Last Wednesday one of our boys was bullied at baseball practice. The incident involved three boys total, the teaching of very bad words, some cruel mocking, and some big life lessons for all of us.
As we walked through the evening following the bullying episode, we found an enormous flow of grace and love in the midst of the most difficult social experience our son had yet faced.
We gleaned at least ten blessings from the experience. I want to share them here, with the message that this mixed-up, messy world does not have to break your child’s spirit.
Here are the ten ways a bully became a blessing in our family. (Note: I have included links in some of the points to scriptures that reinforce the principle):
10. He now knows the worst bad word. That inevitable bit of information has now come his way. He also now knows that the word is the worst bad word, and that he would probably be suspended from his school if he used it there more than once. His eyes bugged out of his head at this bit of information, as he suddenly knew his new knowledge came with great responsibility. While it would be nice to think he could pass through life without being exposed to foul language, that is obviously not reality for any of us. A naive child is not an innocent child. Now that he possesses a more mature knowledge of good and evil, we will see how mature his character really is.
9. God graciously prepared him beforehand. On the way to practice that night, Mr. Fantastic had talked with him about the new age group he would be in. Knowing our children are fairly sheltered at a Christian University Model School, and remembering the culture of boys at that age when he was growing up, my husband didn’t want our son to be surprised by the language or topics that might be brought up. Like the amazing dad he is, he encouraged him to stand up for what he knew to be right if a bad situation arose. We trust this conversation was God’s grace to our son when the taunting nature of the “I dare you to say ______” game began. Our son refused to play when he realized the words were inappropriate, even when they called him names and teased him.
8. He trusted us with his hurting heart. Never having been teased in that way before, it took him a little by surprise. And he broke down a little when he told us what the other boys called him. It was such an honor to look him in the eye and tell him the truth: that he is the bravest kid we know, and that he had done nothing wrong. It felt like we were passing on God’s own power in those words, and that the moment had been orchestrated so that our words could build in him what God wanted to build. It was amazing.
7. His brothers clapped and cheered for him. When the tale was retold to his brother, cheering immediately began. To see brothers rally around one another is an awe-inspiring sight. To know that our sons are cheering one another on to do the right thing makes my heart thrill with joy.
6. We were able to tell him how proud we were of him. There aren’t many moments in a boy’s life that a parent can truly say they are overwhelmed with pride. This was definitely one of them. I know now there is a difference between being proud of how he plays baseball and proud of how he chooses to stand for righteousness. There is nothing like seeing your child excel in wisdom and godliness. Baseball is fun to watch, a display of good character brings joy and peace to our souls.
5. He understands that not everyone will be kind, but that he is not powerless. Before the bullying, I don’t think my son had ever been treated wrongly with bad intentions. Most wrongs he had forgiven were mistakes, or flashes of temper, or misunderstandings. This was different. He bravely faced meanness, and he knows it doesn’t have power over him, and that he can still be kind when others aren’t.
4. He trusts our judgement more. He knows now why we want to know a family well before a sleep-over is allowed, why we are hesitant to let him walk alone to unfamiliar places, and why we like to hear about about who he is with, what they talk about, and how he is doing. If we hadn’t asked and talked and probed, I think he may not have told us the whole story. He wasn’t sure if he had done anything wrong, and I think he was afraid he would be in trouble. We were able to tell him that even if he had succumbed to the peer pressure, we would still want him to tell us, that we will never stop loving him, believing in him, or helping him through hard things like this.
3. He learned to forgive, even when someone doesn’t apologize. While we called their behavior wrong, we refused to make villains of the bullies and thereby make our son a victim. We explained that the boys who bullied him probably had been bullied the same way themselves. We also told him that they may not know that doing what is right is never wrong, and that by standing up to them and forgiving them he was being light in their darkness. Grace is hard to understand until you live it, and my son has now lived it. What a gift that is.
2. He found home to be a refuge. No matter how mean or difficult life is outside the walls of our house, this is where you are cheered, loved, accepted, and encouraged. Home should be full of love, and love covers a multitude of sins, both those we commit and those committed against us.
1. He knows how good it feels to do the right thing, especially when the wrong thing would be easy to excuse. It is by faith that I teach my children to hate what is evil and to cling to what is good. I trust that the good God of love will help them to find truth in standing up for righteousness. But it can be scary to watch them grow up surrounded by other contrary messages of our culture. You say a prayer and hope they seek truth above all else. My son now has his own experience to draw from, God’s goodness held him through it all, and he loves what is right more because wisdom served him well.
I don’t resent what happened last Wednesday. I feel only gratitude for those little boys who cluelessly taunted my son. I am praying that their foolishness becomes their own testimony of grace, as our family loves them with the love that God Himself feels for them…. Wouldn’t that be an amazing blessing to add to this list?