I was born with no muscles on the inside of my calves. Well, the muscles are there, but the nerves that are supposed to fire the muscles aren’t. As I’m sure you can imagine, this causes a few difficulties in the walking department….I feel like I’m walking smooth and fine, because my body has adjusted to my condition, but I don’t necessarily appear like I’m walking smooth and fine. Now, this may be shocking, but kids in school used to mock my condition. They would stare, imitate my gait, or laugh. But, guess what? I was never bullied. I never felt intimidated or like I didn’t want to go to school. I asked my dad a few weeks ago how he raised me to not feel like a victim of bullying, even in my condition.
As background, my dad is everyone’s advocate. If you say you want to do something, he will believe you can and will. He is the reason that I learned to walk when the doctors said I wouldn’t. He is also the reason that I never felt like I couldn’t ride bike, climb hills in the Badlands, or downhill ski. And his response to my question was that you have to make children feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves. Something safe. Something worth living for.
When we empower our children with the ability to choose to do right, before they are forced to do right, we are defying the power bullying may have over them. Our diligent training makes submission to the higher cause a much more natural response. However, we still have the responsibility of defining the cause. Looking back on my childhood, I see how my parents instilled a calling and a cause in my life.
I was part of a family. There were certain things that Simons’ did and didn’t do. I was a valued member of that team because I chose to conform (admittedly, this ability to choose came about with much training) to the rules of the family. A team beyond “me.”
I was part of a school. I knew the rules and I knew how to succeed. I chose to conform to the common law of school life. I didn’t need someone to tell me to feel good about myself, because I felt good when I did what was right. A common law higher than just “me.”
I was part of a church family. I belonged. I loved and was loved and knew my purpose. We were united in vision. The vision was not all about “me.”
I am a child of God. He has plans for my life, but these plans are not all about my happiness. I have a calling above the call of “me.”
In Barbara Greenberg’s blog, Teaching our Children To Deal With Rejection and Slights, she lists four ways to help our children deal with bullying. While I love her tactics and advice, I propose that the cure must go deeper than band-aid actions that mask the feelings we have when people attempt to bully us. Bullying has very little to do with the actions of the bully, but everything to do with the power relinquished to the bully by the victim. Bullies can only succeed if they have control of our mind. They can only control our minds if we are so absorbed in thoughts of ourselves that we can’t see beyond this realm. Therefore, people are bullied only when they have not been given a purpose higher than themselves. Philippians 2:4 says, “Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.” (NLT)
I thought about the three, captive, Hebrew boys who refused to be bullied, even by the king. When threatened with their life, they boldly stated that they were willing to die, rather than to bow. These boys were not simply “taking the high road” or applying “mind over matter.” No. Their response reflected a dedication to a higher purpose. If we mold our child’s environment to him, instead of molding him to his environment, we give him the misconception that the world is “all about me.”
We are not risking his individualism by making him conform to our family values. We never inhibit his independence when we train him to choose to submit to authority. Instead, we raise a leader. A person who will be able to utilize his abilities and talents in a powerful manner, because he cannot be deterred from his calling and purpose. Whether his foe be bigger, stronger, smarter, or better looking….this child will not be bullied by anyone who is not furthering the higher calling of his life. The calling beyond “me.”