A Rose by Any Other Name — No Name-Calling Week
How many times have you heard the word “bullying” over the last few years? Personally and professionally, it has become a buzzword, often misused and misunderstood. This week is no name-calling week, an effort to keep bullying out of our schools and communities and realize the impact of our words. As one who specializes in child development/therapy and parenting, I’d like to address the concept of name-calling and bullying in a new way that says more about how we teach children about identity than a “how do we get rid of bullies” agenda.
But first, let’s talk about definitions of bullying:
Stopbullying.gov defines bullying as “unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance.” They also go on to clarify that in order for it to be considered bullying, the behavior must include 1). An imbalance of power in which a person means to control or harm another person, and 2). Repetition: if the behavior is not repeated and regular, or has the potential to become repeated and regular than it is name-calling and unkindness, but not bullying. (https://www.stopbullying.gov/what-is-bullying/index.html)
Now that we know the definition, let’s talk about how you can teach your child to deal with both bullying and unkindness. I want to be clear that bullying is a serious issue with significant emotional and social consequences, however, teaching children real resilience in the face of suffering will teach them skills for life.
What to teach your children:
- Jesus Himself, was bullied. Jesus was spat on and beaten (Matthew 27:30), questioned and mocked for his claims, and ultimately killed for His claim as the Son of God. This was a horrific injustice. The fact that it was repeated throughout His ministry, and that there was a clear power imbalance (Pilate and the “democracy” had the power to choose to crucify Him) made it bullying. Jesus Himself, the kindest, most just man in history….He was bullied. This means that none of us are immune, but none of us are unequipped. Because He was the Son of God, Jesus had the greatest power on His side. Even death could not overcome Him. Because of Jesus and the presence of the Holy Spirit, our children (like Jesus) have the power to overcome. Lamentations 3:22 tells us that “because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail.” Let’s teach our children that they are victorious over sin, suffering, and bullying.
- A rose by any other name…would smell as sweet. Shakespeare made a claim that is not only accurate, but aligns with Scripture. God created us with an identity that was formed before we were in the womb (Psalm 139). We were made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), and we are called royal and holy (1 Peter 2:9). Because Scripture tells us of God’s unchanging character and faithfulness to His promises, we know that His claims over us are true. So whether the bullies of the world call us ugly, worthless, and annoying, we know that we still smells as sweet and that our true Name doesn’t change. Help your child brainstorm words that define his/her identity. Look in the Bible for the places that we are called beloved, chosen, precious, His workmanship, purposed, clean, and free. Jesus did not fail to fulfill his identity as our Messiah though his Holy name was sullied. Jesus knew his identity, and no name chosen by humans could change His identity and purpose. How free would our children be if this was the truth they returned to?
A bully is usually borne out of a place of pain and deep insecurity. Those who bully, though they inflict suffering, also suffer within. If you teach your child those two truths above, you reduce the chances of them becoming bullies. And if they embrace the truth of their identities, then they learn to see others as children of the King as well, and we bring health to their communities. Truth changes everything. Let’s allow it to change the way we talk about bullying.