Guest Post by Paul Coughlin Click here for part 1
The Real World of Bullying
When Jesus said that the poor will be with you always, he may as well have added bullies, too. We will never “get rid” of bullying because in order to do so we would have to rid the world of the sins that sustain it, which are formidable. They include arrogance, pride, hubris, contempt and related sins such as “cupiditas,” for which Dante reserved the lowest levels of hell. Also called the “sins of the wolf,” cupiditas describes the kind of behavior and person who consumes others.
To the minority of students who become serial bullies and unleash the most harm, people aren’t people. They are commodities and tokens for barter, a disposition usually gained through the umbilicus of parental modeling [bullying can also stem from lack of parenting, especially male parenting]. When it comes to bullying, this exchange includes refining the pain and suffering of others into personal pleasure, power and domination as well as social capital, the cherry atop of this forbidden desert.
Bullying stems from profound spiritual maladies and requires powerful spiritual surgery instead of feel-good, pop-psychology bandages. Studies show that through word selection, body language and related behavior that your average bully not only received pleasure from another’s pain (the definition of sadism) but also believes she is superior to others. Bullies need a major infusion of humility, not greater self-esteem, which is already inordinate among bullies.
The good news is that when Christian schools help targets, bullies and bystanders undergo this deeper but more penetrating soul work through the portal of justice and real peacemaking, they facilitate some of the most powerful spiritual formation possible, including greater faith, wisdom, hope, love, humility, courage, and compassion.
This shameful economy where unkindness, meanness and cruelty pays isn’t limited to youth culture. Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay is worth an estimated $50 million and receives $225,000 per tv episode in part for demeaning and abusing others. Like so many bullies, he gains the world but loses part of his soul each time he unleashes a hurricane of obscenities upon a stunned pupil for the unforgivable sin of overcooking or undercooking, or for defending themselves against his verbal body blows and jabs of acrimony. Worse, he receives this filthy lucre because many adults find this verbal blood sport entertaining–exactly the way students from Christian school receive glee when a fellow student has her physical or psychological skin seared through physical, verbal or cyberbullying.
Immature and cruel youth culture reflects immature and cruel adult culture, so Christian schools fight an uphill battle against such abuse that restricts equal access to an education, lowers test scores and school spirit, increases truancy and psychological and spiritual fragmentation, and tarnishes the good reputation of their school, often unfairly, among the many other ailments that accompany this intentional form of abuse.
Then there’s school violence. The Secret Service interviewed 37 school shooters (some in Christian schools) and found that nearly all (85%) said they did it as revenge against bullying. Agents said their experience met the legal definition of harassment and moral definition of torment. Children are being tormented each day in Christian school and minority experience relief, in part because only about 10% of victims of abuse in general ever talk. The majority conclude that if there is a God then He must not care about them personally or justice corporately.
Yet within this “Theater of Bullying,” there is a silver lining, especially for Christian schools, which aren’t as beleaguered by red tape than the public schools and are better able to speak to the deep spiritual issues that maintain and promote bullying. Tackling bullying is a hidden opportunity for demarcation and greater enrollment if handled with acumen. Addressing bullying, far from an admittance of guilt, makes good business sense. Not only will Christian school’s help bring God’s Kingdom to the world through anti-bullying efforts since justice is love’s most public and becoming face, it’s an opportunity to distinguish themselves from less discerning educational opportunities, a distinction that with time will bolster their enrollment through greater student retention and attraction. “Hardly a week goes by when I don’t have a conversation about this topic,” says Larry Taylor, Head of School at Prestonwood Christian Academy in Plano, TX. “Parents who are thinking about having their kids attend our school want to know what we are doing about this problem.” A Harris Poll [Sept 2011] confirms this growing worry. It found that bullying is the leading concern not just among parents, but students as well, surpassing illicit sexual activity, gang activity and drug use.
Stay tuned for part three in a future post …
Paul Coughlin is an expert witness regarding bullying and the law, a former newspaper editor, FoxNews contributor, and works with professional athletes to diminish bullying, such as the Baltimore Ravens. He is the author of numerous books, including Raising Bully-Proof Kids. He is a men’s conference speaker and Founder of The Protectors: Freedom From Bullying—Courage, Character & Leadership for Life (www.theprotectors.org), which provides both a faith-based and values-based solution to adolescent bullying in schools, summer camps, Sunday School, and other places where bullying can be prevalent. For parents struggling to defend their child from bullying, check out The Protectors unique resource, 4-Circles of Defense Against Bullying.