I was watching the news the other night, followed by a late night talk show and the opening monologue containing all things rude and slanderous. The monologue was followed by competing campaign ads, also all things rude and slanderous. I turned off the television, turned off the lights and headed for bed. Then it struck me . . . that was just a normal night of television. Rude and slanderous is now defined as humor and an aggressive campaign.
It is back-to-school time. Parents are dropping college students off at dorms and high-school students off for that crucial first day of class. Middle school parents are finding a place to pull over and leave their kids (three blocks away from the school so no one will see them), and elementary school children are biking, running and skipping to school – depending on their age. All of them deserve a great year at school, and the chance to learn, make friends and develop the social skills they will need for life. But there is something more important than your child’s backpack and school schedule to think about this week. Here are some sobering statistics: A recent survey reports that 37% of our teenagers reported being bullied while at school. 20% have been made fun of by a bully. 20% have been physically bullied. 85% of those bullied said that it happened while in the school. And 44% of middle schools reported bullying problems.
So what does the bullying problem have to do with my normal night of t.v.? A lot.
Bullying is not a new phenomenon. Brutus was the bully who was mean to Popeye. Eddie Haskell was a bully in Leave It To Beaver. Johnny Lawrence was the bully in Karate Kid. And Dave is the bully football player in Glee. Bullies have been entertaining us for years…and they usually got what was coming to them in the end. Unfortunately, screenplay writers get to decide the end of their stories but that isn’t the case in real life. A child who is bullied is 2 to 9 times more likely to attempt suicide. Most children who are bullied hate going to school. Who can blame them? So…what can we do to rewrite the end of this story?
Jesus was not unfamiliar with bullies either. Sadly, those who bullied him were supposed to be the good guys. Jesus preached what to do about the bullies around us. He said, “But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also (Matthew 5:39). Jesus goes on to say, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be the children of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:43-45). When Jesus said, “turn the other cheek” he wasn’t speaking about physical bullying. He was speaking about being insulted…that is what a slap on the cheek meant in his culture. He told us to love our enemies and pray for them. But if someone bullies a child physically, pray that bully will find God, in detention, after he has been properly disciplined by the school. And if your child is the bully – remember the Prodigal’s Mother post.
StopBullying.gov is a website the U.S. Dept. of Health and Humans services sponsored to help prevent bullying – among our children. It is a good website with helpful information. But . . . let’s not think that bullying is limited to the schools. The government’s website defines bullying as: “An Imbalance of Power: Kids who bully use their power—such as physical strength, access to embarrassing information, or popularity—to control or harm others. Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose.” Now, think about the last campaign ad you saw. Have we become a nation of bullies? My request is this: To all those who would choose to run for a government office, please study the “official definition” of bullying, and apply it to your ads and to your speeches. To all of us who watch what has become a normal night of television and laughed at a monologue or television character, do we look more like the bullies – or the children of our Father in heaven? We need to think. The children are watching television and us, and will most likely follow those examples. And God has written the end of the story. Revelation 22:12: “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done.”
It is back to school time. All of us still have a lot to learn.