Being a parent is difficult. I was confronted with that fact once again when my daughter expressed that she did not want to go to school. This was something new for her. She enjoys school and relishes the social interaction that school provides. Upon further investigation, she expressed that people were making fun of her. She was being bullied. This brought up my memories of being bullied in school.
Much has changed in the behavior management in schools since I was enrolled in elementary school. One of these changes is a zero tolerance for bullying. But how do we as Christian parents respond and teach our children to respond to bullying? How do we leave room for our lives to reflect God’s grace, love and patience? How do we show our children that suffering is a part of life in a world overwhelmed by sin? How do we show that God is the source of peace, love, joy, and gives us a sense of identity within the difficulties?
When my children are confronted with the injustice of bullying, I tend to get angry and want to act to stop it. But if I slow down my reactions, I realize that the sovereign God, who cares and loves my children more than I ever could, has allowed this. It gives me pause to then ask, pray, and seek Him in this ugly situation. What is he trying to teach us? How do I work through this with my children to love others (yes the ones that are doing the bullying) and to glorify God? I often don’t ask those questions. Instead, I spring into action, take control, and fix it myself. This could be calling the school administrator. I could bring the subject up at a school board meeting. I could confront the child on the playground. In anger, I could call the bully’s parent and demand it to stop. I could blame the school and get the staff in trouble with their superiors. I could call the newspaper and have them print the story of yet another horrible injustice in a place that is regarded as safe. I could do many other things. These things could lead to broken relationships and my children depending on me rather than God. This does not glorify God.
I believe it is our responsibility to inform the school if necessary. But as Christian parents, we have the assignment to create an environment so that our children will grow in their faith in Christ, to love others, and to glorify God.
I get very upset when injustice is done. Bullying is just another injustice. The question is as Christian parents how do we respond biblically? How does the Bible express for us to “overcome” injustice and bullying?
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 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. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “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 12:14-21, ESV).
Paul exhorts us to overcome evil with good. In response to bullying, there is much more to do than to call the school, talk to the parents of the child that is participating in the bullying. This is the time when biblical truth can explode into the reality of a child’s life and show that God is relevant, that he loves them, and obedience to his word produces good results. These good results may not lessen the bullying. These good results may foster a dependence on God, a deeper relationship with God, the reality of seeing God at work in our children’s lives. How great would that be to watch our children grow in their relationship and practical understand of God!
When my oldest daughter was being bullied in school, I shared this Scripture with her. Then that day I came to be with her at lunch, she was excited especially when she saw that I brought her favorite fast food: hamburger and French fries. (This of course was at the age when she thought that it was great to have her father at school with her!) I then brought out an extra large fry. We both went to the boy and gave him the box of salted potatoes. I then explained that I would really appreciate it if he would stop bullying my daughter. He did not bother her again. In fact they became friends.
The outcome is never guaranteed, but as Christians, we are called to obedience, no matter the reaction of others.
As a parent I do not like to see my child oppressed or suffering. God allows these times to teach us and them how to glorify Him in the midst of His ordained suffering.