When my son Zachary is punched in the nose, everyone within a ½ mile radius hears his huge screams and rushes to their door to help.
Unfortunately it’s becoming far too common a scene, Zachary taking the brunt of a bully’s cruelty. A scene I regret to say makes my blood boil.
For Zac and his buddy, it was a staged ‘hockey fight’ by older boys for their enjoyment. The harder the punches thrown by these young boys looking to fit in, the more praise they received from the bullies. This is not the end of it, the soccer matches get uncontrollably rough, and the vulgar language lessons take on a life of their own as the bullies gather sick delight in hearing virgin tongues learn swearing ‘code.’ This is happening to my son, and it’s pretty bad. However, for me this bullying brings back far too many memories.
There were two times of the day I hated about elementary school; the 30 minute bus ride and the 15 minute recess breaks. The anxiety of being alone to fend for myself against a few very cruel older boys caused me at best to feign illness, but at worst to admit genuine stomach and head pains – often my mom would not know the difference. I remember as if it were yesterday the icy pain of a crack on the back of the head from an unsuspected baseball bat swung from a few seats back, the sense of doom as my new ball cap flew out the bus window, and the sound of my nick name “Samantha” greeting me loudly throughout the day.
Yes they were tough days and I did get through them. But I will always think differently about the rhyme “stick and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me.” Baloney. Names hurt as much for kids today, as they did back then.
I don’t know about you but when I am faced with a dilemma in life, I look to the Bible. There are many examples of bullies to read about. Saul was one of the worst. He bullied David right from the day they met. It’s true he loved David deeply, so much he made him his armor bearer (1 Sam.16:21). He also loved David’s musical ability to fill his throne room with soothing music. But Saul’s admiration for David quickly turned to jealousy. And it wasn’t just over musical ability. Saul envied David’s skill to lead (1 Sam. 18:8), to fight (18:7), to woo women (18:6), and to befriend with his son Jonathan (18:3). David was successful wherever Saul sent him (18:5). This formed Saul into a classic bully – a schizophrenic, kind one day and mean the next. Those music sessions would often end with Saul chucking spears at David; he chased him as a fugitive for months, forcing David to hide in caves. In the end, Saul just wanted David dead.
Here’s the deal, my beef with bullies is what they reveal what’s in my heart. A bully’s action against my innocent son causes me to want to go bust him up. Bullies make me into a bully…how’s that possible? Shouldn’t this have been David’s story too? I mean twice David caught Saul in vulnerable unsuspecting positions. Instead of striking Saul, David cut off a piece of his robe and later stole his spear. That gave me a great idea. Maybe I should go into the house of one of my son’s bullies and cut off a piece of his panamas and swipe his iPod? I think I would feel better. Fact is, David regretted his actions. His men were telling him to kill Saul and rid himself of his pestering threats. But David refused to let the mean king infect his own heart with similar ire.
“[Saul]…know and see that there is no wrong or treason in my hands. I have not sinned against you, though you hunt my life to take it” (1 Sam 24:11).
Now that’s man after God’s own heart.
How do I instill God’s heart in my son? How do I show him that I care when he is wronged? What does it mean for him to dodge spears and hide in caves? What if it gets worse for Zachary than it is right now?
Bullies are everywhere. They affect the way we parent. They affect the way we exercise leadership. Should we allow them reveal what’s really in our hearts? Perhaps only by dealing with the ugly stuff in there, might we respond most unnaturally (or should I say supernaturally)…to act like a forgiving loving God would.