The Morning Offering
By: Abbot Tryphon • March 5, 2021
In a way the Church Fathers did not really specifically address the subject of “bullying”, but more so spoke of the inhumane behaviour of man to man in a general sense. “Bullying” itself might be seen as the first shoots of a plant that can later flower into the type of behaviour that gives itself to cruelty, injustice, or outright persecution of others – whether from unjust causes or because one thinks they are “right” and that it is their “duty” to show the other person they are “wrong”.
As with many of our good or evil dispositions and habits they have small beginnings and later grow into strong trees if consciously developed, into the virtues and/or the vices. “Bullying” itself is often associated with a type of interaction practiced by the young, whether the person in question is bullying someone else or on the receiving end of such behaviour.
The “answer” to bullying specifically, and cruelty in general, is not a “simple” one – one that just needs a “simple band-aid” or to be “vaccinated” once and then all will somehow “magically be well”. Individual souls might respond and/or react to different situations in different ways, after all. However, one thing that contributes very clearly to the problem of cruelty and injustice in this world is our response as adults to it in the situations we find ourselves in.
More and more frequently we read about children taking their own lives, having reached a place where they would rather be dead than live another hour suffering from bullying. Too often parents and teachers have ignored the problem of bullying, dismissing it as nothing more than “kids will be kids”, and “kids can be cruel”.
The truth is that children, from the earliest of age, can be taught to treat other children with kindness, and encouraged to be sensitive to the plight of other children. The youngest can be taught the importance of sharing their toys, and of including other children in their neighborhood games. Even the smallest child can be taught to treat others as he wishes to be treated, and to report incidences of bullying to his teachers and parents, when he sees it happening to other children.
I believe part of the problem may be, at the root level, teachers who were bullying others when they were children, and transferring that childhood experience into how they perceive some of the children under their care. It is only human to have favorites, and teachers are no exception.
My own youthful struggle with depression and suicidal thoughts, revolved around my perceived failures and sense of hopelessness, but was offset by one single high school teacher who took me under her wing, and helped me become a champion debater. She believed in me when no one else would, and all it took was that one teacher willing to reach out to a kid with low self-esteem. That one child who is taught by his parents the importance of treating a bullied school mate with kindness, and even stepping up to defend and befriend them, can be life-changing for both children.
Children are wonderful gifts from God, and are pliable and open, always ready to learn from the adults in their lives, whether they are their parents, teachers, pastors, or neighbors. They depend on us for comfort, direction, support, AND protection. They are in our care, and God expects us to take this responsibility very seriously. These children are the future of our country, our Church, and our world, and must be taught the importance of being kind and generous towards others.
The child that is raised in the ways of the Lord, will in turn raise his/her children in the ways of God. Let us not pass on the sins and failures of our generation into the next generation. We adults need to make sure peace, love, justice, and charity become the hallmarks of what we pass on to the next generation. Most importantly, we must instill in our children the love of God, and the desire to treat everyone we meet with respect and kindness.
With love in Christ,
Note from the Executive Director:
I was bullied at school as a child and teenager, and both of my children had similar experiences. Part of my vision for St Nicholas Orthodox Academy was to create a “bully-free zone.” Most schools have anti-bullying policies, but few do anything to enforce them. I brought many instances of bullying to the administrations at my children’s schools, only to see the bullying continue unrestrained. In some cases, the bullying actually worsened, as the bullies retaliated against my children because I had reported them to the school administrations.
If you have reason to believe that your student has experienced bullying at SNOA, by a staff member or by another student, please bring it to my attention. Rest assured, I will take action to prevent any further bullying. SNOA’s zero tolerance for bullying policy isn’t there to use ink and paper when we print our Handbook. It is there to enable us to protect our students from any and all forms of bullying.