Yesterday, a 15-year-old young man from my hometown of Buckhannon, WV shot and killed himself as a result of bullying.
I don't know any other details. But really, how many more details do I need to feel overwhelmed with sadness for him and his family and my community.
It doesn't matter why he was bullied. What matters is that it happened.
It all goes back to the "why".
The reason why kids bully other kids is the same reason why there are some kids that let what the bullies say define or overcome them.
They don't know who they are and they don't feel protected or defended.
And you know, it's really not their fault. They're kids. It's our job as parents, friends, family, and community to pour truth into them as early and as consistantly as possible.
The kids that say and do hurtful, horrible things do so because they don't know that they are protected, safe, loved, and precious. The kids that are on the recieving end of another person's pain get so tired of it that they would rather end their life than face more hurtful words that cut to that part of them that is already saying they aren't worth anything.
It's not enough to make rules against bullying.
That won't stop anything.
It's a heart issue, not a rule issue.
Our kids need to learn the power in their words. They need to learn the value of other people. And above all else they need to have a deep, soul knowledge of their worth and identity in God. They need to know in the deepest part of themselves that they are protected, safe, seen, cared for, thought of, unique, precious, worthy, and LOVED by a God big enough to be everything they need no matter what. Any one that knows that about themselves wouldn't be inclined to bully someone else or be effected by the words and actions of a bully.
Our kids are hurting. They lash out in order to feel some sense of control. They don't feel seen at home. They don't feel like anyone is going to protect them so they puff themselves up to look big and mean, but on the inside they are desperately insecure. When they see that their words can control someones feelings or reaction, they get a false sense of power and strength.
The kids that are on the receiving end of someone else's pain have two reactions 1) they blow it off because they know who they are, or 2) they let it sink in because they are already feeling insecure and fearful (like most teenagers who are trying to figure out who they are).
It's not enough to deflect the bullies until our kids get out of school. Bullies never go away. They follow you through college, and into the job world. They are everywhere for the rest of our lives, even if they don't take on the form of the bully at the bus stop.
Looking back I don't remember much about all the gifts I got at Christmas. But I do remember us all being together and singing songs and laughing. No matter how cool it was to have a dad that was a karate teacher; I ended up resenting it because I was jealous for his time and attention. I knew my mom worked hard and helped people in the community all the time; and I'm proud of her and have learned a lot from her, but I resented her job for taking her away.
My best memories are of time spent talking with my parents. Working with them. Planting gardens. Reading books. Watching movies. Riding bikes. Sleeping in bed together and cuddling. Learning from them. Having them notice my art, my stories, my creations, and just me....for being me. There was nothing better than sitting on my Daddy's lap as he rocked me in his rocking chair. Or laying my head on my mom's lap while she played with my hair (I still do this any chance I get). Even the times that I got punished meant a lot to me (in hindsight..lol) because it showed me that they were paying attention to me and cared about me.
I don't know all the answers or even some of them. This bullying issue is a symptom of a much larger problem that is going to take everyone's involvement to change. It's not just about punishing your kids when they say something mean, it's about them understanding who they are and how Jesus loves EVERYONE the same no matter their sex, religion, color, job, age, sexual orientation, income, etc .
If our kids are getting bullied we can't tell them to fight fire with fire, or become bullies themselves. We need to love them so much that love spills out of them and onto those around them no matter how they are treated.
Jesus was bullied, called names, beat up, and murdered for being who He is. He was an outsider. Misunderstood. Different. But He won the war against evil in the end. Not because He picked up a sword. He didn't attack. He LOVED. His love and sacrifice disarmed the devil. Let's teach our kids to love extravagantly. The only way to do that....is to walk it out in our own lives.
My heart burns for our young people. They truly are our future (thank you Whitney Houston). Jesus loves them, protects them, defends them, and adores them and I want them to know it with all that they are.
Help me do that.
The Future (FUTURE!!) mother of extravagantly loved children