“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.” Jesus Christ
One of the most difficult things I’ve ever experienced in my four decades of youth ministry was to serve as a Pallbearer for the funeral of one of a 13-year-old boy in my youth group. Paul was the victim of repeated bullying by a large group of peers that tragically left Paul with the mistaken conclusion that his reality was too unbearable and he chose to end his own life. This happened nearly 30 years ago. Unfortunately, bullying has gotten much worse in the last ten years.
Right now the movie documentary Bully, along with several highly publicized cases involving tragic results because of bullying among teenagers, has created a heightened awareness of the frightening dynamic of this issue in our culture.
Working with adolescents, we regularly hear stories of young people who everyday have to deal with being bullied. Everyday, hundreds of thousands of young people have to deal with the fear of attending school where they know they will be bullied. It’s estimated that an average of more than 150,000 young people stay home from school everyday to avoid being bullied. Most of the time this occurs without parents being aware that it’s happening to their child.
Bullying involves acts of repetitive negative behavior of a person or persons toward another person or persons that is aggressive and intimidating in nature. Bullying can take the forms of emotional, verbal, and/or physical abuse. Bullying can be a one-on-one issue but most often it involves a collaborative group engaged in peer abuse directed at one or more individuals.
Research reveals that young people who are regularly bullied face an increased risk of mental health issues. Depression, anxiety, lack of motivation, despair, helplessness, and suicidal thoughts prevail among those who are dealing with being perpetually bullied. In addition to thinking about harming themselves, some begin to fanaticize about hurting their tormenters. According to a report by the Secret Service, two-thirds of students who participated in school shootings were victims of bullying at school that had reached the level of self-described “torment.”
Mona O’Moore of the Anti-Bullying Centre at Trinity College in Dublin, has written, "There is a growing body of research which indicates that individuals, whether child or adult, who are persistently subjected to abusive behavior are at risk of stress related illness which can sometimes lead to suicide."
In addition to aggressive and physical actions that intimidate and harm the victims of bullying there are new forms of bullying that have emerged through social media. This type of Cyber-bullying attempts to socially isolate the victim by spreading rumors, name calling, threatening, criticizing, manipulating, ostracizing, etc. through a variety of social medias, including Facebook, Twitter, and whatever new social media tools emerged last week, along with those that will surface this week.
According to the Cyberbullying Research Center, One in five teenagers are harassed regularly online. Almost one-half of all teenagers have experienced some form of online harassment. More than one-third (37%) of teens admit to using social networking sites to victimize and harass their peers.
Before we, as adults, rest in the idea that we have moved beyond the ability to bully, let me suggest that we may not engage in the overt bullying actions of adolescents but we must ask ourselves if we have not just adopted more sophisticated forms of bullying – gossip, character assassination, ostracizing, sabotaging, and exclusionary behavior toward others.
When Jesus was asked what it means to truly be his follower he says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself” Luke 10:27. He then tells one of the best-known stories called the parable of the Good Samaritan in order to explain and explore the heart of what it means to be a genuine follower of Christ. In this parable Jesus commends the man who comes to the rescue and takes care of a victim of extreme bullying. We must stand up for those who are being bullied. Christians must speak up. We have to take action concerning this issue
What is Youthfront doing about this issue?
- Teaching young people to treat all people with respect and the love, grace and mercy of Jesus Christ.
- Teaching young people the Golden Rule taught by Jesus, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.” Matthew 7:12
- Teaching and mentoring young people the importance of defending and standing up for the marginalized victims of bullying.
What can parents do?
- Talk to your kids about bullying.
- Go see the movie Bully with your age appropriate kids.
- Educate yourself on your kid’s world, their friends and the social environments they spend time in.
- Be appropriately curious of your kid’s social media world.
I believe that we have a window of opportunity created by this movie Bully and the media’s attention on this issue to double down our effort to radically alter the reality of bullying in our culture. This, I believe is something that the followers of Jesus and God’s church must passionately engage in. We must do this for our kids.
Resources The Center for Parent/Youth Understanding, www.cpyu.org Wikipedia