Defeating a Bully

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I will never forget the anguish and horror of learning one of my former students had committed suicide due in part to bullying. What do you say to parents who have gone through such devastation? There are simply no words that can heal their pain. All I could do was love them and listen. Unfortunately, their tragedy is becoming all too commonplace in the U.S. 

According to statistics on bullying, a victim of bullying is twice as likely to take his or her own life compared to someone who is not a victim. The most common reason cited for being harassed is a student's appearance or body size. Two out of five teens feel that they are bullied because of the way that they look. Harassment and bullying have been linked to 75 percent of school-shooting incidents.

Bullying is no longer something to take lightly. It is not only important to identify victimization, but to enlist helpful, assertive strategies for dealing with bullies. 

Here are some practical things you can do when confronted by a bully:

- Hold your head up and look confident. Refrain from having a hurt or fearful look on your face.

- Keep your arms to your side and stand confidently on both feet. Keep your hands out of your pockets; not folded or held up as if you want to fight.

- Keep non-threatening eye contact with the bully.

- Don't run away unless you are in danger.

- Don't get physical with the bully or argue in return.

- Do something that brings you confidence in your everyday life by developing a skill you are good at or taking a class.

- Find good, true friends and share your pain with them once they can be trusted.

- Tell trusted adults that you are being bullied. Talk to someone UNTIL YOU GET HELP!  If the first adult does not take you seriously, keep going to adults until someone believes you and does something to help you.

Likewise, the following conversational responses are helpful when facing a bully and should be followed by walking away calmly toward an adult or into another group of people. Some spoken responses to use when being bullied include:

- "This is a waste of my time." 

- "What did you say?"

- "Say what you want to say. I'm not going to listen to it."

- "Stop it!" (said with a calm voice and reassured look)

- If someone is picking on you because of a disability, reveal the facts to them.

- It often causes the bully to fall completely off balance if you agree with them ..."You know, I do need to lose a little weight.  Thanks for noticing." 

In John 18:22-23, Jesus was being bullied by an officer and He countered with a question: “When he had said these things, one of the officers standing by struck Jesus with his hand, saying, ‘Is that how you answer the high priest?’ Jesus answered him, ‘If what I said is wrong, bear witness about the wrong; but if what I said is right, why do you strike me?’” Questions will often defuse a bully’s attacks.

If you are a by-stander and see someone being bullied, you can also use the strategies listed above or you may also say something like: (Example-kid being bullied about his hair) "I think his hair cut looks like Justin Bieber, and I wish my hair looked like his!" Then, ask the victim to walk away with you.

Some counter-bullying tactics include getting a third party involved. For example, the victim may wish to confront the bully who has been spreading rumors about her. To do so, it would be wise to discuss this action with an adult then have others present when the interaction takes place.  

While technology has improved our lives in many ways, it has also given birth to cyber bullying. According to statistics from i-Safe Foundation, over half of adolescents and teens have been bullied online, and about the same number have engaged in cyber bullying.  More than one in three young people have experienced cyber threats from bullies who terrorize victims by threatening bodily harm. Well over half of young people do not tell their parents when cyber bullying occurs.

 If you are being bullied online, you MUST tell your parents or, in the case of receiving bodily threats, call the police. If you fear having your phone or internet privileges taken away by your parents due to cyber bullying, explain your fears to your parents. Work with your parents to help you find an agreement that works for all.  

While it is important not to respond to a cyber bully, it is important to save evidence of the bullying.  Place the evidence on a flash drive so that you don't have to see the continual reminders of the bully’s remarks. Report bullying to your service provider, or block the bully from sending texts, notes or emails. Most of all, password protect your cell phone and online sites, changing your passwords often. Also, remember not to post photos or other information that you would not want your mom, dad, pastor or others you respect seeing. 

Do not try to handle cyber bullying on your own. Get your parents and responsible adults involved.  In most states, cyber bullying is against the law and cyber threats can land bullies in jail. It is not something to take lightly.

On a spiritual level, 2 Timothy 1:7 gives us some insight into how to deal emotionally with bullies.  It says God “has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and of a sound mind.” He will defend us when we put our trust in Him. When we do things His way, He will always take care of us and show us how to handle difficult situations effectively. 

Doing things God’s way means one thing—we win. When we refuse to dignify another person’s actions by retaliating in a way that is displeasing to God, He will be sure that we are covered with His protection. He is our best defense in any situation in life.

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