Rev. Ross Helgeton/Faith and Reflection
Last Wednesday morning, in Sydney, Nova Scotia, a safe and smiling 10-year-old Xander Rose was escorted to Harbourside Elementary by 200 bikers. CBC news described them as “a wall of leather.” A reporter from the Toronto Star wrote that Xander “… was bullied at school every day and it got so bad that kids on his school bus ripped his clothes off and another student threatened to kill him.” Hence, the protective custody of 200 bikers!
Xander’s case is by no means isolated and in spite of a significant effort to curb school bullying, all indications are that it is on the increase. NoBullying.com states that more than 70 per cent of students consider bullying a real problem.
There was a bully in my school. His psychological intimidation and physical aggression were never reported. However, after a period of time, several of the boys nearer his size and age singled him out, arranged themselves in two rows and sent him through “the kicking machine.” He was not seriously injured, in fact he was probably not even bruised, but the humiliation factor was high as a dozen running shoes landed upon shins, buttocks and thighs on his way through. The cure, though lacking in diplomacy and compassion, was very effective. I’m not suggesting that “the kicking machine” be reintroduced, nor am I validating physical retribution. I am suggesting that because of the connective tissue between bullying and cowardice, there can be safety in numbers and copious awareness has never been a substitute for competent action.
Bullying is a methodical, repetitive abuse of power, exercised with the purpose of afflicting harm. Bullying is not limited to affluent nations. Bullies come from all socio-economic strata, however, there is a tendency for those from lower social and economic standing to be more easily targeted for bullying.
Bullying is not new. It is as old as the history of man, and it is based upon the fact that humans are aggressive and power-hungry by nature (some more than others). Moreover, bullying is not restricted to schools. It can take place in families, the workplace, boardrooms, institutions and even religious groups. I believe, in our culture, that a misconstrued sense of personal rights and self-importance is part of the problem. The idea that someone could/would do something, “because I can” is a callous, potentially unconscionable and cavalier approach to interaction with others.
The Bible uses words such as brutish, thugs and savage beasts rather than bullies and accounts of bullying are recorded in its pages, not the least of which is the maltreatment of Christ.
A Christian approach to bullying would include standing up for truth and for oneself, exposing the wrongdoing and seeking assistance and resolution rather than revenge.
“Do the best you can to live in peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18)