I am a nanny. I take care of a sweet, innocent 6-year-old boy. He is full of energy, but at the same time he is tender, empathetic, and caring. I will never forget when he came home from school sad one day, and told me that (…..), a mean boy from school, had pinched him and knocked him over. And it wasn’t the first time this had happened. He was only 4 and in preschool. It astounded me that already, at 4 years old, he was having to deal with bullies in the classroom. There were already “class mean kids.” For some reason, some kid had decided he was going to single out my sweet Jason and try to hurt him. Bullying is an issue that begins long before we really understand it.
Jason and I went over what we do with bullies. “We stop, find a teacher, and tell them what happened. And we try to be nice to the bullies because maybe they are sad and need a friend.” These are the actual words of a 4-year-old boy! His innocent reaction to bullying is to stop, tell a higher authority, and love the person who has attacked him.
Bullying doesn’t end in the classroom – it continues to be an issue our entire adult lives. It may not come in the form of pinching or knocking someone over in the playground, but it does exist. There are people who will always try to abuse, manipulate, mock, or hurt others to make themselves feel better or to get ahead. This happens in the workplace, online, in social settings, and sometimes (unfortunately) even within the Church.
Somewhere along the way, we lose the innocent reaction that kids like Jason possess. To stop, tell a higher authority, and love the person who has hurt us. We instead try to gain revenge, to get even, or to smear their name. Alternatively, there are others who simply crumple and become a doormat, completely excusing the bully’s behavior. Neither of these approaches is correct. Jason is right. When we encounter a bully, we simply need to stop, tell a higher authority, and love the person who has hurt us. Though this list may seem juvenile, it is exactly this simplistic, childlike approach that we should take.
n any bullying situation, it is important that, when possible, we remove ourselves from the situation. If this is a friend who takes advantage of you and causes hurt or heartache, perhaps for a short time put some distance in your relationship. If, within your workplace, there is a certain location or situation where a bully tends to make trouble, try to avoid it. This is obviously not possible all of the time as adults, but it is surprising how much more control we frequently have over what we expose ourselves too.
Tell a higher authority
If there is a worldly higher authority in your bullying situation, make them aware of what is going on. Maybe this is simply having a conversation with your pastor or speaking to your boss. This is important as toxic situations like this need to be addressed by leadership. However, we all know that the ultimate higher we can raise our concerns with is God.
Scripture often addresses those who have been wronged or hurt. Romans 12:17-19 encourages the believer to refrain from revenge, because God is vigilant “Never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God,” (v. 19) is the advice given to a Christian who has suffered at the hand of his enemies. We must refrain from simply trying to get back at people, but to bring our concerns and our cares before the Lord, and trust Him to exact justice. Does this mean that everyone who has wronged us will suffer horrible pain at the hands of the Lord? No! But it does mean that all wrongs will be righted and that God will take care of His children. He does not think lightly of our pain!
The Bible is clear: we must love our enemies. Romans says “bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them…repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all…if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:14, 17-18, 20-21).
Our responsibility is to foster peace and to give honor, even when it is not due. Even to those who have wronged us, bullied us, and hurt us, we are called to demonstrate love and compassion. This makes sense in an innocent child’s mind, but it becomes harder to understand, as we get older. It’s true…those who are acting in such a loveless way are lacking in love. They have a deficit of what we as Christians have in abundance. We have a calling to share this love with them, even when it is undeserved. After all, we received God’s love and that love we do not deserve.
Though this is a simple process, it is a wise one. I want to make clear that this post is not intended for those who are suffering in abusive relationships. Though it is true that God’s call to love our enemies does not change for any circumstance, there are circumstances where the most loving thing to do for yourself and the abuser is to leave and make no room for that person in your life. This post is rather intended for those who have suffered the occasional bully incident. Just as Jason suggest, we must stop, tell someone in charge, and love the bullies. Get out of the situation if you can, bring your concerns before the Lord, and love those who have hurt you with a reckless love!