The other day, Eldest and a friend came home from school upset because a group of boys had ganged up on them. The verbal abuse was upsetting, but fortunately not physical. It brought back memories of my own childhood. But it also reminded me of a woman I met a while back, Sylvia*.
Sylvia was very well acquainted with bullying. The granddaughter of a former slave, Sylvia, with her gorgeous dark skin, grew up in the southern United States before the Civil Rights Movement. Bullying was not only intense and often deadly, it was socially acceptable.
BUT, Sylvia did not speak with hatred or anger about her past. She spoke with peace as she recounted her parents’ reaction to a particularly painful moment in her childhood. They did not react with hate or anger. Instead, they prayed God would forgive the other person. They prayed for their own hearts to be filled with Jesus’ love, forgiving just as Jesus forgave others. For more on Sylvia, click here.
I’ve learned a lot about bullying since that conversation. My autistic daughter has been bullied by guests in my own home, and Eldest has faced multiple interactions with bullies, too.
Bullying will never go away, but there are ways to get through it.
8 Lessons I’ve Learned Over the Years:
1. See life from another perspective. Most bullies, especially kids, aren’t bad people. They just need guidance. Eldest and I often discuss what might have motivated the other person to act with such hatred. Then we pray for them. See more here.
2. Hurt feelings are normal, but retaliation won’t help. Yes, sometimes people have to protect themselves from danger, but my karate sensei always said the first rule of self-defense is to run. He also said to stay in groups. There is safety in numbers.
3. Sometimes a change in environment is a good answer. In middle school, bullies surrounded me. When I announced that I would never set foot in that school again, my parents listened and found me another school. That opened my mind eyes to the next point:
4. The world is a bigger place than it seems. Though bullied by a teacher and students, I was not defined by the narrow views of the people at my high school. I had friends at other schools. I attended a church on the other side of town, I volunteered at a retirement home, and I was involved in organizations outside of school. My world was a big place.
5. Denial does not help. When Eldest mentioned another girl at school had hit her a few weeks ago, I wrote the counselor and kept a copy for myself. I was not going to let that go. Thankfully, her school was wonderful and the other girl has gotten help. But another time it didn’t happen that way. Several other moms and I had to press the principal to deal with the issue. See here for the rest of that story.
6. God cares about bullying. The other day when Eldest and her friend were upset about the boys picking on them, I told them a story: (Story from 2 Kings 2:23-25.)
“Do you know what happened to the 42 young boys who made fun Elisha, God’s prophet, for being bald?”
“He asked Jesus to forgive them?” they asked, rolling eyes.
“He prayed, yes, but after he prayed two bears came out of the woods and mauled all 42 boys.”
The girls sat up straighter. “Cool! Really?”
I nodded. “Yes, God cares about bullying.” I did go on to stress they don’t need to pray for wild bears to maul all bullies, but I wanted them to remember God is above all things on this earth. He sees everything. He cares about everything, especially when his children are bullied.
7. Pray. I loved hearing Sylvia describe praying for the people that hated her so much. The peace in her face spoke volumes. Is it easy to pray an “enemy?” No. But it makes all the difference.
8. Forgive. Is this easy? No. Bullying affects people at a soul level, which is why forgiveness is so important. Do we forgive because the other person deserves it? No. We forgive because Jesus tells us to and because he died for all our sins, the bully’s sins included.
If you are being bullied or if you just need someone to talk to we have mentors available. Just use this form to send in a request and your mentor will contact you, usually in a few days.
*not her real name
For more on bullying, check out these resources: