At a recent book signing, I met a special young lady. She was in sixth grade and a slender, beautiful child with long, straight, blonde hair and big blue eyes. She had a sparkle in her smile and was joyfully animated. She lingered at my author table, asking questions about my pet hedgehog and making other small talk. Finally, she picked up my book, fanned the pages several times and said, “I’ve read your book like nine times today.”
“Really?” I asked, pleasantly surprised that a sixth grader would take that much interest in my children’s-style writing.
“Yes,” she said while nervously nodding her head up and down. “On about the fifth time reading it, I started to cry,” she continued. Just as those words came out, tears welled up in her big blues.
“Why did it make you cry honey?” I asked.
“Because….it reminded me of….me,” she responded with pause. A gush of tears began to well up and then finally roll down her cheeks. I asked her to come sit with me, behind my table booth. She came straight away. She leaned her beautiful head on my shoulder and began to sob in my chest as if she were my very own daughter. With that, I lost it too and kept my arm around her until she regained her composure. It was like we were the only two people in the store at that very moment.
“I know that cry…and I know that pain,” I said to her with words of comfort. It was as if I was giving her permission to feel the way she did. More tears came. When she regained composure, I asked if she could share with me what happened.
“I thought they were my friends! But they weren’t. They called me ‘obese’ the day before my birthday last year and ruined it,” she sadly muttered. “They talked behind my back and called me all sorts of terrible things. Sometimes they prank call me. My Mom went to the school but nobody did anything to stop it, so she switched schools for me,” she explained.
“Are you still being bullied now?” I asked.
“No,” she said. “I like my school now and I like my friends,” she added. I took note in the fact that the tears and pain were so fresh and sharp, yet the encounters were a year or more old.
To encourage her, I opened up my e-Bible and turned to Ephesians chapter 2. We read about how God says we are a masterpiece. “Does being called ‘obese’ sound like a masterpiece to you?” I asked her.
“No,”she said with a giggle and a tear.
“Well, someone is saying the wrong thing about you. Who do you think is wrong, those girls calling you ‘obese’ or God calling you a masterpiece? Who do you think we should believe?”
“They are wrong,” she said, now with a huge smile. We continued in the scriptures finding what else God had to say about her. I gave her some homework to find as many things in Ephesians that she could describing how God sees her. We left refreshed with hugs and a smile. I’m sure I will never forget her and the vulnerability she shared with me that day. I hope she will also never forget me.
What is so disturbing to me is that time and time again I hear from parents who’s children are being bullied here in the U.S. and they can’t get authorities to hold the bullies accountable for their inappropriate actions. It baffles me and blows my mind that schools, law enforcement, and parents of bullies aren’t stepping up and providing strong consequences for this unacceptable behavior. Most of the time the parent of the victim changes schools to stop the behavior and protect their child. The bully gets off free of charge and is empowered to repeat the behavior again.
Bullying is a form of abuse- sometimes it is physical and sometimes it is emotional. It is, however, abuse from one human being to another. We have laws that protect kids in adult-to-child relationships from being abused by adults, but we can’t seem to get it right protecting kids from other kids. Why is that?
My challenge to you today is this: If you are in a position to hold bullies accountable, please step up and do so. Say “NO” to this behavior. Make it unacceptable in your circle of influence, wherever you are. We have a human responsibility to help those who need protection and limit evil on the innocent and vulnerable.
The scars that victims of bullying receive take time and encouragement to heal. They don’t go away on their own. They cut deep in the soul and many times change the course of how a person sees and feels about themselves all the way up through adulthood. I’m speaking from experience, having lived through my own healing journey from the old wounds of bullying.
Please do what you can to stop bullying and heal the hearts of the victims affected by it. Here are a couple of resources to help you get started: