The 2015-2016 year was our first attempt at public school.
Until last year, we homeschooled. If there is one lesson I am always learning, to be still and know that God’s got this not me. Last year fear for the safety of my children plagued me. It was both rational and irrational as my kids have experienced their share of adult trauma (cancer, deployments, death). As a mom, I want to keep them children for as long as possible.
Despite it all, I don’t regret sending them to public school. In fact, two of the three will be returning this year. My oldest didn’t make it through the full year. It soon became apparent his heart was not cut out for the war zone of class rooms. He wasn’t bullied, he just wasn’t treated with kindness. He was never targeted but never felt accepted. Academically, he wasn’t challenged; he was simply bored. Every day became a misery.
My girls, on the other hand, loved the new friends and the structure. They thrived and were challenged. Until the last few weeks when one daughter, along with her best friend, began to be bullied. Suddenly there were tears after school, mystery illnesses and a pulling away from her friend we could not understand.
Her friend was actually the target. My baby was being hit with shrapnel.
In May, Heather Truett shared What I Learned from Being Bullied right when we were in the midst of discovering the bullies in our own lives. Not all bullies grow up, not all bullies mature into kind adults. In fact, I’ve had my own share of experiencing bullies in adult life.
Here’s what I’m learning over and over again and attempting to share with my children. Hurt people, hurt people. Cliché? Maybe. But cliché’s often become clichés because they hold some truth to them.
When people attack it is often because they have been injured in some way. For myself, learning their story and then offering them help or even just a sympathetic ear in the midst of their own pain has gone a long way in diffusing the situation. Setting clear boundaries of what is acceptable in my circle of friendship and what is not, for instance mutual respect, also diffuses the situation.
But the most important step is prayer.
A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to speak with a sixth grader who was being bullied. I shared with him a personal story of someone who assumed because I was a seminary student I would soon begin attacking him for his sexual orientation. Without me ever uttering a word, he went to personnel and reported I harassed him. We had never even spoken.
There was nothing I could do but deny the accusations and pray for this co-worker, specifically that God would help me love him as He loved him. And do you know what? I did. We became close friends and by the time he left that job we were both heartbroken to say goodbye. At some point in his life a Christian injured him. So when he met me, a woman pursuing a career in ministry, he assumed I would do the same and went on the defense. I can’t blame him for that, we all do it.
Two days later this sixth grader came back to me, “I did it, Ms. Hope! I prayed for the bully, and he’s being nice to me.” I have to say my skepticism kicked in a bit but the joy of this child was overwhelming. A fellow classmate who had picked on him since first grade was suddenly showing him kindness. I have to wonder whose perspective actually changed, my young friend’s or his adversary.
As you send your children back to school, or even face the grown up bullies in your own life, may you continue to remember that every human comes with a complex story. May you love even the unloveable just as Christ loves you. May you have the courage to expose your heart.When we might rather jump on the offensive, what if we expose our hearts instead and choose love?Click To Tweet
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