Finding the Heart of God in a Bullying Prevention Campaign

Looking back on my growing up years, I’d say the tweens were the worst. Late elementary school and into middle school were marked with plenty of drama. Friendships felt tenuous as girls often bonded over the common enemy of the week. Romantic interests were fleeting at best. Staying steady in this tumultuous environment was impossible. In my immaturity, I grasped at whatever straws of security I could get my hands on. Sadly, those straws included adding my laughter when my circle found someone to pick on. Deflection meant that I was safe, at least for the moment. And despite the fact that my insecurities drove me to giggle at others rather than stand up for them, in today’s language, those acts would likely be classified as bullying.

These junior high antics came to mind after reading that October is National Bullying Prevention Month. Coverage for the awareness efforts often include the estimate that 160,000 kids stay home from school each day to avoid being bullied. Although the stat is dated, I’d venture that bullying is more common today, not less. I had my own anxiety-filled days as a kid when deflection had run its course and I became the outsider. If staying home to avoid the crowd had been an option, I would have taken it.

October’s campaign is meant to increase awareness of what qualifies as bullying, perhaps helping kids see the seriousness of their behavior. Although bullying wasn’t commonly discussed when I was a kid, I knew meanness when I saw it—I just wasn’t brave enough to do the right thing. I’m guessing the same is true of kids today—they know that teasing the outcasts and harassing their enemy of the day is wrong. But courage is needed to stand up when it could turn the spotlight of taunting onto you instead.

Whatever the accurate number of bullying incidences may be, there needs to be fewer. Bullying is in direct opposition to God’s heart for the outsiders and outcasts; this awareness campaign is echoing His care for those who are harassed and helpless.

About Erin Straza

Erin Straza (Associate Editor) is a freelance writer, editor, and marketing communications consultant, helping organizations tell their stories in authentic and compelling ways. After a stint in corporate marketing while earning her MBA, Erin taught marketing communications at Illinois Wesleyan and Illinois State. She is crafting her first book, writing from the Illinois flatlands where she lives with her husband, Mike. Find more from Erin at her blog Filling My Patch of Sky and on Twitter @ErinStraza.
E-mail: erin [at] FillingMyPatchOfSky [dot] com
Blog: Filling My Patch of Sky
Twitter: @ErinStraza

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Okay, but how is it playing out practically? Releasing balloons and selling T-shirts sounds nice, but are teachers given the freedom and the tools to take physical action when children are bullied? Are other students allowed to intervene physically when they see a need? And what does this mean for the affirmation/celebration of the gay rights agenda? Will the definition of “bullying” now be expanded to include “I’m not sure how I feel about this boy who thinks he’s a girl using the bathroom with me”?

    We’ve seen cases that offer unsettling answers to all of those questions. In the hands of the right people, implemented in the right ways, a truly effective anti-bullying campaign would be very helpful, and badly needed. I’m not convinced that this qualifies on either count.

  • Erin Straza

    Wow, Esther, that’s a whole lot there. Thanks for your broad perspective, as I am more of a practical application gal who wants to know how to follow Jesus in my own personal interactions.

    Let me try to explain a bit more. At its core, this campaign is about showing kindness to the people we come into contact with, no matter who they are. Christians should be the forerunners in this, for we have been shown unending kindness, which we get to pass along to others. After reading about this campaign, I could see it as a call for everyone, all ages, all beliefs, to check how we bully w/our attitudes, words, and actions. I cannot predict how my kindness will be taken advantage of, but as a believer, my hope is in Christ to be my shield. I can show kindness even when kindness will not be returned or even when my rights are infringed upon. My goal is not to demand my rights but to honor Jesus in my attitudes, words, and actions. This is why I need Him, because this is so hard in the face of potential rejection and scoffing. But I do not want to withhold kindness in my everyday interactions due to fear. So this campaign reminds me to uphold the love of Christ who has had mercy on me, a sinner.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    It’s not that I’m opposed to the IDEA of an anti-bullying campaign. It’s just that I would hesitate to hitch my wagon to this PARTICULAR activist movement as it’s currently being run, because of its unfortunate and ultimately counter-productive ripple effects. I do think Christians should be against genuine bullying, but I think that’s different from being for “Anti-Bullying Month,” knowing what the organizers actually mean by “bullying.”