Wednesday, March 23, 2016
A lot of it came back as I read a book last week. A young man named Thomas Mark Zuniga wrote a book titled Struggle Central, which is a very open and honest detail of his own personal struggles. Like me, he attended a Christian school. Like me, he was bullied and made fun of and tried to hide out when he could. Like me, the kids got away with it with the teachers either not seeing it, or not caring to stop it. Like me, he struggles with same-sex attractions..... yeah, there is a correlation between that and being picked on and not bonding with your male peers.
As I read Thomas' accounts of his school days in a Christian school, and mine came flooding back to me; I had a few thoughts:
Where were the teachers when I was getting bullied? Did they really never see it and have no idea it was going on, or did they choose to ignore it?
I don't know the answer to my first question. As much as I was bullied, I do find it difficult to believe that all of the teachers were clueless about it. This is not a statement against Christian schools, as I am not a fan of homeschooling or public schools, but there is something drastically wrong if a kid is getting bullied and picked on in a Christian school and nothing is ever done about it....and here you have two guys who were badly bullied in a Christian school, and no one ever did anything about in my case, or in his. And to go a step further, if it can go on to the extent that it did with me and Thomas; are the teachers really doing their jobs?
What kind of parent raises a bully?
Kids can be totally different kids when not around their parents. I get that. However, if your kid is a bully who picks on and ridicules other kids; I would wager a guess you aren't doing the parenting thing completely right. I don't know what turns kids into bullies, but I do believe if kids are raised correctly and taught to respect others and stick up for the underdog, they won't be bullies.
I know of a family who traveled a lot in ministry singing and preaching. They did a lot of camp meetings over the years, and the kids were trained to try to befriend the kids who didn't seem to have any friends and were alone..... if that family could train their kids to do that, then can't all Christian parents train their kids to not be bullies and to stick up for the underdog?
Why do others stand by and not do anything when someone is getting bullied and picked on?
This is one I cannot get. How can decent people look away and not do anything about bullying? Not every kid in junior high and high school bullied me, but most did.... but why didn't the others do anything?
When I went to Bible college, I got picked on more. I am not sure it was intended to be mean, but it still wasn't fun; especially to a kid who had got it for years in school. And then something happened: an off-campus student who hung out in the boy's dorm a lot, witnessed what was going on. He went to the college president, and it came to a stop. That was a good feeling......someone sticking up for me.
But why did he, and no one else did? Why did he see I wasn't enjoying it, but others were oblivious to it?
I don't know why, but I am thankful for his intervention.
Are we too comfortable with bullying?
Do we have the attitude that kids will be kids? Is bullying so common and so part of life, that we just shrug it off? Are we OK with the idea of people getting bullied and picked on?
Do we truly understand the effects of bullying?
I can attest to the long lasting effects of being bullied. Poor self esteem, fear, the belief that I was worthless and that no one truly liked or loved me..... even God. For years, I had a fear of other boys my age, and other men in general. And according to most conservative and Christian research, bullying by other boys isn't necessarily THE cause of same-sex attractions in boys, but it is definitely one of the contributing factors.
Bullying has led to drug and alcohol abuse, suicides. and even homicides.
Are we growing bullies?
By turning a blind eye, by not speaking up for the underdog; are we helping to grow bullies? By idolizing people who use bullying tactics and supporting them; are we putting our stamp of approval on bullying and helping to give the idea that bullying is OK?
I didn't intend to get political, but one of the many reasons I am so dead set against Donald Trump; is he is a bully. He goes after anyone who disagrees with him and has threatened people, organizations...even a ball team. He reminds me of every bully I have ever met..... and people want him as our president. Ugh.
I believe I have forgiven the people who bullied me in school and in college; but the effects are still there. They may always be there on some scale. When you are subjected to it constantly, and have kids make you feel like you are worthless.....that can have lifelong effects. Thankfully, God has helped me a lot in that area, and I have had enough people befriend me and affirm me that I know there are people who love me and consider me a friend. I know I am worthwhile and God loves me.
I don't fear other males like I used to, but it is still there somewhat. Just tonight, as I walked on the bike trail; two late teen boys came walking onto the trail from a walkway up to some rocks. I had a brief stab of uneasiness....and that isn't the first time. I had a delivery job back around '98-'99, and it was hard for me to walk into a high school to make a delivery. I felt fear as I walked past high school age boys. Sound dumb, pathetic? Maybe so, but that is a result of bullying.
What is the answer to stop it? I am not sure. We can all watch for it and intervene. We can encourage our kids to fight back if bullied - yes, I believe that. I wish I had been taught to fight back. And we can teach our kids to never, ever bully; and to never stand idly by while it happens. And may God help me to never be guilty of it in any way myself.
This has been something on my mind since I read Thomas' book, and I hope I can spread some awareness of how damaging bullying can be.
And if anyone is interested in reading his book that lives close enough to me, I'd be happy to loan it to you.
Check out Thomas Zuniga's website here.
And another website he writes for: Your Other Brothers.