Taking the Bullying by the Horns

Taking the Bullying by the Horns

Dec 22

[adjusts soapbox]

I was reading a great piece in The National Post the other day on the topic of bullying and the legislation being proposed in this great province of ours, and it really got me thinking. It brought up memories of my own high school experiences, which certainly weren’t everyone’s idea of what high school should be.

For the anxious among you, I’ll get to the point quickly. Should the issue of bullying be addressed? Certainly. Is mandating “alliance” clubs the way to do it? Certainly not.

There are lots of reasons that people get picked on in school, and everyone deals with things in different ways. There have been some high profile instances in Ottawa lately which have certainly ended tragically. Thankfully, my own story doesn’t have a tragic ending, but it does have a few open questions — like why was I singled out for mockery? It wasn’t a question of sexual orientation, like some of the recent local incidents. It wasn’t even about religious beliefs — I managed to get picked on while attending a private Christian elementary school. It could have been my stature (I wasn’t always the strapping young lad I am today!), my predilection towards more academic pursuits than athletic (and using big words like predilection), or a hundred other factors. I think mostly, it was because I was there.

When I take this into consideration, I wonder at the wide variety of “alliance” clubs that would be required to properly help heal the wounds of bullying. The thought of a “Geeks and Jocks Alliance Club” is laughable, but probably one that would address one of the largest reasons people are bullied in school.

So if not a club, what then? How about teaching people how to disagree. To understand that not everyone is the same or has the same opinion, that just because someone may look, act, or think differently than you, doesn’t mean they need a target slapped on their back that says, “Mock me.” On the flip side, people need to be taught to understand that when people disagree with them that it doesn’t devalue them. They have a choice as to whether or not to accept the criticism/disagreement/mockery as a factual disagreement or attack on their self-worth.

Nice words, but…

So here is where the rubber meets the road… in actually walking this out. It’s tough, no doubt. It’s tough not to get wrapped up in the emotion of it all. It’s tough to separate people from behaviour or beliefs in our discussions. It’s tough not to laugh or join in when someone is being bullied because you’re glad that — at least at this particular moment — it’s not you.

Religion, in particular, often gets this wrong. For Christians, the line between speaking what we consider truth, and devaluing the ones we are trying to reach (which only serves to drive them away), can be a very hard line to find and very easy to cross. This is remarkably interesting when you consider that Jesus, the One we try to model our lives after, is typically documented as hanging out with the ones His society tried to ostracize, without judging them. The only ones we read of Him passing judgement on were those who setting themselves on a pedestal by pushing others down. And the supposed outcasts that Jesus invested his time with? They felt the value of His Love and made their own decisions to make things right.

So I’ve come a long way from where I started this post. But the main point remains. Bullying is bad, and we must take measures to see it eradicated from our world. But we will never see it go away, simply because we set up clubs. It goes far deeper than that, to the core of our personalities, and that is what must be changed.

When asked to distill the 600+ rules that the religious system had on the go in His day down to the most important, Jesus chose two: Love God, and love your neighbour as you love yourself. The first gives you a sense of perspective and value. The second forces us to put ourselves in the position of the people we encounter each day — those we may chose to mock, and those who may be mocking us. And I believe it is here — in walking this out — that we can find the solution to bullying, in learning to know our own worth and loving those who don’t yet know theirs (and the ones that do, as well!).

[gets down off of soapbox]

~ Nat