Do Christian bullies and bystanders become people who are indifferent to local and global injustice? I wonder.
Some readers might stumble over my supposition that there are, in fact, Christians who are bullies. It would seem that these two characteristics are counterintuitive, but come on, let’s be honest; we all know Christian bullies. Many of us have (at the very least) been Christian bystanders at one time or another – seeing people treated unfairly and remaining silent.
While there are several typical characteristics of bullies, a few show up consistently. Bullies* …
- Blame the target or say they deserved what they got
- Are intolerant of differences
- Feel superior
- Are insensitive to the feelings or needs of others – a lack of empathy
I grew up with a big brother who has Down Syndrome. I suppose that might have made me more aware of bullies – people who said things under their breath … or just loud enough for us to hear.
I think I’m more bothered by bystanders, as they unwittingly encourage and fuel the courage of bullies. Bullies love an audience. If their audience shows disapproval, the bullies often shrink back into the shadows and discontinue their abuse. On the flip side, bystanders who smile, laugh, nod, or make comments make matters worse as they stimulate bullies.
But here’s how I think Christians are most guilty of falling into the bully or bystander trap … they passively accept bullying by watching and doing NOTHING!
I’ve seriously considered blogging about Christian Mean Girls, but I could just as easily write about Christian Mean Boys, Men, Women, Children …
Listen, followers of Christ, we need to quit pointing fingers at un-churched, nonbelievers in public schools or in “the world” in an effort to identify bullies. Homeschooled and parochial school children (and their parents) are not exempt from being bullies. My own kids are homeschooled and in extracurricular activities in which they’ve been the victims of bullying. I have friends whose children attend Christian schools and they’ve experienced on-going bullying. I’ve watched as Christians took potshots at a fellow believer’s “fall from grace” via a blog or social media status. (I’ve been guilty of sharing some of those without thinking or praying about the wisdom of doing so, thus falling into the bystander snare.)
[Tweet “Homeschooled and parochial school children (and their parents) are not exempt from being bullies.”]
Truly, those who say nothing are as culpable as those who make fun, taunt, and snicker behind their hands … just loud enough for the target to hear, because what fun is it to bully or mock unless the target is shriveling? It happens …
- Adults make snide comments about the panhandler on the corner without knowing his or her story.
- Kids find humor in what appears to be a fall from popularity of one of their “teammates.”
- We change the channel when the plight of third world souls are featured in a documentary.
- We quit reading bloggers (perhaps me) that seem to be taking up residence on a soapbox.
Parents, we are blowing it – missing the mark – FAILING if we don’t teach our children to stand up for those who are being picked on or talked about rather than just standing by.
We can help them learn to defend the target, redirect the situation away from the bullying, solicit help from their peers, or tell an adult.* Most importantly, we can model what it looks like to be active, not passive when it comes to right and wrong.
Micah 6:8 says,
He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?
DO JUSTICE. Don’t stand by when and where you see injustices. “Do” is an action verb. It requires movement. It doesn’t infer that passively reading about justice or contemplating justice is sufficient. It means get off your duff, open your mouth, pull out your wallet, get on your knees, reach out your hand, live simply so that others may simply live.
Notice that Micah 6:8 doesn’t say, “… do justice (unless you believe it’s none of your business, you are too far removed from the situation, you feel powerless, you fear retribution, you don’t want to make matters worse, or you simply don’t know what to do.).
Friends, I believe that young Christian bullies may become people who disregard injustice, and adult Christian bystanders already do disregard injustice.
[Tweet “Young Christian bullies may become people who disregard injustice if we don’t teach & model something different.”]
I’m not going to be quiet about this. No, I’m going to shout it from the mountaintops … or at the very least from every social media platform that I have available and the flatlands where I live (since we don’t even have substantial hills where I live, let alone mountains).
Let’s eradicate injustice by teaching the next generation to SPEAK UP and DO JUSTICE for those who aren’t treated fairly. Let’s begin by modeling it for our children.
*Strauss Esmay Associates, LLP
Harassment, Intimidation, & Bullying Prevention Training Program
Importance of Bystanders (Script Excerpts)