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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Bullies Are Victims Too

Bullying has become more prevalent and it is never acceptable. Yet if we can look past the bully behavior, perhaps we can see a scared, sad, child, or adult that desperately needs love. Not an easy concept is it? Most often our human side, wants revenge, or punishment for their actions. While they do need to face consequences, what makes a bully bully others? Experts have said, bullies may witness bullying at home, they have not been taught to control anger or aggression. They may experience no warmth or involvement from parents, and have overly permissive parents. Some may be bullied by older siblings, suffer harsh discipline, or have friends who bully. Bullies are usually physically strong, have no empathy, and use bullying others to build themselves up. It is used to enhance their social status and power, and sometimes the bully desperately needs attention. It can become more rampant if schools, authorities, and parents don't address the situation.

Bullying can include teasing that becomes mean spirited, spreading rumors, or attacking another. It can happen anywhere. Again if we look to the bully, we may see someone who has little success themselves. They are crying out. Please do not think I am on the side of the bully, but because I try to see others as God sees them, I just think these children are crying out for something lacking in their lives, and in their hearts. Some may think it's cool, but we need to look deeper to see what is needed to turn them around. Sometimes we adults simply do no give them the skills they need, or the attention they need to handle life. If bullying is a learned behavior, then that behavior can also be unlearned. 

I don't know if you had a bully in your life, or if you were a bully, I was both. In the 1950s as a 6th grader, we thought we were "hot stuff" and we acted like it. This was a time when 6th grade was like the seniors of the school. Next year was Junior High, and back to the low end of the status scale. We were in a new school, and only 5th and 6th grades were in the school until the next year. I look back on we girls, and realize how awful we were. Our bullying centered on 10 girls against one. She was not quite as affluent as our families(or so we thought). Her Dad was a clerk in a store. Our Dad's were in business, lawyers, doctors, and somehow we thought that made a difference. She didn't always dress as nice, and we convinced ourselves, we just didn't like her. We had none of the obvious things in our lives that would make a bully, so I shudder to think what we would have been like if our parents ignored us.

Our parents were involved in our life, we didn't have mean parents, and we did have to follow the rules. 
We did, however, think very highly of ourselves. We had no empathy for the victim at all. Our bullying was verbal, hurtful, and very wrong, but we never thought of physically hurting this girl. In a weird way we thought it made us superior, when in reality we probably were very insecure. While we teased, made fun of, and excluded her from our group, we never considered that it had to hurt her. She was different, and we thought we were cool. Fast forward 50 years or more, bullying takes on a whole new dimension. Interestingly, there were brief times in that year, that we befriended this girl, and turned on one of the other girls. I too took my turn at being teased, hearing hurtful words, and being ignored and left out of the group. I think that was a good thing, because I learned really quick how hurtful it was.

What can we do to help our children and youth through this maze of meanness? First of all, never ignore the behavior. Pay attention to your children. Talk to them, teach empathy for others, but also listen to them. Make consequences consistent and fair, make expectations very clear, and teach by example. If you have ever suffered at the mouth of others, you know if scars, and hurts, and the hate from it destroys. One major point I want to make is that teaching must also include Jesus. If Jesus fills a heart, hate will not be as successful. If a heart is brought into the obedience of Christ, the body will cheerfully obey His commands. It is my love for Christ, and my personal relationship with Him, that allows me to see the other side of the bully. It is not always easy to do, because the human in me wants to see the bully get what's due him or her. I need to pray for the bullies in our schools, and in our world as much as I do for the victims. In a bully situation, or a lost soul situation, only satan wins. We need more than ever to
protect our children whether they bully or are bullied, and only Jesus can be the ultimate example.