The movie Bully is coming out in theatres everywhere tomorrow. It has been creating a lot of press, and I am intrigued. The movie follows the lives of kids who are currently being bullied, and also the stories of a student who committed suicide and a young girl who brought a gun on her school bus in response to the people bullying her.
I have yet to see this movie, but the morning radio show that I listen to ran a segment on it. The main radio personality took his nine-year-old to see the movie and they taped the conversation that they had after the movie. (FYI: Said personality says that nine is too young and only reccomends this movie for those thirteen and up.) Parents and kids who have been dealing with bullying called into the show. If I hadn’t have been driving, it would have brought me to my knees.
As a High School teacher I see the way that kids can be, the cruelty is not often in my presence, but it can be brutal. I do the best I can to keep a positive tone in my room. My general rule in my classroom is that we are going to be nice. Period. But it is hard sometimes even for me to figure out if the joking is all in good fun, or if it is something that has been going on for years and everyone is just used to it.
Every adult I know can name the names of the people who were mercilessly picked on for years. Bullying is not a new problem. But like most things, new media has made things easier to do and harder to catch. As a teacher there is nothing I can do to alter a kids Facebook page and Twitter feed. I can’t police the bathrooms and hallways all the time. But I see what the torment can do to the students and I remember some of my friends from High school and Middle school being tormented at my own school.
I was in the middle school cafeteria when the Holy Spirit broke through the chatter so clearly it was almost audible. “Abby, go sit by that kid.” I didn’t want to. I only had a few friends myself and I feared alienating them. But God would not leave me alone. So I did. I moved my lunch three tables down and sat by a kid who regularly got his head slammed into lockers. The next day or maybe a few days after that, that kid showed me the imprint of the belt he had wrapped around his neck in an effort to make it all go away.
I don’t tell this story to make you impressed with me. It was not my idea to be looking out for anyone but myself. Now, I am very grateful that the Lord broke through that day. At the time, I was mad. I can honestly say that I was Jesus to that kid, if only for a moment in the school cafeteria. It is a testament to the few friends that I did have that they invited that kid to sit with us. I can’t say that we were truly friends with him, but we were friendly. We at least provided him a safe place to sit and eat his lunch but we did not invite him places with us. He still had it hard when we got to high school. The bullies nominated him for turn about king as a joke and then mocked his reaction to the situation they put him in.
I was reminded of this story as I listened to the radio. Listening to a mother cry as she explains what it feels like forcing her son to go to school every day, like she is sendng him off to be tortured made me ask myself this question: Lord, where are you? Where is Jesus in this mess? Why don’t you do something already?
But I already knew the answer. You are the answer, I am the answer. The church is the body of Christ, and we need to get up off the couch and do something. One of the reasons the movie Bully is so controversial, is because the camera crew (adults) just stood by and filmed while these kids were abused. They didn’t participate in the ridicule, but they certainly did not help the situation. They simply stood by, watched.
I can’t help but wonder where the classmates are who confess to knowing Jesus Christ. Sometimes I wonder that in my own classroom and school. Why are the Christian kids just standing by? Maybe it is too much to ask a 15-year-old to stand up to all of his friends and the kids who are bigger than him in defense of a kid he doesn’t even like. Maybe I am expecting too much spiritual maturity to hear and heed that call, the one to serve, and identify with the least of these. Maybe, but probably not.
One of the reasons I enjoy my job, is because of the amazing things I see my kids do every day. I know that they are capable of thinking big thoughts and backing those thoughts with honest intentional outcome. These are just every day kids. Imagine the possibility of spirit-filled kids.
At another local school there is a student who got removed as student council president because (he claims) he introduced a bill that would allow for two students of the same gender be made prom kings or queens if the student body so chose. It made national news because he is suing the school. His attorney has come out recently with a statement claiming the kid is being attacked at school, in the hallways between classes.
I don’t know anything else about the situation, but I began wondering out loud what it would look like if the Fellowship of Christian Athletes said “enough.” What if they arranged to have two kids escort this kid between classes? What if they treated that kid with the humanity he deserves even if they disagreed with him? What would that look like to that kid, the other high school students, the world?
I think it would look like Jesus. Jesus stopping the stoning of the woman, Jesus advocating for the poor, the widowed, the outcasts. If the christian teens at high schools would literally stand in solidarity against the bullying, they might lose friends. They might lose popularity. They might get bullied too. After all, I have already admitted there isn’t anything I can do sometimes. But they might just get to experience what it is to be the hands and feet of Jesus. And that might be completely worth it.
Abby…Thanks for your posts! I wish that I would have gotten to know you better when we were both in Muncie. This is a sore topic for me. I spent years being bullied and still am healing from those affects. So much focus is being placed on the bullies and not those being bullied. We need to shift some of that attention to the children that are the victims. Many times, yes, they are lacking the social skills, the confidence, or self worth that it takes to stand up to the bullies. Many times it is for those reasons that they are picked on. We need to begin addressing the root issue in a loving and Christian manner. Actually I am in the process of writing a book that I think would help! I will facebook you the basic story!
I totally agree. Sometimes as a teacher I can get the attitude that the kid sort of deserves it, because often the student lacks social skills, but Jesus says it doesn’t matter. Could you imagine what it would look like if the Christian groups stepped up across the country? It would be incredible, like “where Jesus is everyone is safe.”
Thanks for this post, Abby. I’m going to be chewing on this for quite a while I think… So many different thoughts swimming through my head. Your posts keep getting better and better – what growth you have had since you started your blog!
Thank you. I feel like my writing has gotten better recently.I suppose it is what happens when you do something four or five days a week. I am interested to know what you are chewing on.
You’re welcome 🙂 There are a lot of things in this post, really. How to raise my son to be sensitive to issues such as this, and how to act on them in a courageous, loving way. What to do in the future should I see this happening to him. (Trying to find balance is a tough thing for me – I tend to live life seeing only “black and white”.) I lean toward homeschooling, so this may not be an issue he will have to deal with while transitioning from class to class, but we all know that bullies exist even in the adult world. How do I best prepare him? Then there’s that tendency to want to protect him from all things that hurt him, even though we grow so much through our afflictions. Then I think about teaching by example and how if I want him to react to these things in the way that Christ would, then I need to be doing that myself.
Just happened upon your blog today (from Pinterest), and I want you to know how refreshing an experience it’s been. I teach high school English, too, and recently sat through a faculty meeting that seemed to have been called just so we could berate our students. I really needed to stumble on this post and find a voice that reflects what I think when I’m strongest: that my students are beautiful thinkers capable of a depth that society does not expect from them, and that my job as teaching is not just a career–it is an act of service and a reaction to my call to love the (often) unlovable. So, thanks.
Pingback: My Year in Review: Grace in Abundance | Accidental Devotional
Pingback: Where is Jesus in the Cafteria? | Accidental Devotional