Shoulders to Stand On in the Theater of Bullying


A Word from the Publisher:

I am pleased to introduce The Protectors as a new sponsor of the Christian School Blog. More importantly, I can speak from personal experience regarding their effectiveness in training our faculty to create an effective and spiritual response to the problem of bullying. Please feel free to contact me personally for a reference. Dr. Mosbacker, Publisher


As we digest the sobering conclusion of a recent survey--that bullying is the leading concern among students returning to school--it’s essential that authority in this complex theater understand the real issues that empower this unique form of abuse to harm the mission and integrity of faith-based organizations.

Yet head-smarts have never been enough to create love, light and fairness. Equally if not more important is for administrators, teachers and related faculty to act courageously and quickly against it. Most schools do not lack an anti-bullying policy. What they sometimes lack are the will and courage to enforce it.

Leaders, remind others within your organization that bullying is not about conflict, disagreement, misunderstanding or anger management. It is about something far more insidious and initially difficult to discern: the superior use of power (usually physical, social, or verbal) to deliberately harm another over time.

Bullying is not about two people who “just don’t get along” and “who need to learn how to work out their differences on their own.” It’s about intentional domination of another with the intent to harm, usually through humiliation, isolation and the threat of further abuse. It creates pervasive fear, not just among targets but among the majority of bystanders who quietly worry that they might be next.

Most Christians are familiar with the clarifying truth that perfect love castes out fear (I John 4:18). Yet the inverse is also true: fear casts out love--and learning. Psychology 101 tells us that we don’t learn or grow well when fearful. We just survive, and no faith-based organization charged with educating young minds and stirring tender souls can achieve its mission with this condition in place. Know fear, no meaningful learning and spiritual growth.

Educators, let’s resurrect what seems to be a lost question, “Who started it?” Targets of serial bullying are more sinned against than sinner, and justice is miscarried everyday when this truth is overlooked or explained away through the misapplied proverb, “It takes two to tango.” Sometimes it takes just one.

Authority, be more skeptical than you were last school year when you see what appears to be garden-variety conflict among students. Get in touch with your inner-Columbo, Dexter. Employ your gut. Talk to other teachers and ask a few more penetrating questions among those involved. Also, be more unpredictable in your monitoring of bullying hotspots. Where there is smoke there is likely fire. Put out the fire.

Bullying is abuse that is sometimes evil--not a God-ordained path toward “personal growth.” A recent letter to The Protectors from a mother of a serial target testifies to this truth. Her son is a young adult now, but like approximately 7 out of 10 serial targets, he battles “lots of anger, difficulty with social interaction and relationships, deep-seated resentment, self-hatred, haunted by guilt and shame, and retreats into obsessive behavior when hurting.” He, like the majority of targets, has been more than bit by evil--his soul is poisoned by it. The devil and his minions walk laughing. Pray and behave that such abuse will not take place during your watch.

I recently spoke with a man who helps the poor in Third World countries. When he trains new groups of Americans who will spend the next few weeks building homes and creating other forms of tangible care, he asks them to define a small but potent word: Poverty. Most answer that it is the lack of resources. Surprisingly, “Poverty to the poor,” he reveals, “means lack of hope.”

Targets of ongoing campaigns of humiliating cruelty experience poverty of spirit. When this fundamental need is reduced to a pilot light deep within or, heaven forbid, is blown out, they sometimes turn to dark thoughts of bullycide, suicide due to bullying, or bringing a weapon to school (most school shooters told the Secret Service that they murdered classmates and faculty due to ongoing bullying).

This year, someone within your realm of care will need your help keeping blessed hope alive. And hope is not ushered in upon the wings of worn-out platitudes or a shoulder to cry on. Hope in this theater of deliberate abuse is ushered in upon courageous and justice-building shoulders to stand on.

Be those muscular and protective shoulders this school year and years to come, making your organization a beacon of God’s love, compassion and righteousness.

Paul Coughlin is an author, speaker and Founder & President of The Protectors: Freedom From Bullying--Courageous, Leadership & Character for Life. This faith-based program is used by hundreds of organizations throughout the world, including Christian schools, churches, summer camps and more.