Ashes: Overcoming Bullying – It starts with Us

February 14, 2018 | | Stewardship

“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”– Matthew 5:44-45

What did I do wrong? Why is this happening? Where can I go to hide? These are just some of the questions someone asks themselves when they feel bullied. When we hear the word “bully” we think about the child in elementary, middle or high school. Although children often have to endure being bullied, or being picked on because they may be “different” in the eyes of the other person, adults encounter bullying as well.

There are several types – physical, verbal, social and cyber, and each brings physical or emotional damage. I often ask myself when I see or hear of someone being bullied, who needs to put an end to this? What needs to happen to make this stop? It’s simple, US!  We talk quite often about acceptance in today’s society and we need to go back to the question – “You talk the talk, but do you walk the walk”?

In my local congregation, I serve as one of the youth leaders and each year we take our youth to the Mid-Winter Advance at Keswick. A few years back, the theme for the weekend was “Words” and I was asked if I would be interested in doing a workshop for the various youth groups that attend. I was excited to do so as this has weighed heavy on my heart, watching and hearing about how kids deal with situations in school and at home. I had my wife trace my outline on a long piece of paper to show the image of a body and placed it up on the wall in the room. One of the questions I asked in the workshop was to provide some words that are heard in school and used to possibly hurt someone’s feelings. For each word, I ripped a piece of the paper that represented the arm, leg, etc., until at the end it showed broken pieces. I asked them to do the reverse and say what encouraging or apologetic words we can use toward someone. As they shouted out the words, I taped the outline back together. I explained to the youth that even though we gave the person positive words and the body was reconstructed, the scars and damage remained. It starts with US!

As adults we often do the same thing; getting ourselves wrapped up in gossip, sometimes not even realizing it, even in the church setting. We watch parents yelling and causing fights at their children’s sport games because they are trying to bully the opposing team. We often hear about fights in the street with people getting mugged or yelling racial slurs because they might be “different.” We hear others talking about someone else’s physical appearance. Every day, we watch our political system on both sides take aim at each other because they don’t see eye to eye. And we watch all the Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other means of social media from those holding high powers all the way down, talk about each other in ways that are unacceptable.

What if we no longer had to hide behind the false strength of popularity, good looks, quick put-downs, or gossip? Or having to be the funniest, or the toughest? What if our strength and confidence came from God and his unconditional love for us? What if, instead of relying on our own strength, we actually asked God to go before us and with us into each day, each problem, and each fear? What if we stood up to those who are doing this and showed them the error of their ways? It starts with US!