a classmate, a cousin, or even an animal, all kids have been bullies! On the other hand, I’ve also never met a kid who wasn’t bullied at one point in time. So here is some food for thought for both bullies and victims.
The first thing that every kid needs to understand is who they are dealing with. Children aren’t animals, but they are creatures – created in God’s image! Now, if I walked up to a painting in a museum and started mocking and abusing it, my contempt isn’t really for the painting is it? The canvas and paint didn’t arrange itself, did it? I am really mocking the painter.
The bully who targets another kid because he is too tall, too short, disabled, dumb or ugly, he is really mocking God’s design. So, if kids don’t like the way someone else looks, they should be encouraged to take their complaints to the Designer. That is right, go ahead bullies, tell God what a terrible job He did designing the boy with freckles.
But let’s not be too harsh with bullies, since at one time or another we have all engaged in bullying. Let’s just warn bullies of the danger they are in mocking God. For obvious reasons parents fret over the safety of the victims, but bullies themselves are the ones playing with fire.
Every bully needs to hear the story of the Bully and the Bear Cub: There once was a bully throwing rocks at a helpless bear cub. At first people felt sorry for the little cub, but when they saw the angry mother bear approaching from the woods, they suddenly felt a little compassion for the bully, who was about to reap what he’d sown.
Know that bullies who abuse others are in a far greater danger than the bully who abused the bear cub. They are mocking the children of the almighty God! Let’s pray for bullies that they come to repent before they grow into wicked adults and face the wrath of their victims’ heavenly Father.
The great sin of bullies is pride. They imagine themselves better than others. In fact they see others so low that they don’t mind ridiculing them just to pass the time of day.
Bullies treat what Christ died for as a little plaything, used to amuse them. Bullies need to know that they are extremely valuable, so valuable that God sacrificed His Son to redeem them, BUT not so valuable that they’ve earned a right to use and abuse their classmates.
Victims have their own temptations. When the entire school seems to agree that you are worthless, it is easy to believe them. But as soon as the victims concede to their bullies, and begin to loath their own bodies, their hair color, their height, their weight, aren’t they now committing the same sin as their bullies? By ridiculing their body’s design, aren’t they also really criticizing the Designer? They have now joined the bullies, mocking God.
The Bible says to praise God, for we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” No matter how cruel the bullies get, victims must resist the temptation of putting the opinion of snot-nosed 9-year-olds over the Word of our God, who tells them that they are “wonderfully made.” If God says you are “wonderfully made” that is the end of it; the bullies at school are just wrong, and you must’n buy into their lies.
The other sin, and perhaps the greater one, is hate. Some children turn to hate as a coping mechanism. They use it to harden their hearts, but there is no need to hate bullies (remember, if you are honest, you are one yourself from time to time). Turn to hate and you lose; you can’t maintain the moral high ground by giving yourself over to hate because God cannot bless hate. So, don’t you hate yourself or others.
Most of what I have said, you already knew. The hard part is now figuring out how to put it all into practice. Let me start by saying, the real world isn’t like school.
If a bully approaches me on the street and calls me names, I can walk away and I’ll probably never see him again. If he assaults me, I can lay him out, then call the police and have him arrested. That is because in the real world people are allowed to defend ourselves.
Believe it or not, most schools have a zero-tolerance policy toward self-defense. “Just tell a teacher,” they say. That is easy for them to say when they aren’t the ones cornered in a locker room, isn’t it. The policy is wrong. You know this and most likely your parents do too. You have a right to protect yourself; don’t let the schools tell you otherwise. Now they may suspend you, or even expel you for fighting back, but if you are in serious danger your life is way more important – seriously!
In Sunday school, one boy asked, “But what if they don’t fight you, but they follow you around and make fun of you everyday and you tell a teacher but she doesn’t do anything? How can I stop the bully?”
There is no secret sauce. I wanted to tell the boy to just ignore the kid, but that rarely ever works. Instead I told him the truth, the terrible truth.
He will just have to endure and it is going to be painful.
That is the trouble with school, there is no escaping your tormentors and schools can’t effectively protect you. The best I can say is don’t lose hope. There is life after school and those bullies won’t have any power over you forever. I promise. Just ask your parents. Persevere! Don’t give in. (That or convince your parents to homeschool you).
The Bible says, “You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” (Matt. 10:22)
If you are being targeted it isn’t because you are worthless. Remember, Jesus was bullied and he was perfect. So bullies are notoriously out-of-touch. Your value comes from God. If you had no value, your parents wouldn’t work so hard to care for you. More importantly, if you were really worthless, Jesus Christ wouldn’t have died for you. The fact that He did should tell you everything you need to know about your worth! You are loved!
So, don’t let the bullies get you down!
Finally, don’t be a bystander. As a Christian you’ve got no right to sit back and watch as other kids bully someone else. I am fully aware that stepping in can be messy, even dangerous. You will probably become the new target, but Christians are okay with that because we love other people just like we love ourselves.
And make no mistake, there is no neutral ground. You ignore the suffering of others, you own some of the guilt.
Think of the story of the good Samaritan.
Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:30-37)
Kids, it isn’t likely that you will see a beaten man on the side of the road, but you do see bullied kids everyday in school. That is your opportunity to do something big. Be courageous! Love others. I promise you won’t regret it!
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Photo credit: Bob Jagendorf / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)
This is a great post. As a clinical psychologist, I talk to children (and adults) a lot about bulling. I will be using the points in this post the next time I speak about bulling.
Thanks Corine! Glad you liked it.
I love the honesty in this post. I agree that when kids are ready (old enough or mature enough in the eyes of their parents), it’s best to be honest about these kinds of things rather than sugar-coating it. No surprises that way. I can appreciate that, and I hope my kids will, too. Pinning this post now. Thanks for the thoughtful approach. (Visiting from The Mommy Club link up.)
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Julie V. says
This is a great post!
I will add, since I actually know someone who has PTSD from intensive bullying at school, when it gets really bad the victim should not just put up with it. In fact, parents can sue schools for not protecting their kids from extreme bullying. If my kids ever had problems that big, I wouldn’t hesitate to move them to another school–though I would try lots of other things first.
For a year I was actually a teacher’s aide. I tried hard to watch out for bullying and would often take time to discuss it with the 6th graders (in general when I had charge of the class). While no one was getting beat up or their lunch stolen, I do know that despite my efforts there were still incidents of bullying.
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Christopher James says
Kids should really be educated about bullying so they know how to handle it.
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I think that there are two kinds of bullying – the one which comes from pride, and the other which is possibly more insidious, which comes from fear of inadequacy or just plain fear. I think the variety which comes from fear may be a bit rarer in our schools, but it’s existence can’t be denied and it could be quite harmful to assume that there is ONLY the pride type, when you could be dealing with the fear type.