How do you handle a bully? That’s a good question. I have met a number of bullies throughout my life, and for most of that time I had no idea how to handle them.
So, when did it all start?
The moment I entered school. I was small for my age and young for my grade. Only after I was grown, raising children of my own, did I learn that my mother never intended for it to be that way. She wanted to wait a year to send me to kindergarten, but the school system bullied her. They pressured my parents into enrolling me before I was ready. When I entered kindergarten, I was only four, with a horrible pixie hair cut that I was convinced made me look like a boy. Self-consciousness took a firm grip on me as I waited one agonizing month after another for my poor shorn hair to grow out.
For most of my grade school years, I was the second shortest child in my class of thirty-some students. I looked a bit like a pirate with my eye patch, the doctor-prescribed antidote for my lazy eye. This caused my self-consciousness to grow. With tall children and taller teachers towering over me, I felt unusually shy, an easy target for verbal intimidation.
Scolding a young girl before an entire classroom full of children builds shame, not bravery in her. But that’s the way they did things back in the 1960’s. Prayer was not allowed in public schools anymore, and the teachers were not seeking God – at least not that I could see. Some teachers were real bullies. Their verbal digs hurt worse than any punch to the nose would have. The old saying that “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” is a complete and total lie.
The truth is, words can hurt, and deeply too. However, if children can learn how to free themselves from the sting of those words and find a way to heal from them, then they will be in a much better place from which to stand up to the bullies in their lives. And if children can understand the real reason bullies bully, which is fear, and can learn to do the opposite, which is to walk in faith, then they can learn how to defeat (and possibly even befriend) the bullies in their lives.