By Jennifer Daniels
The old adage about sticks and stones might counsel that words should never break you, but millions across the nation know that is far easier said than done. It’s estimated that between 1 in 3 and 1 in 4 students and 31% of adults are victims of bullying, with long lasting harmful effects on their bodies as well as their psyches. Romans 12:12 may encourage us to “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer” in all circumstances, but it can soon become difficult to practice any of these virtues if you find yourself the target of a bully. However, it is in precisely during these situations of suffering when leaning on faith can produce resilience and deepen your relationship with God.
Breaking Bullying Down
By definition, bullying is “unwanted aggressive behavior; observed or perceived power imbalance; and repetition of behaviors” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Department of Education. As well as greatly increasing the likelihood of mental illnesses including depression and anxiety, being subject to such circumstances can have an enduring physical impact through impairing your immune system or doubling your chances of developing heart disease. In most cases, even the bully is suffering – 1 in 3 bullies have difficult home lives tinged with rejection and hostility, while many others bully to cope with their own insecurities or feelings of depression without ever healthily addressing them. Regardless of perspective, bullying greatly damages lives.
Where Is God in Your Torment?
Whether you are bullied in the classroom, the office, or through technology, it can be a truly isolating experience that feels as though even God is not with you. In truth, God is not only with you in the midst of your torment but in His time on Earth, Christ “was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain” (Isaiah 52:3). Bullying is not of God, but He is no stranger to it and can and will use it for your good if you trust Him to. God doesn’t turn a blind eye when you are bullied, but is alongside with you providing strength, comfort, and promise of divine justice.
Responding As Christ Would
As tempting as it may be to daydream of giving your bully their comeuppance in spectacular fashion, the response that faith asks of us is far more nuanced. Jesus’s teaching to turn the other cheek may immediately spring to mind when thinking of how to respond to a bully, and while it is worth keeping in mind it does not mean being a passive recipient of their abuse. In John 18:19-23, Jesus is struck by one of the High Priest’s guards and responds by defending himself by asking the guard, “If I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?” Throughout the New Testament we are called to love our enemies, but we must love all others as we love ourselves and that involves standing up for ourselves. Respect for both yourself and your bully is key to responding as Christ would.
There’s no denying that being the victim of bullying can have markedly detrimental effects on your life. However, it is not a reason to abandon your faith. On the contrary, turning to the comfort offered by God can be the solution to your suffering.