Consider these three stories. . . .
A peewee football coach is fired after bullying an 8-year-old boy. His mother says the coach bullied her son both on and off the field, even posting demeaning comments about him on Facebook.
A sixth-grade honor student is placed in a medically-induced coma after classmates strike him multiple times in the face, fracturing his nose and leaving him bleeding on the ground. They’ve been bullying the boy mercilessly for months.
A 14-year old wakes up early one Thursday morning and leaves a note for his family saying he’s gone for a walk and will be back soon. Minutes later he kills himself with the gun he borrowed from a friend—to protect himself and his family from local high school students who’ve been threatening and bullying him relentlessly. Two weeks earlier, these bullies jumped him on his way home from school, beat him up, and then posted a video of their malicious attack on the Internet.
Bullying is not always easily recognized.
Fights between friends may simply be just that—friendly fights. Not so with bullying. Bullying refers to repeated, hostile behavior toward a specific person or group, often because of their unique qualities, characteristics, or behaviors. The purpose of bullying is to belittle and exclude others in order to dominate, exercise power, and maintain control.
Most of the time, we associate bullying with middle school and high school students. But are you aware that bullying targets a wide variety of people, not just children and teens? Bullying impacts adults as well . . . as is the case of domestic bullying and workplace bullying.
This year, a 40-year-old model in Australia was a victim of cyberbullying and ultimately died by suicide—now known as bullycide.
The Bible gives this eye-opening description of bullies who hunt down their victims:
“In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak,
who are caught in the schemes he devises” (Psalm 10:2).
Few people know how to respond to bullying.
Children tend to freeze in the face of their tormentors. Most bystanders watch fearfully in silence from the sidelines, and some eventually join the bully. Those who are victims may try to act tough or retaliate, but the attacks only get worse.
Of the three groups—the bullies, the bullied, and the bystanders—those with the most power to cause the most change are the bystanders. Learning how to respond assertively can curtail bullying. The Bible says, “You have not given me into the hands of the enemy but have set my feet in a spacious place” (Psalm 31:8).
Parents, teachers, and other adults can help both the bullied and the bystanders by learning to stand up and stop bullying by following these biblical guidelines:
…how God designed each person to be different and unique. Let them know that differences aren’t something to be feared, but rather are to be accepted and valued. Teaching children and teens to appreciate differences will help them grow in character. “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17).
…respect, kindness, consideration, and self-control in all of your relationships. Be aware of how you communicate and how you relate to your spouse and other family members, as well as how you respond when dealing with people who annoy, disappoint, or frustrate you. “In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned” (Titus 2:7–8).
…your teen’s texts and social media interactions. Set guidelines concerning blogging and social media sites that will keep your teen safe on message boards, blogs, school-sponsored sites, and other social media. Pray daily for protection from bullying for all children and teens, as well as adults. Realize that bullies need to be confronted, challenged, and shown how to change by someone in authority:
“Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins” (James 5:20).
#4: Take responsibility
…for preventing and stopping bullying. With your children, emphasize their need to stand up for others. “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed” (Isaiah 1:17).
…with your community to prevent bullying and to protect children and teens. Get involved and enlist help in the community to prevent and end bullying. “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:12).
…your children to stand up for themselves and others. Ignoring bullying communicates silent approval of it. Bullying can be stopped by learning to intervene. “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).
…the heart of your child or teen—whether the bully or the one bullied. Parental involvement is crucial. Guide both bullies and their victims toward forgiveness, healing, and changed behavior. “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31).
For far too long, far too many have looked the other way or relegated bullying as “just a part of growing up.” But bullying is abuse—and there is no excuse for abuse!
So, what will you do? My prayer is that you will stand up to bullying of any kind—and do what you can to STOP it.
Yours in the Lord’s hope,
If you’re on Facebook, I invite you to connect with me at Facebook.com/June.Hunt.Hope. And if you’re not, take it from me: You’re never too old to start! See you there!