When I was a kid, I hated riding the school bus. I was a skinny kid with thick glasses. Unfortunately, for me, that was a recipe for occasional ridicule from older kids. I remember in middle school, riding the bus with high schoolers and having to withstand a few jokes if certain kids were on the bus that day. It never got out of hand, and life went on. In those days, bullying wasn’t really talked about. Today, it’s a popular topic. Teen suicides have gotten national attention as the past few years have given rise to cyberbullying.
The world our kids are growing up in is challenging, and it’s up to us as parents to prepare them to handle it. Fortunately, we don’t have to do it alone. We have God’s Word, and more specifically, we have the words of God’s Son. Here are a few things we can learn to help in this difficult area.
Help your kids understand their own value and worth. God knew us at the beginning of time. He knitted each one of us in our mothers’ wombs (Psalm 139:13). We are the most valuable of all His creation. Jesus said, “But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:30-31 NLT). God created us, and He saw so much value in us that He sent Jesus to die for us. That’s pretty valuable. So, if God is that crazy about us, who cares what everyone else thinks?
Teach your kids to respond to hatred with love. Jesus teaches in Luke 6:27-31 NLT: “But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you… If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also…Do to others as you would like them to do to you.” This is a radical concept, and it goes against everything the world tells us to do. But, then again, we are supposed to look different than the world. As Martin Luther King, Jr., said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Encourage your kids to pray for bullies in their school. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus told His followers to love their enemies and “Pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44 NLT). It’s hard to hate someone you are praying for on a consistent basis. Prayer changes things. God may not soften the hardened heart of the bully, but He can certainly soften yours, and give you the vision to see them as one of His creations.
When Jesus came to earth, He took on flesh like ours. Like us, he became tired, hungry and experienced a full range of emotions. He took ridicule from people who didn’t like him. He faced bullying from soldiers as he was nailed to a cross. Yet, he sinned not and showed grace and mercy in the face of it all. That’s not an easy task for us. But, as we are molded into the image of Christ, we can endeavor to show God’s love to all those we encounter and teach our children to do the same. When people in our lives seem like they are undeserving of such mercy, we’d do well to remember that we aren’t really deserving either.