He was thrown to the ground by men in uniforms with shiny belts. Small clouds of dust puffed up as he lifted his bloodied face from the dirt. His blindfold had slipped. Before he could get to a sitting position, blinding pain sliced through him, blurring his vision. One of his attackers drew the whip back for another lash, while the others shouted insults at him. “Where are your friends to save you now? Call out to them.” Right before he passed out he felt several sharp pricks into his skull.
A crown of thorns.
Today is National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence. According to the Australian Covert Bullying Prevalence Study approximately 27% of students have reported being bullied in primary and secondary schools. That is 1 in 4 kids. And it’s only the reported cases. What might be even more shocking is that in 87% of these cases peers are present, usually other students who don’t bother helping the target.
Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good [people] to do nothing.”
Standing back may be the easy option, but an onlooker’s silence is validation of the cruelty that bullying is.
Bullying is not just for school children. Last Sunday night on X Factor New Zealand Natalia Kills and Willy Moon bullied young contestant Joe Irvine, attacking his originality and comparing him to a fictitious murderer (Sunday Morning Herald). Ed Sheeran refused to be one of these silent peers and, alone with several other big names, stuck up for Irvine on Twitter, telling him not to worry about other people’s opinions.
There are several types of bullying, including: schoolyard, university, cyber, workplace, sibling, physical, verbal, racial. Most people have experienced it in some form at some time in their life.
If you are someone who is or has experienced bullying, there are three things that it’s important to remember.
- It is never okay. It is not your fault, and you don’t ‘deserve it’.
- Speak up! I know people often think that doing so will make it worse (I know I used to) but don’t stay silent. Tell someone. Below are some good starting points for seeking help:
- Forgive your bully. Bitterness is not worth it, and rarely actually affects anyone but you.
One of the excuses given for bullying, especially verbal harassment, is “It’s just a joke.” If the other person is not laughing, it is not a joke! Words are more powerful than we can imagine and we have to be careful about the nature of our words. Are they encouraging that person? Would you like someone else to be picking at sore spots for you, physical or otherwise?
Bullying can have some serious side effects, like low self-esteem, a sense of powerlessness, anxiety, depression, avoidance of usual activities, even physical illness.
“According to Center for Disease Control, suicide is responsible for almost 4,400 deaths of teens and young people each year . . . and there are over 100 attempted suicides for each successful suicide death” (No Bullying.com).
Let that sink in for a moment.
No Bullying.com says that “the systematic harassment by individuals whose only goal is to destroy ones’ self confidence and tear away any semblance of stability, bullying can literally take a generally positive person and turn them into a morose, and suicidal shell of their former self” (No Bullying.com).
There are various reasons for why people bully. Some assume it is alright to belittle others who are different to them, and other bullies like the temporary feeling of power they get when they pick on someone they know can’t defend themselves. Bullies feel small or threatened so they try to bring others down to their level and step on them to feel large or validated.
Jesus provides hope for the bullied and the bullies. As the paragraph at the beginning of this article shows, Jesus knows what it’s like to be beaten, belittled, spat on. All while a crowd of people watched. He can sympathise with every tortured person who might be struggling even now as they read these words. Because while splints and casts can heal broken arms, and time can heal scratches and bruises, when everyone’s gone home our hearts can remain hidden deep in the left corner of our chest, where no one can see, still jagged and bleeding. Jesus understands our pain (both the bullied and the bullies’) and he’s the only one who can bring our hearts true healing. I know there are no easy answers. I know. Countless tears have been shed over this issue. But don’t let that bully define your worth. Yes, take practical steps to protect yourself, but also take the power out of their hands by finding your worth and value in Jesus.
“He was despised and rejected by men … familiar with suffering … But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”
Isaiah 53:3-5 (NIV)
Image 1: Clevenger, T 2015, accessed 20 March 2015, <http://lawflog.com/?m=201210>.
Image 2: Meetville, accessed 20 March 2015, <http://meetville.com/quotes/tag/forgiveness/page8>.
‘Bullying Facts, Bullying Statistics’, last modified 26 August 2014, NoBullying.com, accessed 20 March 2015, <http://nobullying.com/bullying-statistics-in-australia/>.
Burke, E, BrainyQuote, accessed 20 March 2015, <http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/e/edmundburk377528.html>.
No Bullying.com, accessed 20 March 2015, <http://nobullying.com/suicide-statistics/>.
Bullying. No Way., accessed 20 March 2015, <http://www.bullyingnoway.gov.au/national-day/>.
YouTube, published 16 March 2015, accessed 20 March 2015, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8m2tQO9mSk8>.
Fairfax Media, ‘Sacked X Factor Judges Willy Moon, Natalia Kills leave New Zealand’, published 18 March 2015, The Sydney Morning Herald, <http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/tv-and-radio/sacked-x-factor-judges-willy-moon-natalia-kills-leave-new-zealand-20150318-1m1nct.html>.