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Bullying: Code for Fear

Graham Douglass

New town, new home, new school, new friends, new impressions—Must. Fit. In.

I made fun of him. I called him biting names. Why? I didn’t even know him. I hardly knew who he was. He didn’t hurt me. Honestly, we’d never even spoken. I wanted to look cool. He was quiet, an easy target; so I bullied him.

devozine TS 138018602I was eight years old and in the fourth grade. I knew better. With the first words of my rant, I felt guilty; but I couldn’t stop myself. Stopping would show vulnerability. I would look weak, as if I had a conscience—neither of which would impress my fellow fourth-graders.

I was disciplined at home and at school, including a trip to the principal’s office where I sat face-to-face with my victim and was expected to apologize formally. (Believe me, I was humiliated.)

I made no progress up the social ladder. I later learned that the friends I so desperately hoped to impress had tattled, recounting the story to a teacher in spot-on detail. Nothing positive resulted from my actions. I was simply a bully.

Why did I act with such harsh disrespect? Sure, I wanted to fit in. I wanted to look cool. But at the heart of my behavior was deep fear and insecurity. I was afraid other people would think I embodied the traits I yelled at the quiet boy. I cast onto him, a complete stranger, the characteristics I found unfavorable in myself; and then I criticized him. By deflecting the attention onto him, I thought other people would no longer see me as the person I didn’t want to be.

In fact, I ended up feeling worse about myself. Years later, I still feel deep remorse for my shameful behavior.

 

Call a Halt to Bullying

With the Internet and social networking, bullying is growing at an unprecedented rate. People of all ages can more easily bully and be bullied simply because they can remain anonymous, hiding behind a computer screen and a keyboard.

However, with God’s love and fulfillment, we can help put a stop to bullying. We are imperfect human beings. We all have fears that play with our confidence and judgment. But God tells us that we are God’s children. In God, we are made whole. All of our insecurities and fears are to be cast at the Lord’s feet.

The next time you find yourself tempted to bully, ask yourself, Why? What fear or insecurity in me makes me feel the need to bully? Pray for God’s love to inhabit that critical place within. Then choose to love instead of spreading hate and hurt.

The next time you are bullied, take a deep breath and ask God to forgive the bully and to transform his or her hate into love. Do not strike back in anger. Instead, feel God’s unending love and let it envelop you and protect you. Let God help you find the strength and support you need to stand up against bullying.

Learn from my mistakes. Don’t feel worse about yourself as a result of bullying.

The crusade against bullying must start somewhere. Use God’s love to fight this infectious behavior.

 

DIG DEEPER

Think of times when you’ve bullied. Were you acting out of fear? How could you have turned the bullying into an act of love? Pray for the love of God to fill your heart and guide your actions.

 

Graham Douglass , a former TAB member, lives in New York City with his French bulldog, Louis. He is launching an original interview-based web series for teens about Broadway. Learn more at grahamdouglass.com.

—from devozine (September/October 2012). Copyright © 2012 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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