In A Nutshell | August 5, 2022

Neutralizing Bullying Behavior

This world has far too many bullies, and most of us have come face-to-face with at least one of them in our lifetime. My most memorable (and most unpleasant) encounter came on the playground of St. Bartholomew Elementary School in suburban Pittsburgh when I was in sixth grade, circa 1968.

Our resident bully was named Ricky. He was a year older than me, and he and his bully buddies developed this ritual of corralling younger kids and tossing them over the hill (actually, it was a small embankment, but that did not make the prospects of being tossed any less frightening). 

One chilly spring day, Ricky arbitrarily determined that it was my turn to be tossed. In hindsight, it wouldn’t have been that big of a deal — roll down the hill, dust yourself off, and come back into school for the next class. But it was more than the physical violation, it was also the humiliation that bothered me. So, when he pointed me out and grabbed me, I instinctively pushed back, which both stunned and angered him. As he and his fellow bullies surrounded me near the end of the recess period, the bell suddenly rang out, and a group of nuns came out of the convent to usher everyone back into the school in an orderly and expeditious manner. 

Needless to say, Ricky and his bullies scattered at the sight of the nuns and slithered back into the school. 

I heaved a sigh of relief, and for some reason, I was never targeted again, maybe because I stood up for myself, but a few years later, when we were both in high school, our lockers for gym class were adjacent. I doubt that he remembered me, but he had certainly mellowed over the years. We never actually became friends, but at least there was peace between us, perhaps because I had grown slightly taller and stronger than him.

In reflecting on the incident, I wonder what makes people become bullies. In the case of Ricky, I later learned that his father died in a car accident when Ricky was 7 years old. That, of course is no excuse for becoming a bully, but it may have been a contributing factor.

These days, bullies bring weapons instead of rituals in response to life’s events, which begs the question, “What can we do to circumvent behavior that ranges from intimidating to terrorizing?

Proverbs 6:16-19 outlines six things that the Lord hates, including “hands that shed innocent blood, hearts that devise wicked plans, and those who sow discord among brothers” — all of which could describe a bully.

At the same, Matthew 7:12 suggests that we should lead by example and practice the Golden rule, which states, “in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.” In other words, be proactive, take the high road, and set the example of love and forgiveness.

This doesn’t always work, of course, so if all else fails, we can lean on Psalm 18:3, which states, “I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.

In my case, perhaps the Lord saw to it that in my moment of crisis, the bell rang and the nuns came to my rescue — in just a nick of time.

Until We Meet Again, Be Blessed! – Pastor John

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