On Saturday 7/26, I attended a rally in Bessemer hosted by Robin Kirby Gatto aimed at stopping all bullying, not just in schools. Robin is a powerful woman of God who has called me a "mighty warrior." I had been looking forward to this for several weeks and was not disappointed. I'm still a little shook up by this event. It was a 2 part session with deep Biblical teaching followed by a period of worship. If it becomes an annual event, I will be back next year.
There is really no true profile of a stereotypical bully. Some are "D" and "F" students who are borderline delinquent but others are honor students. One of the worst bullies in my school graduated #2 in my high school class. Robin offered an important reminder that it is NOT the people that are bullies that we should be fighting but rather the demonic spirits of bullying. I will admit that I gave into hatred of those who bullied me. Aside from church, I really did not know God at the time. Acting out in violence was never considered but I did fantasize about hurting those bullies and I had an enemy list on my computer at home. In my view, there are 3 spirits in particular that we must pray and speak out against:
#1 Arrogance- Those with this spirit are often good students and/or great athletes. Let's say that a guy isn't real athletic/physically strong or a girl who is overweight. He or she may also be less intelligent or may not dress in preppy clothes. There are plenty of bullies who simply believe that they are better than most everyone else and have the right to put other people down because they are already on a "lower level." I can observe this spirit in the adult world as well as people feel that it is beneath their dignity to reach out to people in a lower social class. Racism still exists and it makes me sick that people will judge others by their skin tone rather than what is in their heart. Also, some people who would never think of using any ethnic slurs will call me a "hick" without a second thought. We are all made in the image of God and have inherent value regardless of whether you are from Mountain Brook, Gardendale or Ensley.
#2-Insecurity- These are the bandwagon jumpers and are often "average" types who aspire for more "cool" status. There was one guy in particular who was on my basketball team one year and we got along pretty well. Then, a few of his friends started picking on me so he not only joined in but became the worst of anyone in the school. I hated him back then but now realize that the real enemy was the attitude that scoring points with the "cool" crowd by putting others down was a good thing. If you are willing to stoop that low to buy friendships, you've obviously got some issues. For the record, when I did make some friends on the track team and made almost all A's in high school, he decided that I was an okay guy after all
#3-Fear- This is the BIG one. These types are usually NOT good students and are often subjected to bullying themselves either in school or at home. Indeed, several of the kids who bullied me came from broken homes and may have been subject to abuse. I can see how kids who are constantly walking in fear may feel empowered by putting others down. Robin said that only 20% bullied children will talk about it. I was actually surprised that it was that high. My principal was a decent guy who would have at least let me know he was on my side but I never went to him. Partly, I wanted to be strong enough to handle it myself but much of it was fear that I would be labeled as a result of reporting it and others would join in the bullying. I do have good parents and did tell them about some of it but they had no idea of the full extent. Again, fear played a role. My mother would have worried so much and I sincerely did not want that. Instead, there were days that I just said I was okay then cried in my room.
A few more thoughts:
Discipline- Some teachers and administrators are control freaks who will rigorously enforce the small stuff. Many things that go on in school would be punishable with jail time if committed by adults but I once lost my recess for heinous crimes such as forgetting to push in my chair and standing up when I was supposed to be sitting down.
I posted earlier that if I ever have a son/daughter that is a bully, I would take a very hard line. I stand by that but before I dish out the punishment, I need to know the source of the issue. Arrogance, insecurity and fear are different spirits and require different approaches of correction.
Churches- Whenever children are together, bullying can happen and that includes Sunday school/CCD. I was subjected to it and was falsely accused of causing trouble myself. If that happens, find a new church and tell your pastor why you are leaving.
Overlooked signs for parents: Underachievement in school. In 7th and 8th grade, I came home with B's and C's when I was capable of A's. I was lazy but also felt worthless and bought into the lie that I really "wasn't that smart." This can put parents in a difficult position. Obviously, your child needs to do better but if you speak carelessly or punish too severely, they may feel even more worthless.
Kids are often better about forgiving others than adults.
I stand by earlier comments:
-knowing the Lord will improve your perspective and help you find better friends/mentors.
-good grades and productive activities will diminish the bullying.
-This may not be politically correct but the erosion of the nuclear family is harmful to society and contributes to bullying.
I have posted before that if you truly have a calling from God, the enemy will stop at nothing to prevent it from coming into fruition and yes, he'll start on you at a young age. If you have been a victim of bullying, there is a good chance that your calling from God is very high.