Today is the 8th National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence for us here in Australia. I don't think you can work with young people without witnessing how prevalent bullying is and how damaging its effects are. The question that sits heavily in my gut is: 'why is this even a thing?' Why do we live in a society where it is common for people to bring each other down by their words and actions? A reason I have heard, countless times, from young people about why they have bullied another is: 'but Miss, they are so annoying!' Well ok then.... Bullying can also happen because the victim is simply different to them, or, in in a lot of situations, the bully themselves are insecure and their bullying is an attempt to assert power.
I think at the root of it though, bullies bully because they choose not to acknowledge the inherent dignity of the other.
I was listening to a podcast the other day in which Dr. John Perkins was addressing Saddleback Church and he shone a light for me on dignity. This 87 year old, civil rights activist, has been on the receiving end of more prejudice than my privileged, white, self can ever fathom. This is what he had to say about dignity:
"Dignity is the image and likeness of God. Man was created to reflect God - a looking glass. You can see God when you see your brothers and sisters."
When we misuse a sense of power and bully others, what we're really saying is 'I am better than you'. We attack their God-given dignity, that is inherent to their nature as sons and daughters of the Creator. 1 Peter 2:17 tells us to "Honour everyone." Not some people, not those who don't annoy us, or are the same us, but EVERYONE.
What about if you are the one being bullied? If you are the one being told by others words and actions that you are less than, that you aren't to be respected than I pray you can hear this:
You are loved. You are worthy of, and deserve respect. You have dignity.
We can not necessarily convince others of our worth but we can discover and claim it for ourselves. We can choose to walk in the confidence of the truth of the dignity of our creation, even if our steps are a bit wobbly at times. We can choose to filter out the overwhelming voices telling us that we are sub par, and tune into the loving voice of our Father, who tells us that we are irreplaceable and unconditionally loved. You can grow your confidence in your dignity so that you can eventually, (in Dolly's words) speak, even if your voice shakes. When you speak may you speak of your worth as a human being. May you use your voice to stand up for yourself when others try to disarm you of your worth. May you speak in aid of others being bullied. May you become at peace with not being liked by everyone because you know in the depths of your being that you are loved by the ultimate giver of love, God.
If you are new to this journey of discovery and you feel overwhelmed with where to start, my advice is, ask God the life changing question: 'who do You say I am?' Ben Fielding and Reuben Morgan of Hillsong Worship have just released a song called Who You Say I am. It has been playing on my Spotify on incessant repeat. Take a moment to listen and to ask the Father who He says you are. May His loving voice drown out all the others.
Who the Son sets free
Oh is free indeed
I'm a child of God
Yes I am
In my Father's house
There's a place for me
I'm a child of God
Yes I am