Bullying

Dear Reader,

The front page of the Boston Globe today has this article on bullying. It is a heart-wrenching story. Bullying seems to be a popular subject these days. Bullies have been around forever (since Cain  and Abel maybe?). One wonders why there isn’t a good solution yet. It sounds like the camp in the Globe story is doing everything they can at least to try to defuse the situation. On the one hand, there is the poor kid who is bullied. The article admits he may be awkward socially and turns the other kids off inadvertantly. But I don’t think any of us reasonable adults would think he deserves to be singled out and picked on because of it. It sounds like the counselors were sympathetic and tried to help him deal with the situation. The big question on his end seems to be do you push him to keep trying in these circumstances or let him bow out? As adults, there will be times we have to deal with difficult people, even bullies, when we can’t just leave the situation. On the other hand, there are times we can just leave, and I don’t think that it necessarily a  bad option.  In this kid’s case, I think he has put up with more than enough. If he were my kid, I would keep him home the rest of the summer. Let him relax and have fun in other ways.

The flip side is the bullies themselves. How do you get them to stop bullying? Again the camp seems to be doing what it can, but it is clear the kids have learned to be on their best behavior around the counselors but when they are on their own nothing has changed. They will obey rules when being watched, but their hearts are untouched. There is a herd mentality here. Many of the kids involved are probably intimidated themselves in the sense that they think, “But if I am nice to so-and-so then they will pick on me too.” Nobody wants to be the odd one out. It takes a lot of courage to stand up to the crowd and befriend the “weird” kid. Many adults don’t have that kind of courage. And then I wonder what happens to bullying as we grow up? Some adults are certainly still bullies but most of us no longer expect to be bullied. The majority seem to outgrow it. Or do we? As we have been studying through American history, my kids and I have noticed how certain groups are always singling out other groups for abuse, from African-American slaves to Jews in Nazi Germany and beyond. There seems to be something (evil) deep in the human psyche that makes us want to find someone that we can label as “other” and exclude so that we ourselves can feel better about ourselves. Maybe adults just hide it better most of the time (except those periods in history when it really flares up).

In the end, I think the heart is key. To a certain extent we can punish the bullies, make it unpleasant for them to bully and they will stop or change tactics so they don’t suffer the consequences. But we can’t change their hearts. We can’t make rules and legislation that will change human nature. Eventually the desire to make ourselves feel better by putting down others will come out somehow.

Not a very cheery ending I suppose. I hate to leave this situation without hope so I will offer the only hope we ever have to change human hearts–Jesus Christ. Only God can change our hearts. Only when we realize our own position before Him can we be at once both humble and confident enough not to be threatened by others, not to feel the need to exalt ourselves over them.

I know schools and camps still need practical policies to deal with these situations. But I think we also need to realize that no policy is going to change the fundamental problem which springs from a sinful human nature.

Nebby

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