I'm going to wrap up this series on bullying with some interesting discoveries I made while researching for my book, "When Your Child is Hurting." Honestly, I was surprised. But the more I thought about it, the more sense it made. While my focus was on children, I believe adults can learn something from this as well.
Sadly, I've heard from many adults who being bullied. I know the answer isn't easy. Confronting someone who has victimized you is almost impossible alone. If you don't have the strength to face this alone, I want to encourage you to get help immediately. This might be from a pastor, Christian counselor or a strong Christian friend.
Don't let anyone tell you that someone has a right to bully or intimidate you. No one does. Not a pastor, not a husband, not your mother. I've known women who were told to stay in the most physically and emotionally damaging relationships because of an incorrect understanding of submission.
I'm NOT advising divorce or running away from home. I am advising being honest about your situation, protecting yourself and getting immediate help. There is hope for the bully in your life, but you might need to make the first step to stop it. God is in the restoration business, but damaging cycles must be stopped first.
Now, on to what I've promised for today's message. Who is a potential bullying victim?
Victims of bullies aren’t who you might think they be. They don’t all wear glasses, have a weight problem, or keep their noses in books. But there are commonalities among bully victims. By knowing them, you can help you and your child be better prepared in social settings.
According to Paul Coughlin, author of No More Jellyfish, Chickens or Wimps, “Bully victims often come from overprotective homes where they get little if any practice handling conflict; as a result they have little if any confidence in their ability to negotiate the world on their own. Overprotection prevents them from learning the skills necessary to avoid exploitation.”
In fact, Coughlin developed a list of common traits of bully victims, and it has much more to do with a person's inability to set healthy boundaries of how he wants to be treated by others, than any physical attributes. The list includes the following characteristics:
• They give in too quickly to the demands of others
• They cry, cower and over-react
• They refuse to defend themselves, which is disliked by all peers
• They are overly sensitive to good-natured teasing
• They radiate low self-confidence, and have a submissive nature
• They don’t get along socially with their peers
This description of a bullying victim is very similar to that of a child with over-protective parents. Teachers, coaches and volunteers can spot these children in an instant, because a parent is hovering somewhere close by. At the sign of a problem, Mom or Dad steps in to save the day. Thus, the child lacks the experience necessary to be an independent problem solver.
Just this summer at our church’s junior camp (grades 3-6), the children’s ministry leaders (who are good friends of ours) shared their frustration in the overwhelming number of children who couldn’t deal with conflict on their own. These children cried, complained to any adult who would listen and basically alienated themselves from others. The children’s behavior was draining on the adults, and annoying to those children who were just trying to have a great camp experience.
Based on this information, it would seem that parents actually can have a significant impact preparing their children to deal well with others, and even protecting their children from bullies.
If you see yourself or your children in this list, realize it's going to take time to change. You can't just tell someone, "Be brave!" and have it happen overnight. It takes one small decision after another to do the right thing in spite of fear.
Bravery builds on bravery. Moral courage is developed one choice at a time. So start small, and build on success. Surround yourself with cheerleaders who will encourage your brave choices.
Here's the final thought I want to leave with you today. You are not alone!!!
I want you to imagine yourself standing and facing a bully. Now, I want you to imagine the Creator of the Universe, God Almighty, standing behind you. Towering over you. Ready to protect you.
Psalm 91:1 says "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty."
Read the rest of Psalm 91 if you need courage today.
Thank you for reading about this topic that is near to my heart. Proverbs 31 Ministries offers a great book that might help you with the bully in your life. It's called Boundaries and it's written by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. It's a classic when it comes to healthy living.
Have you successfully dealt with a bully? Tell us what worked.
In His Love,