There is no better trainer than Jesus when it comes to bullies. Both as an example and as a teacher, he is without parallel. His Sermon on the Mount is considered the highest collection of ethical teachings in history. Why don’t we look at some of the things he recommends in that passage? We all could use some strategies when dealing with difficult people. Anger is a learned response. Humility and humor and confidence can also be learned and practiced, too.
Settle matters quickly with your adversary (Mt. 5:25). The King James version says, “Agree . . . quickly.” The idea is to settle things out of court so that matters do not escalate beyond your control. Deal with it while you have it in your own power. Help your child get this strategy.
You trip carrying an armful of books. Scattering them across the floor, you go sprawling and a nearby observer loudly says, “Boy, what a clumsy dork!” Instead of getting angry, agree quickly by laughing, “You’re right; that certainly was clumsy. I’m still learning how to walk, (or carry books).” Pick up the books, then smile, say, “Have a great day,” and go on about your business (note: the underlined words could be whatever fits the situation.)
“Go the second mile.” (Matthew 25:41) Similar to agreeing quickly, this strategy simply takes the insult further. If you took the same example as above, the response would be something like this:
You trip carrying an armful of books. Scattering them across the floor, you go sprawling and a nearby observer loudly says, “Boy, what a clumsy dork!” Go the second mile by saying, “You think I’m clumsy now? You should have seen me a few years ago. I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t feed myself. I’ve come a long way.” You may be thinking that it is not true, but it is if you were ever a baby. This perspective is both humorous to your kid and mysterious to the “bully.” He may even feel bad about what he said. Don’t explain, pick up the books, then smile, say, “Have a great day,” and go on about your business (note: the key is to have a plan instead of choosing anger.)
Many of us struggle with controlling our emotions whether they are embarrassment or anger or hurt. The key is to develop a strategy to handle these emotions. The mindset that Jesus had was to control yourself, trusting God to handle the other person. This is His way. You see it in his teachings and in his actions. In Matthew 5:43-48, He makes this statement, “Love your enemies. . . The Father causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” Help your child begin to think of treating his adversaries like one of his friends. (Do not trust them like friends, but treat them like friends).
A basketball player has an attitude and it seems to be directed toward you. The coach assigns you to guard him. In the mix of play, he throws an elbow to your ribs. Two plays later, both of you go tumbling after a loose ball. You get up quickly and go help him up just as if he was a teammate. Be aggressive for good.
One last struggle that many of our kids deal with is being the last pick at recess or for a game. The disappointment when that happens over and over again is like Chinese torture: drip, drip, drip, wearing them down little by little. Hey! There is a response that builds our kids instead of tearing them down. “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God. . .” (1 Thess. 5:18)
When chosen to be the last one on a team, go to the captain that chose you, even though he did not want you on his team and say, “Thanks for letting me be on your team.” Everyone wants respect and thanks; everyone wants a team with the right kind of attitude. Who wants a weak player with a bad attitude? But a weak player with a thankful attitude can be an asset to a team.
In most cases our kids’ responses cause more problems than the “bully’s” words. If we equip our sons and daughters to respond with Christlike wisdom, we will find that most of the bullies disappear and some may even become friends. Be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.