"And be kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ has also forgiven you." Ephesians 4:32
Lately the topic of bullying has become a major issue. Just this morning I noticed on one of the major news shows a picture of a boy being bullied and it invoked many emotions inside of me. In recent news, many teens and young adults have committed suicide from excessive bullying. In Florida in 2009 and 2010, the nation was horrified when a middle school boy was doused by rubbing alcohol and set on fire by his classmates over a bicycle and a video game. Also in Florida, a fifteen year old girl was beaten and in a coma over a text message. Bullies are nothing new. They've been around since time began and yet recently, the bullying seems to be worse.
As a middle schooler I was bullied by my peers for reasons that I still don't understand. I remember well being kicked and spit at on my school bus and the bus driver doing virtually nothing. Teenagers who refused to let me sit with them on the bus and being forced to sit on the steps. I remember a young man taking a thumb tack and putting it into the eraser of his pencil; building up friction and burning me on the back of my neck in art class. The teacher wasn't present and I never told him. The class watched and no one said to stop. Even at the age of 52, those memories are clear in my mind. I have moved on with my life, but I will admit that those memories have affected me for my whole life. Relationships were hard to develop because of my mistrust.
I remember once a few years ago, my bully had become a "friend" in high school. I wondered if this girl ever thought of her maltreatment of me and others during those middle school years. Again, years later while I was at my husband's high school reunion I saw my tormenter from middle school who had burned me. I remained civil to him as my husband chatted and laughed with the man but inside, those feelings came flooding back to me.
Back in the days of the Phil Donahue talk show I remember seeing a woman whose whole life had been ruined by her high school tormenters. Her day of confrontation finally arrived. She had the opportunity to tell these people just what they had done to her. The accused said, "I'm sorry. I don't remember that I did what you're saying. I was bullied too." The bullied woman's response was one of lack of vindication. She was disappointed. You could see the years of anger and bitterness. She felt cheated. I remember thinking of the bitterness I had felt toward my abusers; that's what bullying is. It is abuse. I learned that I needed to forgive them. The bitterness was eating me alive.
Does that mean I forgot what they did? No. Even at my age, I can't forget, but I can help others who are being mistreated. I can be an advocate for the wounded. If I see a child being bullied, I can step in. What about adults? Can adults be bullied? Most certainly. I remember an employer bullying me on the job. Can we report such things? Of course we can. God wants us to be kind one to another. He wants us to love one another. To care for those who can't protect themselves. It's easy to put our heads in the sand and put a deaf ear to bullying, but the truth is, if we don't stand up for what's right who will?