ďSticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.Ē This is the cutesy reply many parents have taught their children to say when people make fun of them. As a child, I was bullied for a variety of reasons. Some picked on me because of my weight. My classmates were relentless all the way through high school. There isnít a far remark I probably havenít heard. I was so despised by my classmates that they actually picked on my brother just because he was related to me. I was picked on because I was smart. Although, I imagine it was not the primary reason, as other smart kids were actually quite popular. When my parents moved and it forced me to be in a new school district I was picked on because I was the new kid. Even newer kids than I were more readily accepted. But, what bothered me most is when I was picked on because of who I was. I was my fatherís son. This bullying didnít happen by my class mates. This bullying didnít happen by ungodly heathens. My classmates had no idea who my father was. But the church, they knew. I cannot count the times I heard the comment, you are just like your father as a way to shun me. I spent most of my childhood hating going to services because of my peers. Many were taught by their parents not to associate with me because of who my father was. So they didnít. They didnít necessarily make fun of me, but they bullied me by making feel uncomfortable and not worthy to be a part of Godís house. Had it not been for some exceptionally strong Christians like Jack and Jean Guest and my own grandparents, I am not entirely certain that I would have ever obeyed the gospel or have ever remained faithful all of these years. Yes, we may say ďyour words will never hurt meĒ but the reality is, we are lying. They do hurt. The rise in school shootings over the last decade is evidence to the fact that bullying hurts. Bullying behavior is the one common denominator in each of these attacks. It forever damages the psyche of those abused by it. Just the other day I was having a conversation with a friend in town about high school reunions. Just listening to him talk about his high school experiences and my own and you can tell that the both of us had some serious distaste for how we were treated. We are successful in our own fields. We are grown men and yet the actions from 20+ years ago still haunt us today.
Bullying not only is caused by a variety of factors, it is manifested in a variety of ways as well. As we grow up, we tend to proclaim that we are no longer bullies. We proclaim that childish mindset of relentless picking on a person because they have red hair or are overweight, is beyond us. But, for many, all that has really changed is the nature of the bullying. Exclusion is not just the practice of the childish and immature. Sure, we are no longer picking a kid dead last in gym class anymore. We are no longer actively avoiding having to sit next to him in class. But, exclusion is still happening. And worse yet, I have seen Godís people do it repeatedly most of my adult life.
I know of Christians who were uninvited to New Yearís Eve party by the elders of the church. That is correct. They were uninvited. They were not just not given an invitation. They were approached and asked not to come. I know of another preacherís family whose children were ostracized by the local church because of the type of children their kids were seen playing with in the neighborhood. And cliques are the worst. They are disguised as close friendships in the church. But, what they really do is just keep Godís people separated. It doesnít matter if they home school, public school, or private school. It doesnít matter if they are boy or girl. It doesnít matter if they are athletically gifted or not. It doesnít matter if they have this worldís riches or not. It doesnít matter if you have little in common.
My friends, we are supposed to be a family. With that in mind I want you to look at how you treat others in the church. And then begin asking yourself, how would you feel ifÖ the child left out of every social setting was your child? How would you feel if it was your brother that continued to be ignored by everyone on Sunday morning. How would you feel if it was your sister that wasnít invited to every ladyís lunch? How would you feel if it was your mom that was never visited when we was sick and shut in? How would you feel if it was your dad that was made to feel useless and no longer a valuable member of the church? How would you feel if it was your spouse that was constantly gossiped about behind his/her back? When looked at through that lens, it is easy to get a little bothered under the collar. And yet didnít Jesus say, ďHere are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother (Matt. 12:49-50)." Brethren, let us never be guilty of bully type behavior, especially in the house of God. -WTK
Grinnell church of Christ
Website design by Blythe Data Recovery & Computer Repair, LLC
The Rise of Bullies
Volume 7 Issue 28