Tuesday, March 20, 2012

"Blessed to be Bullied"

Bullying has become rampant in our schools today. There are seminars, letters and e-mails in masses each year discussing how to handle bullies and how bullying will not be tolerated and yet it happens. I'm not so sure it is anymore rampant today than it was when we were young, I just think we had the freedom to handle it differently without the added threat and fear of losing out lives whether from a gun shot, a drawn knife or the school administration. Children use to handle bullying in the front yard as they scuffled and fought for respect on the ground. Parents made their stance on bullying clear behind the wood shed and principals possessed the authority and the paddle that put a stop to it on school property. Now we have law suits and "rights" that protect and prevent us from dealing with bullying.

Recently bullying reared its ugly head at the Hawkins home and we were forced to figure out where we stood on the issue. Matthew is 12 and in middle school. He is an easy target for bullies. He is an atypical preteen. He make all A's and his goal is averages 96 or higher. He sits on the front row, pays attention, is polite to teachers, nice to everyone, treats girls with respect and minds his own business. The target is drawn in vivid colors on his back and I am proud. Matthew has said for years that he is different, but he doesn't mind being different. Matthew is also tough and never cries. He handles most any situation on his own and not much seems to get to him. For this reason, when he broke the other night in front of me and his dad, I knew there was something bigger than a brain tumor going on. He has walked thru so many trials and health issues with not a question or a tear, but whatever was bothering him was deep and he was struggling. It took about 30 minutes of coaxing to discover that Matthew was the target of a group of bullies. He was being called names, laughed at, made fun of and unwelcome to sit with his "friends." He was told that no one liked him, he was gay, he was stupid, he was ugly, he was fat and people only pretended to be his friend, among other things that I don't feel appropriate for a public blog. As he sat on the den floor pouring his heart out to us about this month long ordeal he asked, "How can I be a Godly young man and handle this in a way that honors Christ, but not get stepped on my whole life?" My advice was "Pray for your enemies, turn the other cheek and let me call their mommas." I received a resounding "NO mom this is my battle and I have to figure out how to deal with it." After processing the situation and listening to his son pour his heart out, his Godly daddy, his pastor says "Next time it happens, beat the tar out of him. Get in his face tell him to stop and if he doesn't flatten him to the ground." Matthew laughed, but looked surprised. I was MORTIFIED. I would never question my husband in the presence of my children, but NO, NO, NO. He can't fight. Later that evening I questioned, maybe even rebuked my husband for his advice and he said, "I know my son, I know he is not a fighter. He would never lay a hand on anybody, but he has to know that he can handle this and I have his back. He has to understand that being a Godly young man does not mean that you sit back and let people walk all over you and abuse you. He will do the right thing." I have complete and total trust in my husband, but this conversation increased my prayer life. All I could see was bloody noses, suspension and a reputation being scarred for life.

Matthew was in deep thought all weekend. It was obvious that he was processing and praying about what to do. He left on Monday morning with an apparent plan in his heart, but no words on his lips. I waited with baited breathe Monday afternoon. I refrained from approaching the bus stop, but I stood around the corner and watched as each neighbor child rounded the corner, but no Matthew. Oh, I wanted to run around the corner and see what was going on, but I waited. A few minutes later I could seem him rounding the corner with the same slow and steady gate he has had since he was a toddler. We walked inside and this is the story of how my son handled "bullying." "Mom, as we got off the bus I asked him if I could have a word with him. He said no and I told him that wasn't an option, that we needed to talk. He asked a friend to stay and go for help if it got ugly. Mom, this made me laugh inside because I wasn't going to hurt him. I said "I'm going to ask you nicely today to stop calling me names, stop making fun of me and stop be ugly to me. I'm asking nicely today, but if it doesn't stop I WILL put a stop to it. Do you understand? I want to be your friend, but this name calling stops today." Matthew said the young man immediately apologized and said it would not happen again. He went on to tell Matthew that there were others and what they were saying. Matthew politely said "Thank you letting me know and if I need to I will deal with that but today this is between you and me."

Matthew came home with his head held high and not another unkind word has been spoken to him by ANYONE. Now first let me say that Matthew is a big boy. He is 5'6 and weighs 150lbs. I wouldn't mess with him, but that day it was not the size of his body that demanded respect, it was his heart and his character. He took a stand. He did not use force, even though his daddy had freed him up if he felt threatened. Matthew spoke the truth in love and took a stand for truth. Matthew earned the respect of his peers that day. I have always had a great respect for my son, but that day I realized that my boy had become a man. He handled himself with integrity and dignity. I was still a little rattled at the advice his daddy had given him and I ask him, "Son, did you ever consider physical force." "No mom, I knew what daddy was doing. I would never fight someone unless it was in self defense. I knew daddy was just saying "Put a stop to it" and was freeing me up to not walk into the situation in fear." WOW! The wisdom of these men I live with astounds me.

Matthew took some huge steps that week as the Lord provided him with the opportunity to grow in grace and character. Even Jesus who walked without sin was persecuted and mistreated. He turned over tables and he rebuked in love. Bullies are no fun, but I am blessed that my son was bullied. He grew and his character was built and he is stronger in his faith because of it. Blessed to be bullied!!!