Friday, 10 August 2018 09:50

Love those who bullied you?

Written by  Rev. Irene Cheung
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Irene Cheung

What was Jesus saying, was He endorsing “bullying”?

In Matthew 5:39, Jesus told his disciples “do not resist an evil person.  If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.”

Well, Jesus allowed himself to be bullied and submitted to the cruelest death penalty imposed upon him by his own created beings who rejected him.  “They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.” (Matthew 27:28-31).

Understanding the Harm of Bullying

Bullying statistics from Canadian Institutes of Health Research reported that Canada has the 9th highest rate of bullying in the 13-years-olds category on a scale of 35 countries and at least 1 in 3 adolescent students in Canada have reported being bullied recently.  47% of Canadian parents report having a child being victim of bullying.

Victims of bullying tend to have headaches, stomach aches, feelings of depressions and anxiety, poor school adjustment and performance, sleep difficulties, and suicide attempts.  Emotional and behavioral problems experienced by both bullies and victims may continue into adulthood resulting long-term negative outcomes including drop-out of school, antisocial actions, alcohol and drug abuse, gang association, criminal behaviour, etc.

Bullying is a major problem for Canadian children damaging their self-esteem enormously.  This should not be accepted nor tolerated as a normal way of growing up.  How can parents and church leaders help our children face this life challenge positively and also help them apply what Jesus teaches us from the Bible?

Bullying can be direct with open attack physically like hitting, punching, pushing, kicking, tripping, stealing or destroying things, or verbally such as spreading rumors, gossiping, criticising for being different, name calling.  It can be indirect including social exclusion or rejection.  With technology advancement, cyber bullying is increasing with the use of

of social media sites to post hurtful or threatening messages, pictures, videos, about a person or a group that reach a wide audience within seconds.

What children should know about bullying?

Children should be taught how to distinguish bullying from teasing.  Teasing can just be playful and has a joking tone of voice between friends, not repeated intentionally and not to hurt others purposely.  Children may tease as it can be fun to provoke a reaction, a quick outlet to express temporary frustration or disapproval.  But they should be watchful not to cause embarrassment to others.

On the contrary, bullying is ongoing and repeated over time on targeted victims.  This deliberate behaviour is a misuse of power aiming to hurt those who may be younger or weaker.  Isolated cases of physical or verbal fighting between children of similar physical and psychological strength may not be bullying.

Children should realize being bullied is not their fault and there is nothing wrong with them.  Being bullied can make life seem difficult and overwhelming.   It is a problem they should learn to stop as bullying will not just go away, and asking for help is not a sign of coward.

Bullying can happen just about anywhere.  Children should be taught they cannot change or control what a bully says or does, but they can take charge of their own lives and their feelings and response to bullying.  They should stay calm and can simply ignore the bully and walk away.  They can stand up for themselves by asking the bully to stop.  If the bully does not get a reaction, they may leave the targeted victim alone.  Bullies often pick on people who is by him/herself.  They corner people in places where adults cannot see them or are watching too many kids.  Walking or sitting with a friend may help.

Sometimes a bully need to be stopped by an adult and children should be encouraged to talk to their parents or other trusted adults.  Teachers can talk to the bully, give warnings and even punishment.  Bullies need to learn their mean actions have consequences.

Who are the bullies?

Sometimes people who bullies others are from dysfunctional families where discipline is inconsistent, and aggressive teasing or hurting each other is normal and recurring.   The bully may be picked on by older siblings or adults, so they think bullying is acceptable.  In turn they pick on smaller and younger kids who cannot defend themselves, and express his or her own frustration on them.

Bullies might have been abused physically, mentally or sexually by family members, causing their having a sense of powerlessness.  They may feel bad about themselves or have low self-worth, hurting or scaring others makes them feel powerful and in control.  They may want to get attention, feel popular, to be accepted by their peers or fit in a group they want to belong.  If they see a person as weak or scared, they may target that person even more.

Who else are involved?

In an act of bullying, there can be more than the bully or bullies and the one or those being bullied.  Taking the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-35) as an example, the robbers are the bullies, the man being harmed was the victim of bullying, the priest and Levite were bystanders and the Samaritan was the defender, who stood up for those being bullied.

Research in Canadian elementary schools has found that other students are present 85-88% of the time when bullying happens.   In most bullying incidents in the presence of a large group, bystanders usually do nothing, possibly worry they will make the situation worse or risk becoming the next victim.  Some may have reinforced the bullying by watching and laughing, or inciting the bully.  In these situations when the bully faces no obstruction from people around, he or she assumes that everyone approves of his or her aggressive behaviour to continue.  Often it is the bully’s ability to create the impression that he or she has the support of the majority present, that instills the fear of “speaking out”” in protesting the bullying activities being observed by the group.

Despite the large number of individuals that do not agree with bullying practices, which was confirmed by studies that 83% of students said seeing someone being bullied made them feel uncomfortable, there are very few that will intervene on behalf of the victim.  However, bullying is a vicious cycle, bystanders’ silence would just indirectly encourage bullying to continue.  When students are in the crowd, each hopes someone else will take care of the problem.  When they are unsure about what an event means, they tend to observe the reactions of other people.  When no one else seems to be alarmed and reacted to offer help, they are more likely to keep to themselves as well.

Through strategic awareness promotion, bystanders can be persuaded to become defenders by taking a stand and learn to stop the bullying wisely.  One of the crucial education among children and youth is to stop bullying before it starts.  For instance, if they see someone else being bullied, offer to stand by them, this may get the bully to stay away and help the victim feel better.  With more people on the side of the victim, the harder it is for the bully to hurt them.  Research confirms when another student stands up for a student who is being bullied, the bullying will stop within 10 seconds, more than half of the time.

Would our children be motivated to follow Jesus’ command to show mercy on those being bullied and be their neighbors (Luke 10:36-37)?

Mercy and forgiveness for the bullies?

Jesus said, “so in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12).   Would those bulling others want to be bullied also?

Jesus demands us to love our enemies.  In Matthew 5:43-48, he says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.  He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.  If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?  Are not even the tax collectors doing that?  And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others?  Do not even pagans do that?  Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Bullies also need care and forgiveness, which most likely are what they lack and want most.  Friendship is an effective way to stop bulling.  The bullies should experience love and acceptance, being helped to understand why they want to hurt other peoples as they may be having trouble at home, or feeling lonely.

It may not be easy to love and forgive those who are mean to us.  But “we love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).  Love is the only solution to get rid of hatred.  Our children should be led to become “children of our Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:45a) and to experience God’s saving grace and unconditional love.   They should learn to pray asking God to forgive their debts as they also have forgiven their debtors (Matthew 6:12) and in turn share God’s love with the bullies.

Psalm 139

David’s prayer in Psalm 139 can be a good biblical passage for parents to go through with their children about bullying.

Children should be reminded of their precious identity in God.  They are made in God’s image and are wonderfully and fearfully made by the Almighty Creator who knows them intimately even before they were born.

They should keep asking God to cleanse their hearts and minds, stop them from doing evil and seek wisdom to respect and love others.

(the author is an pastor of RHCCC)

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