In today’s postmodern era individuals are becoming creative in the ways they express themselves, this includes how they treat, speak of and about others. On many occasions the way they treat others become extreme, thus individuals are left emotionally scarred or in many cases dead, this is what we call bullying. We seek to explore the causes, effects, biblical perspectives and possible solutions to bullying.
Bullying is defined by the Stopbullying.gov website as an unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children and sometimes adults that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Both kids who are bullied, and who bully others may have serious, lasting problems. For someone to be considered a bully, the behavior must be aggressive, and include and imbalance of power and repetition. An imbalance of power is when the bully uses their power to bully, such as access to embarrassing information, physical strength and popularity to control, harm, and manipulate others. Bullying is most likely to happen more than once or has the potential to happen more than once. Bullies seek to harm, intimidate, or coerce.
There are various types of bullying that takes place in the school setting that includes: verbal bullying, social bullying, and physical bullying. Verbal bulling is writing or saying mean things, this involves teasing, name calling, taunting, threatening to cause harm, and inappropriate sexual comments. Social bullying is bullying that involves hurting someone’s reputation and or relationships, which includes telling others not to be friends with someone, embarrassing someone in public, leaving someone out on purpose, and spreading rumors about someone. Physical bullying is hurting someone’s body or possessions, which includes kicking/punching/pinching/hitting, spitting on someone, tripping/pushing, taking or breaking someone’s things, and making mean hand gestures. Bullying can occur during or after school hours, it can happen on the playground, at the bus stop, on your way to school or even while leaving school.
The issue of bullying has gotten a lot of attention in recent years, but it is something that has always been around, and something that people most likely still think/say is “one of those things.” But being bullied can cause serious problems with self-esteem and has been one of contributing factor of suicide. Like many social problems in society, directly bring into the open that bullying must stop is not enough. It is important to ask ourselves, “what are the causes of bullying?” because it is only with this knowledge that we can reduce this behavior.
Anyone can be a victim of bullying and there are a lot of causes for this, however, here are just a few of them. Feeling powerless in their own lives, bulling, whether verbally, physically, or, socially, is one-way people declare a sort of power in their lives, by seeking out those who seem exposed and helpless; attacking aspects of their personality that makes them different or stand out. Person might have old shoes, having physical features that are different, being overweight or underweight, wearing glasses or braces, having a physical disability, or maybe being too feminine. Sometimes the feelings of powerlessness come from a problem at home which leads them to bully. Lack of empathy and understanding, in some cases a person may bully because there is an aspect of a person’s personality that they don’t understand or don’t agree with. They may also have a prejudice against a person’s religion, race, or sexual orientation, and in numerous instances they even think that targeting that person whom they think or see as exuding “wrong” behavior as a good thing.
For instance, being identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender; being identified as African, Asian, Chinese, or Caucasian; being identified as a Christian, Hindu, or a Jew may be wrong in the eyes of such persons. The child may come from a violent home, which leads them to become very aggressive, in turn they feel like there is no other way to go about resolving issues. Sometimes person often get jealous of or frustrated with the person they bully, and sometimes they are seeking attention. Bullies sometimes can’t regulate their emotions, when they get annoyed, frustrated, and angry, they can’t fully stop themselves from doing things that will hurt others. When they don’t have the ability to regulate their emotions, small annoyance can provoke them and cause them to severely overreact. However, although these causes are sometimes sympathetic, it is no excuse for bulling another person; having any of those characteristics above does not automatically mean that a child will be bullied, but there are serious effects of this awful act.
Bullying is not a harmless part of growing up, it impacts the whole school community. The most obvious and instant effect is reducing students’ participation, health, wellbeing, learning and enjoyment of school. It can make students feel lonely, unhappy, and frightened. Feeling exposed or being unable to focus on learning at school can have serious long-term impacts and distancing yourself from school to steer clear of being bullied can lead to additional issues. Being bullied can affect everything about a child, how they see themselves, their friends, school, and their future. Students who are bullied often experience physical health complaints and fatigue, mental health impacts such as depression, low self-esteem that may last a lifetime and anxiety, and social implications including self-doubt, shyness, and an unwillingness to participate in group activities. In addition, they feel a sense of loss of dignity and ‘agency.’
Agency is the sense of control a person has over what happens to them and their life, and their ability to make choices. Feeling powerless against bullies can lead to lasting harm, like threatened or attempted self-harm. Some students miss school; their grades drop, or they even leave school altogether because they have been bullied constantly, verbal and social bullying can be just as harmful as physical bullying. Students who participate in bullying are also at risk for poor long-term outcomes, including being a school dropout. Many students who participate in bullying does this for a short time only and then stop either because they conclude that it is wrong, or they get support by others to learn a more appropriate behavior. Nonetheless a small group of students continue to bully others over many years. Bullying can also have negative impact on bystanders, those who witness bullying. Even if a child isn’t being bullied, they can be affected by it vicariously just the same. No one can do well when they feel unsafe, so addressing bullying effectively has benefits for the future of everyone.
Solutions for bullying must start with the school and parents, and it take full cooperation on both sides. The school can organize and set up programs to educate all students from a young age about the dangers and effects of bullying. They can offer a secure environment for students to talk over/dispute problems they may have with another student. Set a strategy related to bullying, such as mandatory counseling session for the bully and victim and a scale of disciplinary actions, such as community service, depending on the seriousness of the case. The school can educate all teachers on how to approach a bullying situation in the classroom successfully through one-on-one interaction with the student, setting up meetings with parents of bullies and victims, or when and how to remove a violent bully from the classroom. Motivate all students to report incidents of bullying, whether they are victims or witnesses.
Parents need to have a clear comprehension of what forms/composes bullying and the schools bullying policies so that they can identify the signs and take all incidents of peer abuse seriously. Parents of bullies need to take the necessary steps to work with the child by finding out why the child is acting out and bullying to determine whether the child needs professional counseling or not. Parents can also encourage and motivate empathy by explaining to the child what empathy is. Parents can support and encourage their child to stand up for his/her self and teach them successful/effective ways to take charge of their anger or feelings of helplessness. Continuous communication, through notes, phone calls, and meetings between parents and school is necessary to prevent bullying.
A Christian perspective and response to bullying attitudes and behavior can bring healing to hurting individuals. For many students, bullying is an everyday issue that they must deal with at school. Up until the past few decades, bullying was overlooked by most people, being viewed as “kids just being kid” or “a normal part of growing up.” But incidents like shootings in schools have made bullying a more regularly discussed topic. The bible doesn’t speak directly to bullying, but it doesn’t mean that we can’t use biblical principles to dispute the bullying issue. If you look at (Mark 12:31) the bible commands us to love our neighbor as ourselves and (Luke 6:31) to treat others the way, we would like to be treated.
There is no space in the Christian faith for downgrading or abusing a person. Everyone, regardless of how they act or what they look like, are created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27; James 3:9-10) and is worthy of the dignity that God gives to every person. Bullying, therefore, is never okay. Focus on passages like (Psalm 139:13-18) which tells us that we are fearfully and wonderfully made and that God’s thoughts towards us are too numerous to count. Do not let the lies that bullies tell you influence your perception of one’s self, because you are created in God’s image and he loves and cherishes you. When we are in a painful situation, it can be extremely easy to forget who we are in the eyes of Christ and how he has called us to act.
We should never try to get back at a bully or seek revenge, as Christians we know that this world is not perfect, and we are not the judge of the earth. God is the one who can judge the world in righteousness and repay everyone for the evil that they’ve done (Rom. 12:19). Instead respond to bullies with love and kindness even though it is easily said than done. Love our enemies and pray for them (Matt. 5:44) says. Bullying is wrong on every level, as Christians we are called to act in kindness and love toward everyone, including those who have wronged us. We are also called to stand up for the weak and vulnerable. We should do good in the face of being mistreated. Above all, we should treat everyone equally and we shouldn’t try to handle these situations alone, we should always turn to the Lord for guidance.