Thursday, July 26, 2007

The bullies

Yesterday, the kiddos were fighting. The six year old is usually pretty easy going, but she finally had enough of the three year old terrorizing her. She lashed out and gave it to the baby pretty good. As I consoled my older daughter, I started to think about what it meant to love an enemy. She pointed out to me that her baby sister was a bully and she needed to fight back. After all, that's the big thing in school these days. Zero tolerance for bullies.

But why is a bully a bully?

In the case of my youngest daughter, a large part of it is that she's three. She's still learning to define her boundaries and her sense of self. Plus, she desperately admires her older sister and wants to possess everything big sister has, because in the mind of a three year old, that will make her like big sister. And really, a lot of adults are caught in that trap too.

Recently, I came across the blog of one of my enemies. She used to be my best friend, but after a series of unfortunate events on both of our parts, we stopped talking. The knife is still in place where she so-lovingly slammed it between my shoulder blades. Frankly, there are too many reasons why I can't ever be her friend again, however, as I read about her life, I realized I still care about her. My heart aches for the struggles she's dealing with, many are of her own making. So while I've acknowledged that there simply isn't a place in my life anymore for her, there is still room in my heart to care. I found that the festering sore of her betrayal is gone, replaced with love and sadness. A friend of mine started gossiping about her the other day, and I would have been tempted to join in, except for the healing I've had. I couldn't laugh and mock, but only pity and feel great sorrow. That conversation didn't get very far.

What did I do to get to this place with my enemy? Absolutely nothing. I'd given the situation to God a long time ago, and so when I stumbled upon her, I didn't need to do anything. Well, okay. I'd been praying. For a long time. Which brought me to the conversation with my children. How do we treat our enemies?

Luke 6:27-36 gives us insight:
27"But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. 30Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31Do to others as you would have them do to you.
32"If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' love those who love them. 33And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' do that. 34And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' lend to 'sinners,' expecting to be repaid in full. 35But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful."

In college, I had a professor talk about how turning the other cheek exposed a person's evil. And while I still agree in principle that there is a piece of exposing the other person's evil in loving an enemy, I think what Jesus asks of us is even greater. In loving our enemies, we are forced to interact with them, to get in to the messiness of their lives and understand who they are. In viewing their humanness, we can't help but find ways to relate to them in a new way.

From what I've seen in the bullies I know, the bullying is a reflection of the weakness and insecurity of the bully. The more I look at the weaknesses and lack inside the bullies, my heart softens.

The more I pray, the more I find it hard to continue to maintain an attitude of hate. It doesn't mean I'm going to jump in and be best friends with a person who damaged my life in a very palatable way. It doesn't mean that my six year old should let her sister constantly beat her up. We can still have boundaries, but we don't need to hang on to the hate.


Blogger ADD said...

Thank you for posting this blog I think it is just what I needed to read. I've been struggling with the forgiveness and other difficult things from the past...
Plus I have two children of my own and I know that they will soon be starting this themselves (2 yr old and 10 mo. old)

8:13 PM  
Blogger Danica/Dream said...

You're welcome. I'm glad you were able to get something out of my struggles. That's why I share. And yes, sadly, they'll start sooner than you think.

9:47 PM  

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