He told the story with a grin on his face: “I was being chased by this guy (I can’t even remember his name), and my lip was already bleeding. I knew that if I didn’t think quickly, I was going to be pummeled into the dirt, so I took my belt off. Back when I was in high school, we all wore belt buckles, so I had a fairly decent defense. So I turned, and faced him, and swung with all my might. He never bullied me again.” For once, he had won.
That story comes from my father. He told me the story when I was in high school, at a time I was struggling to find an individual identity. We’ve all been through high school, so we’re well aware of the many barriers that come our way at such a vulnerable time in life. We dealt with drugs, alcohol, sex, or most importantly: spirituality. And I believe that most of us can share a story about bullying or being bullied. That story was his version, recorded in the 1970’s.
The problem of bullying is not a topic that has surfaced over the past 3–5 years. But with the inclusion of social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, and Four Square, the subject matter has taken an entirely new angle, one that has many leaders, counselors, and parents scratching their heads, wondering where to even begin. Every year, there are at least two or three national stories about a suicidal victim who has ended their life because of bullying. And those are just the national stories.
Bullying should be a very serious topic for all Christian leaders.
How do we approach the subject?
How do we shine light to such a dark topic?
Where do we begin?
I think one of the most important steps in the right direction to helping students is not the introduction of a new program, or leading multiple Bible study lessons on the matter (although those things do help). Students need and want to be heard. If you see someone in your group struggling (bullied, depression, frustration), they are quietly begging you for conversation. Take that student out for lunch, for multiple weeks in a row; most students won’t open up until they’re comfortable with you. Invest in them. Pray continually for them, for God to open up their hearts. Give them scripture passages of encouragement (not correction). Be that shoulder they can turn to for tears, and that text message they know they can send without judgement. Listening to a student before correcting a student is the relational example Jesus set for us. Story after story displays Jesus listening to the lost, the least, and the last. But those categories aren’t simply social rankings, or statistics of a program. These are real human beings, waiting to be hear. Can we begin with that?
- What are helpful methods you’ve used in your ministry for bullying?
- When is the last time you dealt with the subject publicly (in a Bible study or youth group)?
- Are you unconsciously promoting a bullying atmosphere in your groups by not dealing with bullies present in your group?