The Problem of Bullies

Are we taking the wrong approach to bullies? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Bullying seems to be a topic everyone is talking about these days. Let’s be clear at the start. Bullying is wrong. My own Mrs. has very painful memories of her time being bullied, memories that affect her to this day.  There are numerous accounts of children in school who have committed suicide because of bullying. (And to be clear, committing suicide like that is also wrong) My wife watches accounts like these on YouTube. Recently, she watched one about a girl who was ten years old who killed herself.

As she was  listening to videos, I was in the other room listening as I was going through my book. I could not help but still think about what I was hearing from her room and started thinking “What if we’re doing this all wrong?” Unfortunately, I sadly think that a lot of groups are doing it wrong and will become the bullies themselves.

For instance, Allie told me about a group called “We Stop Hate.” I immediately thought their intentions were noble, but it’s a disaster waiting to happen. Why? Because today hate is treated like a dirty word. It is this idea that there ought to be nothing that we hate. We need to be people of love.

Okay. I hate bullying. I hate that children are committing suicide. I hate that people are mocked for any number of things such as physical characteristics or the amount of money they have or the clothes that they wear. I hate evil. I hate anything that lowers the well-being of my family.

Is such hatred wrong?

Absolutely not. In fact, it is because I love so many things that I hate other things. I hate that which is opposed to what I love. In this case, hate is something that is mandatory. If there is nothing that you hate, then I would also conclude that there is nothing in this world that you truly love either.

Of course, we should do all that we can to limit the behavior that is wrong and indeed, we should hate that behavior. We need to go and make a stand against that kind of behavior, but when we make hate such a nebulous term, then it will eventually be that disagreement will be seen as hatred and we will be shut down by the bullies of tolerance, what Greg Gutfeld in his book “The Joy of Hate” calls “The Tolerati.”

For instance, in my family, we are both Christians naturally and as Christians, we believe that there is one way to God and that’s through Jesus Christ. Now suppose we go out and do some evangelism. What happens then? We are seen as bullies because we are telling other people that they are wrong. Never mind of course that when people come against us for that, they are telling us that we are wrong in telling other people that they are wrong.

In these kinds of debates, there has to be room to disagree on issues. There are serious issues being discussed today that affect the future of our society and usually we can’t even get to the reasons because the spell of the Tolerati has been cast and the person that the media disagrees with is ipso facto the bad guy.

It is because of reasons like this that I think the current approach will lead to trouble. But is there a better way? As I was listening to these videos my wife was playing, I started piecing together a different approach mentally.

We all have this idea it seems that we want to make the bullies see that what they are doing is hurting people. The reality is, they already know that. In fact, they delight in it. They say the things that they do because they want to hurt others. I think it’s the same mistake in the gun control debate. We assume that most everyone really wants to be a good person and if we pass these laws, then everything will work out fine.

Our society does not have that as a fundamental foundation. Instead, we have as a more foundational belief that man is corrupt. If men were angels, there would be no need of government. Our government system was set up in a way to try best to avoid the evil of man and contain it.

Let’s consider at the start then that we will always have bullies amongst us.

While we can go after the bullies, that is treating more of a symptom than a disease. What if it could be the case that the bullies could see that their attacks aren’t doing any good? What if we could instead build up the people that the bullies are going after and have them affirm their inherent value.

Keep in mind that we who are Christians believe two things about man. We believe that he is good in that he is created by God and bears His image. We also believe that morally, he is corrupt in that his every inclination is to evil. I can’t help but think of how recently I saw a Muslim say that every baby is born in submission to Allah. I commented saying that I am not a parent, but I am sure it must be news to many parents that their babies are born in submission to God.

Our goal in part is to get man to recognize his place. We are to get him to recognize that he is the image of God and needs to live life like that image. Of course, the essential to reaching that place of fulfilling the image is to commit one’s life to Jesus Christ. Still, as all Christians will testify, the process of sanctification after that is long and hard.

So what if we looked at the people then that are being bullied? We are telling them today platitudes that seem to hang in the air. We want them to just believe by faith entirely without evidence. We tell people they are beautiful when everyone says they’re ugly. We tell people they’re smart when everyone tells them they’re stupid. We tell people they’re valuable when everyone else treats them like trash. Upon what basis do we expect them to believe us?

Unfortunately, it is often upon the same basis we expect them to believe Jesus rose from the dead. It is a feeling or just a leap of faith. Now to be sure, I do believe as a Thomist that insofar as something exists, it is good, true, and beautiful. In fact, I think something like that when taught would go a lot further than the talk we have today, but our children are not philosophers. Our children are not really taught to think so much but rather to feel. Feeling is fine, but feeling is not meant to tell you the truth about yourself.

How about if we took our eyes off of ourselves for a moment?

Maybe we should bring God back into it.

If man is in the image of God, then man is meant to reflect God. For we Christians, that means ultimately Christlikeness. This is what the author Don Matzat gets at in his book “Christ-Esteem.” We do not need to talk about self-esteem. We need to talk about our value in Christ. Our identity as Christians is to be in Christ. Go through the Pauline epistles and see this. When Christ is crucified we are. When Christ is raised, we are. When Christ is seated in the heavenlies, we are. See how Jesus shows this in saying “When you did it to the least of these, you did it to me.” Our world is not to be centered around who we are, but who Christ is.

Which means that if you are a Christian, it is not a question of “Am I beautiful?” It is a question of “Is Christ beautiful?” first and then “Am I allowing His beauty to shine through me?” Quite frankly, when we don’t do that, we are simply ugly. That’s the reality. Sin is ugly and we need to realize that. The question is not “Am I valuable?” but “Is Christ valuable?” and then “Am I allowing His value to shine in my life?”

If you as a Christian are placing your whole being in Christ, and to be sure, none of us do this perfectly, then what on Earth can people do to really shake you or lower you? Now to be fair, there will be good people around you who will tell you ways they think you need to change your life, and you should listen, but you realize you don’t have to please everyone. You don’t have to make everyone love you.

Christian. Ask yourself this. Would you consider it a good life if you disappointed everyone else but got to Heaven and heard Christ say “Well done thy good and faithful servant”? Would you be complaining then about the people that you didn’t please? Would you wish you had had the perfect body for that guy or been a little bit smarter or been the star of the football team or had those nice shoes everyone else had?

Now there’s nothing wrong with pleasing people, provided you still please Christ. There is nothing wrong with studying hard or taking care of yourself or wanting to dress nicely or be a good athlete. As Christians, we should strive to excel at all we do, but it must be that we do not need to get our identity from these things. We get our identity from Christ. Be the star of the football team, but know your worth is in Christ. Enjoy that new dress, but know that your worth is in Christ. Get your body into shape, but know your worth is in Christ. Get your Doctorate, but know your worth is in Christ.

I suspect that if we start teaching our youth good Christian doctrine rooted in the facts of the life of Christ and the truth of Scripture, then we will see transformed youth who won’t be as affected by bullies. If we treat them to go just by their feelings or by their experiences with just a leap of faith, then we can expect that they will fail regularly.

There will always be bullies among us, yes. But let us remember that there will always be Christ in us.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

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