When I was in elementary school, I was bullied by a group of girls. My third-grade teacher was wonderful to me, but her attention caused some of the other students to resent me. For two years, I was repeatedly mistreated. One of the games they played during recess was to run from me so that I couldn’t play with them. It didn’t help that my mother was old school and when girls began to wear small heels, my mother thought it wasn’t time. It was so bad that for a week in 5th grade, the bullying made me so sick that I had to go to the doctor and stay home because of the stress it caused. There was really only one girl who was the ringleader. The other girls joined in because they didn’t want to be targeted. The bullying I experienced wasn’t physical, but it was both verbal and social. Bullying damages everyone involved.
Bullying isn’t something that just happens. Quite often, children witness their parents or other role models bullying them or others. Children don’t have power to retaliate when their parents or others mistreat them (including siblings), and they go to school recreating the same scenarios they have experienced. Bullying also occurs due to a lack of attention from parents which can include neglectful parents or those dealing with issues of substance abuse. As we witness more school shootings and incidents of youth violence, at some point, adults need to take a long look in the mirror in how we express anger and frustration. Adults must take responsibility for their bullying on the road, in the church, at work, in our homes, and even on social media. You may not jump on people with your fists, but are you a person who beats others up with your words? Are you the ringleader or a follower witnessing the abuse of others and just glad it isn’t you?
Although the Bible doesn’t specifically call out bullying, there are several examples of individuals that dealt with the bullying of relatives, friends, and those in power: Joseph, Daniel, Mordecai, Job, and even, Jesus. In each of their stories, others lied on them, tried to cause question about their reputation and integrity or threatened/killed them. God does have something to say about it. “There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.” (Proverbs 6:16-19 ESV) Bullying ultimately is about passing judgement on others—it’s something that you don’t like or are jealous of in that person. “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.” (Romans 2:1)
God has a way of redeeming those painful experiences. What I went through made me concerned about injustice and speaking up for those who are voiceless. I remember what it was like to feel as if I wasn’t heard or seen. It made me sensitive to the needs of others. I’m blessed because I know others that the experience of being bullied caused so many difficulties mentally, spiritually, physically, and emotionally. For those who experience bullying, know that God has not forgotten you, God has a plan for you. God has a way of restoring and redeeming what you’ve lost. “The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry; but the face of the LORD is against those who do evil, to blot out their name from the earth. The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:12-18) It’s important that we check ourselves and the way we show up. Our children are watching us. It’s important that we stand up for others when we see injustice like bullying. We will all be accountable for our thoughts, our words, our actions. If God were to look at your life right now, what would God say to you about your treatment (or lack of) of others?
Dr. Froswa’ Booker-Drew is the host of the Tapestry Podcast and the author of three books for women. She is also the Vice President of Community Affairs for the State Fair of Texas. To learn more, visit drfroswa.com.