Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Compassion for Bullies

A weed or a beautiful flower? 
A reject or a hidden treasure?
A bully or a hurting child of God?

We got an interesting email from our son's principal recently, in response to our concerns about Safety Guy being bullied.  We love our son's principal - she does a difficult job really well, and she's got her hands full this year.  Our son's class seems to have an overabundance of kids with behavior issues, and we know his teachers have had a really rough year (there are two teachers in the room, one for special ed and one for regular ed, and they team-teach math and ELA).  This school has been great for our son.

Safety Guy's principal said that she'd talked to one of the bullies, and that the student confessed that he sometimes picks on our son because of peer pressure.  Some kids instigate, some follow along.  This kid was a follower in this case, and told the teacher that peer pressure was why he had been acting the way he had toward our son, even though he usually likes him well enough.  I was so proud to read that this other child had recognized why he was making a poor choice, and it instantly reminded me that a bully is someone else's child, hurting and confused and acting out, and under pressure from their classmates to find their place in the school pecking order.  I hope this student can make changes in his life to treat others better, and learn to feel better about himself, without the need to follow a poor example just to fit in or get some short-term social "fix."  I hope his parents are as concerned about him as we are about our son, and love him just as much.

The principal also told us that she had observed Safety Guy in the cafeteria one day recently, because that's where he's had some difficulty (unstructured, crowded, noisy situations are always hard for him).  She said that she saw another kid crowding him, and that Safety Guy asked him to give him some space.  No freak out, no yelling, just an everyday interaction, simply requesting an adjustment of seating.  I'm proud of our son that he's using his words more often to solve social crises.  Another meltdown that didn't happen, and another child who didn't get his feelings hurt or provoked by our socially insensitive and often confrontational son.  Progress on both sides - it's a beautiful thing.

I realized a long time ago that the bullies I went to school with were in pain themselves, some of them having rough family lives I couldn't even imagine or relate to.  I couldn't (and don't) excuse their hurtful actions, but I can see now that they were victims just as much as I was, and hurting just as much in their own way.  We acted out differently, with aggression on their part, and withdrawal on mine.  We've tried to tell our kids that bullies are usually hurting and insecure within themselves, acting out from fear or anger (or both).  We don't have to be a doormat for their bad behavior, but we also shouldn't forget that they're people too - just other children of God, broken and sad from the effects of sin that surround all of us, and that we all too often commit ourselves.  No one is perfect.  Justice needs to walk hand in hand with compassion.  Our forgiveness does not mean that the bully who hurt us will ever acknowledge that they did anything wrong, or that the situation will improve any time soon.  And, consequences follow all of us, for good or bad choices.  This is one of the hardest parts of growing up, in my opinion - learning how to deal with anyone who hurts you.  It's a lifelong journey, because all through life we'll hurt and be hurt.  It's how we react to it and walk on that determines our inner peace (or lack thereof) and the quality of our relationships.

So I'm rejoicing in small victories this week:  our son handling an uncomfortable social situation calmly, and a bullying kid recognizing why he has acted a particular way toward someone he otherwise likes.  May both our son and the other family's son grow past their differences and learn to get along.


  1. So nice to read about the principal observing SG's actions in the lunch room. He's a good kid, it's awesome to see others notice it, too!! ;)

  2. Yep, he's awesome - I'm biased, but I'm also right!