We have completed our third week of school here in the Deep South. So far so good… at least until Tuesday. That’s when I got the call from the school nurse. Evan, my youngest, was in her office. Evan is no stranger to the school nurse. He keeps her on retainer. This time, Evan complained of a stomachache, and he had managed to throw up a bit, so that bought him a ride home early that day. Wonderful. There wasn’t really anything wrong with Evan. That kid can throw up on command, but he still had to leave school. By the time I picked him up, he was fine. Really. He was fine. Well, physically.
We were no sooner in the van, had not even left the parking lot, before he launched into telling me the real news of the day. Apparently, while walking outside from one building to another with his friend, both boys were knocked down by three other boys. Evan wasn’t really hurt that much, but his friend fell, hitting his head on the sidewalk. When he started crying, Evan ran to get his teacher.
Okay. I am a minister’s wife. I know that. So I have to admit to you that my initial thoughts were not completely “turn your other cheek” in character.
My initial question to Evan was, “So did you knock the snot out of any of those kids?”
Evan, himself, was completely flabbergasted by my question. He said, “No! I’d have gotten in trouble.” Evan doesn’t cotton to getting into trouble. But after a beat or two, he asked, “So I wouldn’t have gotten into trouble if I had done that?” I said, “Oh yeah, you would have gotten into trouble with the school, but sometimes it’s worth it.” I never want my kids to think they can’t stick up for themselves when it’s absolutely necessary. I assured him he would not have gotten in trouble at home for standing up for himself or his friend who was hurt.
We’ve had to deal with bullies before. My oldest son put up with unending teasing his fifth grade year. We tried every approach we could think of to put a stop to it. Landon had begged us to let him handle it. Finally, one day in class, yes in class, he stood up and socked a kid in the face.
In. the. face.
This, after the kid had made fun of Landon’s southern accent for about the millionth time. Landon had finally had enough.
When they called me from the school to tell me about it, I almost laughed out loud. That was the last time any of those kids ever messed with Landon. As we rode home, I think I managed not to high-five him. He had in-school suspension, and missed the fifth grade spring fling, but he didn’t care. He had stood up for himself, and he felt good. He looked taller that afternoon, too.
I don’t ordinarily promote violence. I, myself, have never punched anyone, but I have been bullied. I know how that feels and it’s terrible. It’s not something I ever wanted for my kids to experience. I am pleased to say that the adults at Evan’s school took what happened very seriously, and I doubt those boys will be pushing anyone else around. But Evan is ready if they do. He’s like 007 in “A License to Kill.”
Later, I felt slightly guilty about telling my son to take matters like that into his own hands. After all, I didn’t want to create my own bully. So we talked about it. We talked about how Jesus stood up for righteousness, how sometimes anger can be righteous. We talked about how Jesus cleared the Temple when he saw that people were being taken advantage of through the selling of animals for sacrifice. We talked about how Jesus stood up for the woman caught in adultery. How he defended her against the bullies that were going to stone her, and then how he had shown mercy to her. Jesus doesn’t like bullying behavior, religious, or otherwise.
There’s never been a bully that truly found their identity in Christ. Not one. It’s evident when they bully. When they make someone else feel smaller or weaker, they feel stronger. When they have power over someone else, they feel more powerful.
Ironically, bullies suffer from real insecurities. In the privacy of their own hearts, they live in fear. It’s sad, really.
Conversely, when you find your identity in Christ, it’s all about making him bigger while you get smaller. It’s all about recognizing that it’s in your weakness that his power in your life gets stronger. It’s every day, losing a little more of yourself and finding a little more of him. It’s allowing the Holy Spirit to chip and chisel away everything that doesn’t look like Christ until others look at you and see only Jesus.
After our talk, Evan and I prayed for those boys who bullied he and his friend. We prayed for his right hook, too. Just in case. (I’m totally kidding about that.)
Have you or your kids had to deal with bullies? How did you handle it? How did they? Was it serious?