While shopping at the mall one weekend, I stopped to look at some jewelry. On the other side of the display I overheard two saleswomen talking. I wouldn't have lingered except they were discussing the bullying that goes on in our schools. These early 20-something-year-olds were disgusted about how a seventh grade girl had been accosted by some other girls at school. The bullies had drawn lines with markers on the girl's face to connect her "dots" of acne.
My blood boils when I hear stories like this because bullying isn't just kidding around. Bullying is cruel behavior that can do irreparable damage.
I'm sure you've experienced some bullying along the way and have probably participated in some of it as I did as a kid. When I was in school, though, we didn't call it bullying. It was referred to as "making fun of someone." Laughing at another's expense.
No matter what you call it...
It can be harmful.
Lingering at the jewelry counter, my heart broke for this pre-teen girl who is just starting back to school with these cowardly classmates. Yes. Bullies are cowards. Kids who bully have usually been bullied by other kids or adults. They do harmful things just to get a reaction from their peers. Any response is better than no response in their minds-no matter who gets hurt in the process.
Middle school can be the worst. It's hard enough trying to cope with and understand all of the hormonal and body changes happening, but for others to put a spotlight on those changes and laugh? Well, I don't have words.
In kindergarten, my daughter, Madison, came home one day all excited to tell us what a child with autism had accomplished in their class. He had worked and worked on reciting his name and address, and today he got it! She was genuinely thrilled for him.
When Madison was in first grade, she asked if we could bring some shoes to school for a student who only wore old and torn up shoes. But because she didn't want her classmate to feel embarrassed, she asked to just let the teacher give them to her in private.
Only by the grace of God did middle school not change her heart of compassion. She continued to reach out to those who seemed to struggle with fitting in. She invited them over to our house. She sat with them at lunch. She included them in activities with her friends. It took tremendous courage to show such kindness to these kids, especially during the awkward years. Her heart was always big enough to make another friend.
As her heart grew with compassion, so did her sphere of friends and influence. Though many of those early childhood friendships have come and gone for various reasons, to this day Madison has maintained a unique and strong group of life-long friends.
When this school year, 2018-2019 began, so did our girl's teaching career as a Kindergarten teacher. She exemplifies Christ-compassion, kindness, and bravery every day. And I know for a fact that those she teaches feel loved and very special. Sure, she had her moments growing up, but she is my hero in the kindness department.
The Psalmist, David, was bullied by a king. He was even hunted by King Saul to be killed. David spent a lot of time running for his life. He eventually came to a low place where he thought his enemies were winning and there was no where else for him to turn. He had no refuge, no safe place to escape from his accusers. No one seemed to notice how much he was hurting, and no one seemed to care. His soul ached as he expressed in Psalm 142:4.
Jesus was bullied, too. The religious leaders of the day were constantly trying to trap Him so they could get rid of Him. You could say, "They bullied Jesus to death." Not because anything was wrong with Him, but because they couldn't find anything wrong with Him. Since they couldn't trap Him with His own words, they made stuff up about Him and stirred up the crowd to hate Him too. That's what bullies do.
Social media has become a modern day playground for bullies. Make sure you have access to who your child is talking to and what your child is posting, watching, surfing, etc., and check daily.
Are people saying things about your classmates, colleagues, or friends that you know isn't true? How are you interacting with the bullies of influence? How are you dispensing soul care to those around you today who seem to be on the outside looking in? Do you know someone being chased or bullied, threatened or stalked? Do you know someone who just needs a safe place to rest?
Be that refuge for someone today. Be brave. Eat lunch with the mistreated. Be brave. Speak to the person sitting alone. Look for ways to include those on the fringes of life and, be brave.
Be Jesus-brave! Bravery trumps bullying every single time. My daughter reminded me of this lesson so often, and I'm forever grateful.
Whatever we do for the least of these, we have done it unto Christ. (Matthew 25:31-45)