I am a firm believer that children learn to bully because of adults who have demonstrated the behavior. As much as we discuss bullying in schools, it’s as if we condemn it for youth but accept it in adults. I was talking with a friend about a situation at her job in which a customer berated an employee for no reason. It’s sad because this isn’t an isolated incident.
In Lancaster, Texas, Coach Michael Hickmon was shot during a youth football game. According to the police, the shooting came after a dispute over the score of the game. Coaches from both teams got into a fight, and a gun was fired.
Children, including Hickmon’s 9-year-old son, witnessed the shooting. Former NFL defensive back, Aqib Talib, 36, and his brother Yaqub Talib, 39, were allegedly involved in a fight that resulted in Hickmon’s death.
Yaqub Talib was charged with murder after shooting the youth football coach. It’s so sad—a wife lost her husband, a child lost a father, friends and family lost someone they love. Friends and families of both the Hickmons and Talibs are all impacted by a decision based in anger that will have consequences forever, for all.
So often, we see the signs of behavior that is rooted in anger and rage, but we’ve learned to tolerate or ignore it.
According to reports, both Talib brothers have had a reputation of being overly aggressive at games. It’s interesting because when reports come out about bullies, interviewed family and friends will often admit the problems have existed for years.
Even in schools when children are terrorized by their peers and sometimes even teachers, many turn a blind eye until it’s too late. I think for so many the fear of retaliation is real and so we sit back, watch and hope that nothing happens. There is responsibility on both sides. We cannot sit back and wait for the eruption and those who bully really need a reality check.
Bullies aren’t just in the heat of the moment at athletic games. They are in leadership roles as managers, directors and even CEOs. They run for office and subject others to their temper tantrums all in a desire to control.
It happens in our congregations, too. We have far too many folks who use their authority to coerce others into actions that are unacceptable. There are leaders in churches who tell confidential information under the guise of praying for others but it’s really gossiping and belittling.
Bullying happens in our homes. Rampant abuse physically, emotionally, or verbally occurs in many households. Children witness parents exert violence to those that they claim to love. Unchecked, this seeps into every facet of society—and it already has.
The consequences we are witnessing are a result of our unwillingness to address this behavior. Bullies tend to do what has been done to them and this cycle of abuse must stop.
Ephesians 4:26-31 is a reminder that anger can result in an action that we may regret later. By staying angry, we open the door for evil instead of love which can heal and transform. Our language must “be helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
We are instructed to “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” We don’t recognize that malice also includes animosity, antagonism, or even holding grudges. When we allow those emotions to fester, they result in actions that can be deadly—we murder people not only by killing them physically but daily, people are slaughtered by conversations that harm their reputations.
People are violated mentally and spiritually changing who they are at the core of their existence because of actions rooted in these emotions.
Here’s a simple solution found in the Bible, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” (James 1:19-20)
Pray for the families impacted but don’t stop there…
Dr. Froswa’ Booker-Drew is the host of the Tapestry Podcast and the author of three books for women.