The hallway seemed poorly lit. The shadowy corners of the corridor gave the impression it was much later than the first period after lunch. I needed to hurry or I was going to be late and Mr. Richardson hated when students walked into his classroom while he was teaching.
Everyone seemed to have exited the dreary locker-lined halls. Everyone except for myself and the two “goth” girls lingering halfway down the halls. They leaned lazily against one wall turning to watch as my hurried steps echoed on the scruffy tiled floors.
I heard one giggle followed by another and saw them shifted their weight away from their scratching post. I wondered why I suddenly had goosebumps up my arms but I had no time to process the thought. Both girls had stepped out in front of me bringing my feet to a complete stop. Could my heart race any faster in my chest? The smirk on their faces were anything but friendly, their black lips void of any sheen. I tightened the grip on my books to keep my hands from shaking. Nerves had set in and though I did not want to show any fear, I wondered how much of it was written on my face.
My only crime? I was the new girl, starting a new life, in a new school.
They circled me like two wolves, making sure I had no clear path to flee. Again they giggled, one after the other, and I wondered if they rehearsed; they were so in sync. I pretended to be brave and lifted my chin, staring one straight in the eyes, then the other. They exchanged glances, giggled again and stepped away from me.
I wish I could say that I walked but the fact is, I ran. It didn’t matter that Mr. Richardson’s furrowed brows and piercing glare followed me to my seat, obviously angry at my late intrusion. Sitting at my desk shaking, I blinked back the tears. I know for sure I did not absorb any math that day. Though those two girls did not lay a finger on me, I still felt assaulted and my heart carried the bruise. I tried to process the emotions that followed.
FEAR! What if it happened again? If there was a next time, what if it got physical? Then fear gave way to ANGER and then SHAME. Why did I let them intimidate me like that? Why didn’t I do more?
Those bullies! Cowards!
It would take years for my heart to heal from the effects of that day. Undoubtedly, those girls had no idea of the damage they did. At least, I hoped not. That was over 30 years ago but I remember the incident as if it were yesterday. My experience pales in comparison to what so many others have had to walk through, maybe still going through. Still it came with the same wounds. Wounds that required time to heal and my heart to forgive. A journey in full dependence on God and His unfailing love.
Unfortunately, bullying still happens to many today, even more so than it did back then and to greater degrees. Not just in hallways or playgrounds in schools but in our work places, our homes and sadly, in our churches. All this before we even consider those affected by cyber-bullying. The methods may differ but the effects the same. Victims may endure the life long effects of bullying including depression, low-self esteem, anxiety, loneliness, self-hatred and even death.
Anyone can be the target of bullying. Even Jesus himself was faced with situations where he was ridiculed, harassed and taunted. Bullies may come across as being powerful, but it can be quite the opposite. They use their aggressive behaviour to dominate by inflicting injury or discomfort, yet they can be some of the most insecure people we can come across. Bullies are cowards hiding in the open. They get their power from preying on others they consider smaller or weaker than they are.
Though there are no specific biblical references to bullying, here are several bible verses that can offer encouragement, comfort and guidance during these times.
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:12
Know that it is not your fault.
Bullies bully because they themselves sometimes are either bullied or are facing some unpleasant situations in their personal lives. People who bully tend to be those who have difficulty finding effective ways to deal with stress. They feel extremely insecure and cope by inflicting trauma in other people’s lives. Therefore, when we come face to face with these monsters, it is not our fault they choose to inflict pain on others instead of reaching out for support.
“Do not repay evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:17-18
Treat others as you would have them treat you.
Consider how God would have you respond to a bully. As in any other situation, God desires our hearts to remain pure, showing grace and mercy. This means that, though it may be difficult, we are still to be kind even to our enemies. Who knows, we might just be the only person to treat them with kindness in a while.
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
Remove your self from immediate danger.
As God’s children, we are not expected to “turn the other cheek” to those who want to cause us harm. We are allowed, as every other citizen, to protect and defend our self when in danger. However, we should make every attempt to control our emotions and always walk away when possible. Never keep bullying a secret. It is always in our best interest to expose it for the wrong that it is and seek support and direction.
“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Luke 6:27-28
How do we love a bully?
The same way we ought to love everyone else. You see bullies are no different to the rest of the human race. We are all fallen creatures in a fallen world, our actions dictated by our sinful nature. None of us is above sinful acts. However, though it is not easy to love and pray for our enemies, God expects us to fulfill this command. We can easily justify the desire to hate those who perform injustice against us or our loved ones. Still God expects us to have an open heart that is willing to consider their weaknesses and acknowledge their need for grace and redemption of sins just as we do.
Regardless of what we have gone through, there is hope. There is hope for healing and moving beyond the hurt and the pain of bullying. Most times we would rather forget our experiences or pretend they never happened. However, healing comes through acknowledging and forgiving. It comes when we are able to process our feelings and emotions and recognizing what was done to us without allowing it to negatively define who we are. True, the road to healing is never an easy one but it is a journey worth taking because it can lead to great freedom.
Come on dear friends, let us journey together by faith today. God bless you!