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Earlier this year when I was speaking on the topic of Bullying at two different educational conventions, one of our ministry leaders shared the painful impact bullies have had on her family’s life. She confided the details of how bullying led her husband to leave his job and forced their 16-year-old daughter, Jacklyn, to leave her school.
Jacklyn’s brush with bullying started honorably when she told her math teacher that two of her classmates had cheated on a test. When confronted, however, the desperate duo turned on their teacher, alleging that she had trumped up the charges. To gain credibility, the teacher divulged that there’d been an eyewitness to the cheating. Teri, Jacklyn’s mom, felt that in naming her daughter as the source, the teacher “fed her to the wolves.”
Indeed, a feeding frenzy ensued. “The two girls made it their personal mission to terrorize Jacklyn,” Teri recalled. “They told the teacher and their friends that my daughter was the one who had lied. In volleyball, the girls would spike the ball at her head. After being injured during one game, she couldn’t play anymore. Immediately they said, ‘She’s just faking the injury to sabotage the team. After all, we know she is a liar.’”
For weeks, Jacklyn was in tears . . . but kept the problem from her parents, thinking that ignoring it would make it go away. “I wish I could say that the terror lessened once my husband and I got involved . . . but it didn’t. It was a torturous time for our entire family as we witnessed the truth of Proverbs 29:22 (NIV) playing out in our lives: “An angry person stirs up conflict, and a hot-tempered person commits many sins.”
“Before the year’s end, my husband—a coach at the school—changed jobs, and we found a new school for our daughter. I’m happy to say the new school provided a precious time of healing for all of us.
“Still, we’ll never forget this difficult chapter in our lives—especially the terrible pain that bullies can inflict and the fallout when bullying is mishandled or ignored.”
Bullying is any hostile physical, psychological, or verbal activity that involves an imbalance of power and is intended to harm, induce fear, and create terror. Typically, bullying is not a onetime act, but rather results in repeated harassment. Those who are bullied live with continual fear and expectation of future abuse, and they may even become bullies themselves in order to stop the pain. Indeed, all bullies have been bullied at some point in their past.
Bullying is responsible for more than 160,000 students across America missing class each day. Typically, both boy and girl bullies target someone who is perceived to be weaker physically or psychologically. They delight in causing pain and receive an emotional sense of reward, significance, or gratification from abusing others. Like animals sensing weakness, instinctively, they are aware that “. . . a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22 NIV).
More recently, cyberbullying has become the latest way to harass and hurt others through e-mail, instant messaging, texting, and social networking. These popular e-tools allow bullies to reach an audience of hundreds, even thousands, with the click of a button. (A devious student can send degrading, humiliating messages about another student to the entire class or student body.)
While Jacklyn’s story had a positive ending, many instances of bullying do not. Bullying can lead to a host of emotional problems, including depression, anxiety disorders, and, in extreme cases, suicidal ideation.2 This is why early detection and intervention are absolutely critical.
The following signs could indicate that your child is being bullied:
These classic signs can indicate that your child is bullying others:
Proverbs 24:1–2 (NIV) sums up the inner world of bullies:
“. . . for their hearts plot violence, and their lips talk about making trouble.”
So what can be done to stop child and teen bullying? Thankfully, quite a bit! To address this important question, I’ve prepared a “7 Steps to Stop Bullying” resource sheet just for you. I encourage you to read it . . . then pass it on to parents, youth workers, and educators in your community. Especially because Proverbs 22:3 (NIV) reminds us, “The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.”
We often think of children and teens when we think of “bullies”; however, I am well-aware that these masters of mayhem can manifest at any age. You see, I grew up in a home where my father was a type of bully. Because he was twice my mother’s age when they married, there was a huge imbalance of power (a factor bullies are quick to exploit). While I praise God that my dad changed shortly before his death, this change didn’t erase the wounds from years of verbal and emotional abuse.
To provide biblical hope and practical help, I have created a powerful resource to counter verbal and emotional abuse—the mainstays of bullies both young and old. When you order Victory over Verbal & Emotional Abuse from our Heart of the Matter series, you will receive:
I urge you to purchase two sets—one to keep and one to give or add to your personal “lending library.”
To learn more about Bullying and Verbal & Emotional Abuse, I also want you to be my guest at our upcoming Biblical Counseling Institute on Bullying. It’s being held on September 18 and September 22 at our Hope Center in Plano, Texas, and is free of charge, though registration is required. Visit www.HopeForTheHeart.org/bci for details.
Thank you for helping Hope For The Heart encourage the respectful, compassionate treatment of all people—young and old. In a world where our values are questioned and our morals maligned, your prayers and partnership mean more than I could ever fully express.
Yours in the Lord’s hope,
P.S. Please pray and ask God what He would have you do to be a whisper of hope in someone else’s life. Pray for hearts to be encouraged … for lives to be changed … and for God to magnify each whisper to fill the hearts of women and men around the world with hope. To learn more about how God is working around the world through Hope For The Heart and to hear the rest of Enkelejda’s heartfelt testimony go to www.hopefortheheart.com/whispersofhope. Prepare to be deeply encouraged!
If you’re on Facebook, I invite you to connect with me at www.Facebook.com/June.Hunt.Hope. And if you’re not, take it from me: You’re never too old to start! See you there!