If Jesus Taught the Solution to Bullying, why then aren't Christians Using it?
By Melvin Hayden
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It's because they don’t recognize it. Jesus never said, “The following is the solution to bullying.” But it can be inferred from the Sermon on the Mount, which begins by acknowledging the suffering of the downtrodden and encouraging them to follow his instructions which will enable them to “inherit the earth.” In other words, it is the way for the powerless to become the powerful. His instructions are completely different from the teachings of antibullyism. He doesn’t teach us that if we are victims, other people need to change. He puts responsibility entirely on us. He understood that human authorities cannot solve our social problems for us, and that if our remedy to feeling downtrodden is for other people to change, we have no solution. Antibullyism teaches that we need to fight for antibullying laws, as though laws can force us to like and respect each other. Jesus is a fierce opponent of the legal approach to conflict. He makes this clear throughout the Sermon on the Mount, repeatedly contrasting what the law tells us with his own instructions.
In contrast to antibullyism, Jesus does not denounce bullies. He denounces hypocrites, and we are all hypocrites. He says, "Why are you so concerned about a speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and unconcerned about the plank in your own? The nerve of you, saying to your brother, 'Let me help you get that speck out of your eye,' and there—in your own—is a plank! Hypocrite! Look to yourself first then perhaps you can help others." Indeed, Jesus recognized that the bullies are not them. They are us. Antibullyism has been promoting intolerance and even hatred of bullies. This is the antithesis of Jesus’ teaching: "In the Law men are told, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But here is my teaching: love your enemies. Be kind to those who hate you and pray for your persecutors. That's the kind of behavior that distinguishes God's family. Doesn't God let his sun shine equally on good and evil men and doesn't he let the rain fall indiscriminately on the honest and the dishonest? Treat others the way you'd like them to treat you. If you love only those who love you, what's commendable about that? Scoundrels do that. If you're only friendly with your friends, what is exceptional about that?"
Yes, it is easy to love our friends. The challenge is to love our bullies. Why do we become victims of relentless bullying? Because we get angry when people treat us badly. (And it doesn’t matter if we express our anger outwardly or try to keep it bottled up inside.) What did Jesus say?
In uncertain times, Jesus instructs us to be peaceful. We are angry when we feel victimized. In our anger, we hate our abusers and want revenge against them. But when we get angry, it is we who are engaging in evil. Then our abusers feel justified in abusing us again. To be virtuous, we need to stop being angry with our abusers and make peace with them.
Antibullyism insists that we need anti-bullying laws so that the fear of being sued will make our bullies want to treat us like friends. We conveniently forget that these same laws can be used by others against us, for to them we are the bullies. And if you have ever been a party to a lawsuit, you know very well that it doesn't reduce hostilities – it escalates them. Furthermore, there is no guarantee that you will come out the winner. Even if you do, you will have lost lots of sleep by the time the verdict is passed, and the other side will hate you in perpetuity for having defeated them in court. Antibullyism teaches us that we are not to let anyone get away with any negative behavior. If someone hits us, we must report them to the authorities. What does Jesus teach? "In the Law men were told, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But here is my teaching: don't even resist an enemy. If someone hits you on one cheek, present the other."
This is not a wimpy teaching. It takes courage to face the one who strikes you without retaliating, and to let him do it again. This makes a profound impact on the striker, who senses your fearlessness. And the nice thing is that he probably won't strike you again. Gandhi and Martin Luther King famously taught their people to take this approach, with great success. Turning the other cheek is not a recipe for losing, but for winning. So please, read the Sermon on the Mount. It is Jesus’ gift to humanity. Whether you believe he is divine, mortal, or never even existed, the wisdom passed down in his name is the solution we are looking for.
He isn’t called The Prince of Peace for nothing.