Bullying has been a problem since the beginning of time. These days, most schools have a zero tolerance policy against bullying, and they are doing what they can to eliminate it. But bullying still exists. The Bullying prevention in schools document from the Public Saftey Canada website agrees that “not all interventions, despite their good intentions, have been effective in reducing bullying activities in school. Research has shown that narrowly focused programs directed solely at bullies or their victims; situation deterrents (e.g., increasing supervision in bullying hot spots); and zero tolerance policies including school expulsion have limited effectiveness and may actually increase or exacerbate the problem”. A solution that punishes the bully will only cause the bully to feel victimized and will create more anger and a desire for vengeance, which can cause the bullying to escalate. Any solution that requires intervention from a third party will be limited in its success unless every child has a bodyguard with them at all times in all places. So what is a person to do?
Jesus addressed this issue in Matthew 5:43-48. He said to love your enemies. Don’t react to them the same way they treated you, which is what you do by fighting back. Don’t allow them to change your character from what you know it should be. If you fight back, you put yourself on the same level as the bully. By not reacting in anger or fear, you set an example for the bully to follow instead.
This is the approach taken by bullying expert Brooks Gibbs, an author and speaker, who speaks to audiences all over North America. His premise is that love is stronger than hate. He will tell you that this strategy works, because he used it himself when he was bullied in high school. As long as it is just words, and not physical harm, we should just let what the bullies say roll off our backs. We can choose not to be hurt by their words. If we don’t react, then we won’t give them the attention that they are seeking, and soon they will move on to bother someone else. If we could all learn to just let it go, bullies would see that there is no pay-off from their actions. Instead of zero tolerance policies against bullying, Gibbs would advocate teaching our children how to deal with them. He says, “Bullying is an opportunity to teach children resilience, and we should not try to rescue them from that, but teach them how to handle it and not allow it to affect them emotionally.” If you are a parent or educator you can find strategies at his website to help you do just that.
Bullying doesn’t end when we graduate high school; it will just take on other forms. There will always be someone who will not like you, who will criticize you, or who will try to make themselves look better by putting you down. If you get married, someone in your spouse’s family will think that you’re not good enough. If you have a position of authority in your company, you will have to make decisions that will not please everyone. If you do anything of consequence with your life, someone will disagree with it. If we learn how to deal with bullies when we are young, we will have already gained the skills we need to deal with these issues as an adult. Jesus knew that we would face these issues, and He provided the solution. The next time you face a bully, try it Jesus’ way, and trust Him to protect you from harm. (Romans 12:19)