“Love your enemies. Pray for those who torment and persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44 Voice Paraphrase)
Why would Jesus tell us to pray for someone that has snuck past our radar and hurt our family? The “bully” is a beloved child of God, too. The pain in their life is fueling their wrath towards us.
In a society where the hate is palpable, we have to slow down and sit with our Savior before we launch into our defensive attack. Through our actions and reactions towards bullying, we can lead the way for others who find themselves in similar situations. Even though it feels personal, it’s not.
“The devil has come to kill, and destroy” (John 10:10). He wants us to fight each other like plastic foosball players, but Jesus has already crushed His agenda. If we refuse to play into it, we will experience what He came to give us: life to the full. (John 10:10 b).
How to Protect Your Family from Bullying:
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1. Be Aware of the Danger
Focus on the Family offers this wise advice: “Parents have the primary responsibility for training, instilling and modeling values in their children, including respect for other people, regardless of age, appearance or other characteristics. Bullying, at its core, is an expression of disrespect.”
In addition, “aside from any physical injuries they might sustain, they are also more likely to suffer from anxiety, depression and physical complaints such as headaches, abdominal pain and fatigue.”
Children aren’t the only ones at risk. Anxiety and depression run rampant in our society, and adults can suffer the same symptoms when being manipulated or emotionally abused.
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2. Watch Out for Red Flags
“Don’t befriend angry people or associate with hot-tempered people, or you will learn to be like them and endanger your soul.” (Proverbs 22:24-45)
Forgiveness is not always an immediate process, and acting like it is can allow our souls to be used as doormats if we don’t get out of oppressive situations. No child of God was ever meant to be treated that way.
In my own family, when my daughters start having a hard time paying attention in school and at home… when they forget things more than usual and have trouble sleeping… I know that these are the signs something is bothering them. Something they might not realize they need to talk about or work through.
As parents it's important to pay attention to those red flags. And as adults, we need to make sure we have a healthy prayer life and diet of Scripture to counteract all of the demeaning daggers that are thrown our way each day. Taking counsel in wise friends who know our hearts is a healthy habit, but no one knows the ache of our souls more than our Heavenly Father.
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3. Set Healthy Boundaries
“Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character.” (1 Corinthians 15:33)
Bullies aren’t always big and mean, stuffing kids in lockers or giving them wedgies in the cafeteria. When our children have been pushed around repeatedly by the same child, it’s important to separate them from that child outside of school. The mental strain an emotionally bullying relationship puts on the human heart can be just as devastating, because it looks like friendship and acceptance from the outside. By the time we’re wise to what’s going on, it can be extremely hard to back away.
To set healthy boundaries, lift daily agendas up to God. Ask the Holy Spirit to guard our hearts and alert us to deceiving behaviors. People aren’t pitted against us, our enemy is. It’s okay to take space to work through the process of forgiveness. Let God’s standards trump the pressure to people-please.
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4. Take Action if the Situation Warrants It
“Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.” (Proverbs 27:6 NLT)
It’s important to inform the bully in a tactful way that their behavior, or that of their child’s, is hostile and hurtful. If your child is being physically harmed in some way, take action immediately. It may be a long authoritative ladder to climb, but children need to know that we fill fight for them. The same is true for adults in physically abusive relationships. Get help immediately.
As a parent, it’s hard to watch the precious life we’ve been entrusted with become marinated in doubts about who they are due the dysfunctional leadings of others. Hold tight to God daily by reading Scripture together as a family, or at least one on one, parent and child. “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5)
There are many daily devotionals that deal with the emotional trauma our kids battle through each day. Teach them to pray for their enemies, to forgive even if reconciliation with that person is not possible. Parents, we must arm ourselves with the truth of God, daily, too. Otherwise, we are fighting blind and unarmed. When we run into battle without a plan, the fight is already lost.
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A Prayer to Protect Your Family
Father, Praise You for friendships and relationships, and for Your plan and purpose for each one. Jesus modeled friendship perfectly, but we seem to get it wrong a lot. Help us weave through our sinfully fallen society and be the open arms of love that we are called to be without having our souls trampled on.
We want our friendships to reflect Your purpose and plan, and to serve and glorify You. Allow us to see the relationships in our lives with Your perspective, Lord. Being bullied as an adult is painful, but watching our children go through it is devastating. Help us to protect the little lives that You have entrusted to us. May they hear Your voice louder than all others, Lord. Bless their friendships to be full of the love that Christ died to give us. Protect them physically, Father, and guard their hearts, today and always. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Megs writes about everyday life within the love of Christ on her blog, http://sunnyand80.org. Her passion is to encourage others to seek Him first. A stay-at-home mom, freelance writer and blogger, Bible study teacher, and children’s worship team leader, faith in action is an important priority. She resides in Ohio with her husband of ten years, two dancing daughters, and their Golden-doodle.
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