For the last few weeks, I’ve been writing a series on Bullying. Part one, found here https://kevinwojo.wordpress.com/2012/10/14/bullying-part-1/ answered the question “What is bullying?” by explaining what qualifies as bullying. Part two, found here, https://kevinwojo.wordpress.com/2012/10/22/bullying-part-2-2/ answered the question “Why do people bully?” by explaining some of the reasons why it is that people bully others. This third and final post of the bullying series answers the question “What can we do about it?” This post will educate you on what you can do about bullying, whether you are an advocate for anti-bullying and/or as an individual who is tempted to make hurtful remarks every day.
A few weeks ago, I watched a play called Bullycide. Based on true events, Bullycide reveals stories of people who had been bullied so badly that they killed themselves. For instance, one kid was the kid you would least likely suspect of committing suicide. He was a comedic, polite teenager who saw the best in people, wrote poetry, and loved to skateboard. One day on his way home, a group of kids jumped him. They covered him in syrup and eggs, making fun of him as they did it. When it was all said and done, the kid realized that his best friend was in on it and had lured the kid to the spot. Afterwards, he was even blackmailed about the incident; if he told anyone about what had happened, the bullies would strike again even worse. Just one day before the police were set to start the investigation of the incident and the blackmailing, the young man killed himself.
Many people respond to this problem by telling the victim of such incidents to “just ignore the bullies.” Though it sounds pleasant in theory, it’s not always that easy to simply ignore the words and actions of bullies. You can remind yourself that bullies often come from troubled lives of their own, as we discussed in the second post. You can tell yourself that by ignoring the bullies, you’re being a stronger person than they are. But not all of us can follow those ideals whole-heartedly. People can make really hurtful remarks or even hurt others physically and, in most situations, it’s not so easy to just ignore what’s happening throughout the whole ordeal. “Ignoring” is just a temporary fix. It will not heal any scars that you may have received from bullying and it’s hard to simply forget such acts.
So what we need to do- as people who have been victims of some sort of bullying, those who have been guilty of some sort of bullying, and even those who have not been affected by bullying in a big way- is to learn what it means to love your enemy.
This is where I may lose many of my readers. Up until this point, all of this bullying stuff was based on statistics, it was relatable to real life, and didn’t have anything to do with religion. Fear not, my intent is not to Bible bash any of you no matter what your faith may be. But the practice of loving your enemy is an important lesson taught in the Bible and is extremely relevant in combatting the issue with bullying.
“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…” Matthew 5:43-44. Jesus speaks these words as he preaches to a group of people on a mountainside. “Love your enemies…” He tells these broken people, victims of the hate and the hurt that has arguably existed for almost the entire history of mankind, to love the people who have hurt them. If I were around back then, I would have been confused by those words. Even now, after something hurtful happens to me, I have difficulty comprehending this idea that I need to love my enemy. If someone hurts me, why should I love them? It seems like common sense that if someone hurts me, I should hate them.
Loving your enemy is like loving the bullies in this world. Bullies can seem like the scum of the earth. If you are a victim or bystander of bullying, you certainly wouldn’t refer to a bully as your friend; rather as your enemy. So why love a bully? Because, as Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. points out, “It is love, even for our enemies, that will save our world and civilization.” As he also notes, it’s important to notice that Jesus does not say “like your enemies”. You don’t need to like the things the bully does and you don’t have to like the bully in any affectionate way. You need to love the bully. You need to recognize the fact that the bully has some good in them and love their soul.
So what does this look like when it is applied to real life? “How am I supposed to love a bully’s soul and how is that supposed to help me as a victim?” A big part of it has to do with the second part of the passage, “pray for those who persecute you.” People tend to forget about the power that prayer has. I won’t go into deep detail on that in this post, but I will stress the importance of prayer. Praying for those bullies is one of the best ways that you can love your enemy and therefore combat the issue of bullying. If you are interested in learning more about prayer, I would be willing to help you with any questions you may have or can direct you to someone more knowledgeable to talk with.
Above all, I urge any victim of bullying to speak out and get help from trained counselors or even a close friend for any pain that you endure. If you want to do something in addition to (or, for those without a strong faith, in replace of) praying, you can love a bully in a few different ways. One of the best ways is to not hurt them back when you get the chance. It seems at times that a bully is on top, looking down on everyone. In a moment where they fall and it becomes easy to give them back what they deserve, don’t. Love them and help them. It’s not going to be easy, but you will be doing your part in standing up against bullying. After all, you don’t want to be another statistic of a person who went from victim to bully. When it comes to loving your enemy in tangible ways, that is up to your discretion. If you think buying a care package and dropping it off on a bully’s doorstep is loving an enemy, be my guest. Ways that you can love a bully are not a set list of universal actions, rather an understanding of a basic principle. When you understand the power that praying for and loving an enemy has, you will answer your own question of “What can I do about bullying.”
Thank you for following along with me on this journey through some important topics on bullying. This series was meant for those who have been guilty of bullying; know that it’s not too late to change your ways whether you have been deemed a bully for years or have just had several outbursts of pure hatred towards other. This was meant for the victims; know that there are people out there who are trained to help you and that there is no shame in asking for help. You don’t have to like the people who bullied you or like the things they do, but it’s important that you love them. This series was meant for people like me who have never thought of themselves as a bully (with the exception of the occasional hurtful remarks) or a victim (with the exception of the occasional hurtful remarks); do your best to help those victims who need someone to listen to them and teach them the importance of loving and praying for their bullies. Do your best to stand up for victims when you see something happen and make sure you too are praying for victims and bullies alike.
Bullying is everywhere. It exists everywhere in three main forms. Sometimes it can happen right in front of your face and you don’t even recognize it. Sometimes you do and you don’t do anything about it. Everyone has the potential to become a bully and everyone has the potential to become a victim. But everyone also has the potential to love their enemy and to help those who have been victims.
Seek professional help if you are a bully or a victim and need help with the experiences you’ve gone through.
Together, we cannot end worldwide bullying in this generation. But together, we can change lives by doing what we can to preach love to those who need it the most.