This has been one of the hardest posts I’ve had to write.  It has been so difficult in fact that I almost abandoned the entire missive twice. But I couldn’t NOT write this.  I am angry.  I am confused.  I am emotional.  I admit that upfront, so continue at your own peril.  Over the past few days a perfect storm of three news events have jolted some unpleasant memories for me and have bothered me greatly:

The common thread in all three stories is bullying.  And by bullying I am referring to the demeaning, ridiculing, intimidating and abuse of children and young adults.  This post isn’t about impotent political agendas or useless social labels or warmed-over right versus left rhetoric.  What I hope this conversation does accomplish is to cause the Christian community to stop, think and reflect for a moment about where we may have lost our way in our treatment of others.

The three incidents mentioned above each had their own specialized perspective on the bullying issue.  The Youth Conference had dual accusations of bullying going on between the organizers of the conference and local Christian leaders regarding the content and purpose of the conference in relation to children.  Former Iowa coach Steve Alford, a professed believer, had to address his past role in possible bullying tactics during a sexual assault investigation regarding one of his players during his tenure at Iowa.  And Mike Rice lost his job today due to “shoving, grabbing and throwing balls at players and using gay slurs during practice”. In the latter two cases especially, we see actions exhibited by hired employees of educational institutions, and supposed leaders of men, that range from naïve to reprehensible.  And my Pavlovian response whenever I hear about bullying incidents is to immediately upload all my long lost memories of high school.

Let me be clear – I did not have it THAT bad in high school.  I know for a fact that there were certain peers of mine that had it much, much worse than I.  What I was forced to endure was minor compared to the hell they had to suffer through.  But even that small amount of bullying I did experience was enough to make me never want to go to a reunion and has resulted in me keeping many of my high school friends at arm’s length over the years, even the people I was close to then and who are great people now.  Why?  Not because of them but because I never want to go back to that place in my life.  I do not want to be reminded of that time and those memories.  And over the years I have heard all the comebacks to my emotional response to bullying.  “Everyone has to suffer through it”.  “It toughens you up”.  “You’ll turn our better for it.”  Maybe…maybe not.  But that’s irrelevant.  The point is this:  when did Christians determine that trying to prevent the demeaning, ridiculing or intimidating of the kids was not worth the effort or not worth the political risk?  Where in the word of God am I ever commanded to demean, humiliate, intimidate or harass someone or silently allow that to occur?  Has our fear of certain political agendas blinded us to the how we are supposed to be to our “neighbors”?  Love the Lord God with all your heart, soul and mind and love your neighbor as yourself.  And let me be clear – I am not focusing on the “God is love” mantra that has been frequently used and misused in recent years.  That’s a different topic for a different time.  Have we allowed our fear of any person’s, group’s, or party’s agenda to dominate our daily call and duty as Christians, especially in relation to others? All of those agendas combined cannot overpower my role and responsibility as a husband, father, friend, co-worker and Christ-follower. Nor does it provide me with an excuse for failing, neglecting or ignoring any of those roles.

Why did I decide to write this today?  Because even at 38, bullying incidents still occur.  And I sit up and night wavering between anger and tears as I think about my 10-year old and how I’m going to train him up.  I wonder about his tender heart and love for others and wonder if he will have the right body type or be good enough in sports or read clearly enough or a million of the other little things that make us wonderfully different.  And I wonder about when he’s 16 and what trait, characteristic or difference at that time will be THE thing that’s being singled out for harassment.  And I wonder which side he’ll be on.  And I wonder if his tender heart and love for others will be snuffed out because I didn’t do enough to stop bullying when I could have.  But I have to realize that although he may have to suffer under such bullying and persecution as a believer, may he never treat others in such a manner, for any reason.  May he always treat others as Christ treated us.  For the cross is quite the model of how this whole truth, love and sacrifice thing is supposed to work.  In fact, it’s perfect.

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