Because 140 characters could not possibly capture all of my thoughts...
While sitting in my living room this evening, I received a text from the first member of my community group that I met at the Passion 2013 conference in Atlanta, Georgia. After a short conversation, I learned that one of his teammates and friends had committed suicide due to bullying. I could literally feel my heart physically sink. My blood began to race with anger towards those that served as an injustice to this young man whom I do not know. I now feel compelled to share my thoughts on bullying and suicide.
From personal experience, I can tell you that bullying is cruel and heart-wrenching to experience. The amount of vulgar words used to tear one another down deeply saddens me. The miserable actions performed towards people whom are already hurting sickens me. I spent the majority of my upper elementary and middle school years being bullied by a couple of kids in my school. They constantly found things to make fun of, even if there was no humor in it. The humor that they got out of their actions and words came from the delight of putting another person down so that they could feel better about themselves. This leads us to one of the greatest issues with bullying: selfishness.
The Apostle John wrote extensively about what selfishness does to our hearts. In the first Epistle of John (1 John) he addressed the relationship between those in need and those called to help others who are in need. The Apostle John made the argument that the love of God cannot abide in those who ignore the needs of others. He stated this by writing, "But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him?" (1 John 3:17). Bullies ignore the needs, interests, and feelings of others and harden their hearts towards the bullied. To my belief, this means that the love of God lacks its presence in this person's lifestyle. How could Jesus possibly have been considered as true love if he did not die for others, or better yet only died for those who were not in need of salvation through the cross? God would embody favoritism...Jesus would be considered as a selfish, deceitful liar...and the true love of God would seemingly be extinct and merely a figment of our imagination. How could we truly know love without the cross? How could we possibly come to experience His love without a selfless Savior dying a sinner's death? To experience and manifest the love of God means to be selfless, sacrificing our needs and interests for the needs and interests of others.
Sometimes, I truly just do not understand people. Perhaps these are the times that Timothy talked about in 2 Timothy 3. The amount of injustice, arrogance, disobedience, and brutality today is greater than ever before. While we are called to be God's chosen people, set apart for the cause of righteousness, many of us choose to live in the lurking shadows of darkness. There are few things that get me so angry to the point of constant shaking; however, bullying is one of those things. Especially when bullying leads to suicide. At that point, my heart mixes with angry and sadness. These are the days that I pray for boldness. Not only for myself, but for those who have forsaken God and ignored the thoughts and needs of other people.
Many people know about my uncle's suicide, but for those who do not, allow me to share. A few years ago, two weeks before his 50th birthday, my uncle Dwight shot and killed himself in his shed on his property while alone away from his family. Bullying was not the cause of his suicide, yet the pain still inflicts today. Following his suicide, I found myself asking numerous questions that I could not gain an answer to. Could I have done anything to stop him? What if I would have just called to see how he was doing? Why was I not praying for him? Was there a prayer in the world that could have kept him from committing such a selfish act? To this day, I struggle with facing these questions.
While my uncle's suicide was one of the most painful, disastrous moments of my life, it has also become one of the greatest teachers and motivators. Two years later, while on a mission trip in Alaska as a sophomore, I found myself asking new questions. I began to become angry with God. Why did I not know his struggles? Why could God let him do such a thing? Why did he have to die? After a night of wrestling with God, I began to have a breakthrough. I finally realized that there was nothing I could do to change my uncle's future, but there were hundreds upon thousands upon millions upon billions of people that are hurting to the extent of contemplating suicide. World Health Organization reported that on average 3,000 people commit suicide every day globally. Even more devastating, every 30 seconds involves at least one person taking their life into their own hands. For 30 seconds, my uncle was one of those people, and for 30 seconds, Chris' friend was recently one of those people.
Oh, how my heart breaks and cracks and tears for Chris, his school, teammates, and the family of the lost loved one...
Instead of waiting for someone to be courageous, I am going to make a bold statement: all people who consider themselves to be 'Christians', yet ignore or promote bullying, are not truly Christians. There is not a hint of love in the life of a bully. Partially, that can stem from issues in the home. My heart hurts for the bullies that are out to seek revenge for the love lost under their roof while growing up. However, in no way does this justify their actions/words. The Old Testament teaches us this in Leviticus 19:18, "You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord." The Apostle Paul carries on with this message in Romans 12:19-20, "Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Revenge is in the hands of the Lord, not in the hands of man.
So where do we go from here?
To the bullies:
- Stop. What you are doing is wrong, hurtful, and life-changing.
- Encourage instead of discourage. This has been a motto of mine this year. Ask yourself, how can I encourage this person rather than to discourage them? You never know what a random act of kindness can do!
- Seek out the love of God. Take your first step by seeking to serve others instead of yourself. When you sacrifice your needs/priorities/interests for other people, you will see at least a glimmer of the love of God displayed on the cross.
To the bullied:
- Pray. Pray for your bullies. One of Jesus most perplexing lessons taught comes from Matthew 5:44 stating, "But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!" Seek to love and pray for those who are against you.
- Memorize Romans 8:31. Yes, memorize it! "If God be for me, who can be against me?"
- Love. The greatest way to avenge others is to kill them with kindness. As Jesus loved those who tried to kill him, and prayed for those who put him on the cross while in his greatest struggles on earth, we too should seek to love and forgive others.
If you are reading this and are affected by bullying (as a bully or as someone being bullied), please do not do this alone. Get help! Talk to your family, teachers, friends, and if that fails, contact me. There is no bully, no vulgar word, no insult, no unjust action that is worth taking your life for. Stand up for justice with boldness and confidence. Fight the good fight, and don't back down.
2 Timothy 1:7, "For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control."
John 16:33, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”