A spiritual look at the serious face of bullying
by Annette Bridges. © 2008. All rights reserved.
Disturbing incidents of bullying continue to make news headlines worldwide. And it seems bullying has a new face, or as some say, no face at all with the “cyber bully.” This faceless individual anonymously torments, threatens, and harasses others via the Internet, interactive and digital technologies, or cell phones.In the United States, studies indicate one out of ten students drops out of school because of repeated bullying. And harassment and bullying have been linked to suicides and to 75 percent of school-shooting incidents. Sadly, some studies have suggested that as many as half of all children have been bullied at some time during their school years, with many children admitting having experience as both the bully and the bullied.
This didn’t surprise me as I recalled my own experience of being bullied. As a young child, I was very skinny and self-conscious about my size and appearance. Getting teased about my size was a frequent occurrence, especially during physical education classes.
Then, through Christian Science, I started learning about my spiritual identity—that, no matter what my opinion or any other opinions were, the child that God created was my “true” self. God could create only the reflection of Himself, and this would surely include such qualities as strength, courage, fortitude, confidence, poise, faith. I was beginning to understand that I could rely on my God-given qualities any time. I remember praying along these lines one day during gym class when a turning point came.
Each girl had to do one chin-up and hold the position. We were each timed to see how long we could hold ourselves up. My turn arrived, along with heckling that I was too weak to even pull myself up at all. But not only was I able to, I also broke the school record for how long I could hold that position. That ended the taunting about my size and lack of ability.
In hindsight, I can see how accepting this spiritual view of myself enabled me to achieve my best and see the reversal of my peers’ perception of me. I was also learning that this God-inspired view must be true for each of them, too.
Some have minimized or dismissed bullying behavior, concluding “it’s just a phase” or “kids will be kids.” And some think bullying is a topic of concern limited to parents and educators. However, whether a child is the perpetrator or target, bullying traps children into destructive behavior patterns that threaten to follow them into adulthood.
Author Barbara Coloroso, who works in Rwanda with orphans from the genocide, draws a link between genocide and bullying behaviors learned in childhood. Describing genocide as “the most extreme form of bullying” in an interview with The Epoch Times, she said: “It’s rooted in contempt for another human being who’s been deemed by the bully and his or her accomplices to be worthless, inferior, and undeserving of respect. Once I have contempt for you, I could do anything to you and not feel any shame or compassion. I’ve removed you from my circle of needing to treat you as a human being” (November 9, 2007). If bullying remains unchecked in childhood, it’s easy to see how it can sow the seeds that sprout into racism and religious and political extremism that threaten the peace and unity of humankind.
Perhaps one solution is to help children find and value their natural attraction to purity and goodness. Mary Baker Eddy wrote, “Beloved children, the world has need of you,—and more as children than as men and women: it needs your innocence, unselfishness, faithful affection, uncontaminated lives” (Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, p. 110). Here is a call to pray for all humankind to protect, preserve, and nurture the virtues that are innate in all of God’s children—and this includes you and me.
As children develop an awareness of their own unique and irreplaceable value, and feel the acceptance and love of their divine Parent, they will in turn treasure and care for themselves, and feelings of trust and respect for others will be awakened.
It’s not too much to say that the progress of humanity, which includes all of us at any stage or age, relies and depends on understanding our spiritual identity. Since we’re each a child of God, we can expect harmony in our relations with others. Contempt and fear are not natural impulses; they can be unlearned and uprooted by the truth of our spiritual nature and God’s unending and unconditional love for all of His children. Contempt can be transformed into compassion and caring, and fear into empathy and love for one another.