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battling those bullies

Happy July! Just got back from FUGE camp with our student ministry! Long week but good week. Minimal drama, so with middle and high school students, this is fantastic! I love FUGE camps and worked as a Centri-Kid staffer for three college summers. I believe in this camp because I know the strict process for selecting staffers, the work it takes to put on weeks of camp, and that every element of camp has a purpose and a spiritual application!

While at camp, each night we have church group time, and one night, students shared how God is working in their lives. After listening for a while, I realized how many issues they deal with regularly, and one main one is bullying. In my counseling office, I hear about bullying, and it does not stay within one demographic, but affects many people. Bullying seems to be a part that my clients deal with, even if not the main reason for coming to counseling!

Let's be honest. It also does not stop at adulthood, the delivery simply changes! After working with clients and bullying and students in bullying, there are changes that can help deal with those meanies out there! Let's first define what a bully actually is!

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a bully as a "blustering browbeating person; especially one habitually cruel to others who are weaker." This heart of stone makes it a habit to pick on others. These people are usually hurting, by the way. Though it does not make it easier or right for these people to act cruel, it may help to realize that they are hurting, which causes their brutal behavior.

1. Tell them. Let that bully know that what they are saying or what they are doing is hurtful. Some people take jokes too far and simply do not realize that they are actually hurting someone. They cannot change if they are unaware there is a problem. It is only fair to tell them what they are saying or doing is not welcome.

2. Say "no" or "stop it." Telling a bully to stop when it is happening can help to stop it immediately, and can prevent future incidents. It also lets the bully know the person will not be playing a victim but will stand up to the bully. It may take several episodes to get the point across, but can often keep bullies away. Let's be real here. Bullying is not always out in the open and is often manipulative and under the radar. Bullies like this can also be addressed if necessary by speaking to them about what is bothersome and letting them know it needs to stop. It is more difficult, however, to deal with this kind of bullying. I'm a girl, so I get it, this is how it is many times, but communication is a great way to handle it. For those young people, especially girls out there, this is great practice for dealing with conflict later in life. Sometimes it's looks that are given, sometimes it's words that are said when nobody else hears. Sometimes these rude actions can be handled by ignoring it. Bullies enjoy the reaction given as a result of their behavior, so after a while, it becomes boring when there is no reaction. Yes, it may be difficult to ignore it, especially when yelling back or acting manipulative back, or writing on social media would feel so good, but remember Whose you are as a Christian. That behavior is not worth wasting time on, nor is it productive. In fact, acting the same way back will just sustain the problem instead of extinguishing it.

3. Tell someone. Tell a teacher, friend, parent, or other authority. These people can support, back up, and help watch for the problem. They can also help with specific ways of handling the issue with the specific circumstances being faced. Teachers may be able to separate bullies, which can keep bullying at bay, since it is easier to bully with another person. They can also watch for the problem to happen, ready to step in if necessary. They can also enable to person experiencing bullying to stand up for themselves when needed and avoid playing a victim in the cruel situation. Parents are of the utmost importance here, to help their kids know they are valuable, do not deserve this treatment, and give specific wisdom on how to deal with the specifics of the bullying. Even in adulthood, bullies show up. People do not always outgrow their bullying ways, so they can show themselves in the workplace or even church as well. Letting someone supportive know can make a world of difference!

4. Walk Away. As stated earlier, bullying is only fun when there is a reaction. Bullies thrive on the show, so when there is no show and the person walks away with confidence on the outside (even if shaking on the inside), often bullies will move on and move away. As tempting as it is to respond and keep it going, resist! Their comments and actions are not worth the time to respond and only exacerbate the problem! Stay away from the person or people. Choose not to be where they are. Now, do not allow them to run one's life! Let's be realistic and not avoid school or extracurricular activities just because they are there; that would be allowing them to victimize their target, but use common sense to avoid causing a situation to happen. Choose a different study group, choose another roommate, choose friends who build up and encourage, not tear down. At the same time, participate in the fun extracurricular activities, church events, and school clubs and do not allow anyone to dictate where to go or what to do!

Of course, there is the ever-popular online bullying. This seems to become the chosen means as children get older and move into adulthood as well. I see this many times with my clients! More difficult to address and deal with at times than those directly in the open situations, online bullying is just as hurtful as a punch in the nose! The same principles can still apply, however. Refusing to give into the bullying game, telling someone to "stop" can still help. Practically speaking, block the bullies from social media. Do not allow them to take hold in life. Surrounding yourself with supportive parents, friends, and authority figures is helpful for handling difficult situations and will be a source of encouragement. Remember Whose you are Who you belong to when dealing with bullying situations.

See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! 1 John 3:1

It is vital to remember that as Christians, we belong to Him and He cares about every detail in life, including the mean comments, or hurtful words people say. His Word also says many times "do not be afraid" or a variation of that. He loves YOU. Whether you are a parent of a bullied child, a teenager being bullied, or an adult in a bullying situation yourself, do not allow anyone to victimize you! You are loved by God Himself. Do what you do. Live life. It's not easy to deal with mean hearts who find it recreation to ruin someone's day repeatedly, but it is possible, and the Lord will give what you need when you need it. He loves you this much.

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