Saturday, May 26, 2012

Dealing With Bullying

Captain Obvious would say bullying is a big issue in today's society. Captain Obvious would be right. But, he ought not overlook the fact that bullying has always been a big issue; it's just getting more attention in today's world.  With blogging, vlogging and social networking a big part of many people's lives, bullying is being spotlighted more today than at other times throughout history.

It's about time!

If you are being bullied, there are steps you can take to insulate yourself from its onslaught.  I KNOW how hard it is to take. I KNOW how it leaves a person feeling.  But, I also KNOW the God Who, Himself, was bullied and dealt with it squarely and forcefully, in His Word.

Look at John.  The book of John is filled with incidences of bullying and it gives us a great pattern for dealing with it. John's first encounter with his bullies happened right in the first chapter, in verse 19.  It was no secret that his teaching was radical in the eyes of the spiritual leaders of that day.  A group of priests and Levites were sent from Jerusalem to ask John who he was.  Their intent was to trap him, as the intent of bullies always is.  They were sure he would claim to be the Christ, but he did not. The exchange takes place down through verse 28, and they quizzed him again and again over who he was.  They asked him questions like, "If you aren't the Christ, why are you baptizing people?"  John responded by quoting Isaiah, so they jumped on that.  "Are you Isaiah?"  

The lessons in this brief passage are many:

1. John kept his focus on Jesus Christ. For every question they asked, John pointed them to Christ. You can do the same thing with your bully.  John had a job to do....he was sent to bear witness of One coming, the Man Christ. (John 1:8)  So, John had his own agenda and did not allow his focus to be derailed by his bullies. You can do the same.

2. John never claimed to know more than he knew.  It's best not to claim anything when dealing with a bully because the bottom line is, they've already made their decision about you and what you know, think and feel.  The bullies did not believe John, as further reading in the book of John shows.  They kept on. 

3. The priests and Levites didn't have their own words for any of their dialog, but used John's words, taking them as their own.  As soon as John quoted Isaiah, the bullies latched onto that and started quizzing him about being Isaiah.  That had not been their thought before they got there. John introduced that thought to them and they took it as their own. Your bullies will no doubt start using your own words to attack you.  Someone with a valid concern in your life will have their own words, not have to use yours.   Listen to your bully.  You might notice that the bullies in your own life don't have their own words for their plans. They think it's highly effective to use your own words against you.  They usually take your words out of context, too.

4. John never answered their questions to their satisfaction.  They asked him if he was Isaiah. He said, "I am not."  They asked him if he was that prophet. He said, "No."  Short, sweet and to the point. NOT what the bullies wanted, so they pushed further.  They tried to pin him down, so he pointed them to Jesus Christ, "I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, make straight the way of the Lord, as Isaiah said."  They asked further, he kept pointing them to Jesus.  What I learned from this is I do not owe my bullies any explanation. Neither do you. You do not owe your bullies any explanation.  Polite, short answers are best when dealing with a bully.  When you stop giving them the expected answers, they stop talking since they were using your words to begin with. Quite frankly, John never did really answer them and tell them who he was.

There's more, but I need time to think.  Keep in mind that a "no explanation" approach may produce awkward silences with your bully.  It's ok.  Awkward silences are not your problem. You are not under any obligation to fill an awkward silence. Let it sit.  More on that to come in another blog post.

Even if you are not one to use and/or read the Bible, you can see patterns of how to deal effectively with bullies throughout Its Words. I, quite frankly, find it the most valuable tool in dealing with bullying.  


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Angels Where You Least Expect Them

Not too many people can really tell when they'll need an angel. I mean, we might pray for God to send angels to watch over us or a loved one, but we don't usually see the need coming on a day to day basis. Who can tell when they'll need an angel? When does having access to an angel occur to us?

There are times it's obvious.  When my son was deployed to Iraq, both times, I prayed for the angels to watch over him and keep him from harm.....and they did.  But, not too many of us are going into battle here in the USA.

That is, unless you're talking about spiritual battles, of course.   They are going on all around us, all the time. God's Word tells us that we don't wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers. Read Ephesians 6:12-18.

After one such recent battle, I was spent.  The battle might have been hard for the average person to even recognize, given the situation, but it was nothing short of spiritual warfare.  I sat there for a while afterward, pondering the situation, and reeling.  

And then an angel came to my rescue.

She seemed to appear out of nowhere, but I knew she'd been there all along. She'd heard the entire battle. She said, "HI. Excuse me. I don't mean to intrude, but I couldn't help but overhear."

I said, "Hi. You're not intruding at all."

She said, "Are you ok?  I heard it all.......... and couldn't leave until I knew you were ok.  I'm so sorry."

I said, "It's a situation."

Her: "I could tell."

Me:  "Thanks for your concern."

Her: "My, my.  You can't win."

Me: "I know. I know."

Her: "Are you sure you're ok? I have to be sure you're ok."

Me: "No, but I will be. Thank you. You are so kind.  Let me shake your hand."

Her:  "I'll have none of it. You need a hug!"

And this perfect stranger hugged me hard and her kindness touched me and left me, yes, even me, speechless. All I could do was thank her again for her incredible kindness, and marvel at her perception. She was a stranger, after all.

I am so incredibly blessed.  God sent me an angel just in time to encourage my weary soul.  Imagine!  She heard the entire thing!  I can't stop thinking about her.  My angel.  My beautiful, brunette angel!

Praise be.

Hebrews 13:2, "Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares."


Thursday, May 10, 2012

It's My Story

It's My Story

During my writing classes, I often read portions of my own published writings to my students as part of my opening presentation.  In this way, my students learn a little about my story of growing up in abuse and violence with my alcoholic father.  Recently, during a class, one student asked, "Do you ever feel funny writing about that abuse? I mean, what if your dad, or any of your other abusers, read it?"

I was prepared for this question and I answered her without hesitation.  I said, "Whatever I go through happens to me, thus making it my story. If my dad, and other abusers in my life, did not  want the story to be told, they ought not have abused me in the first place."  At that, another student, a big, strapping man, began clapping slowly and deliberately.  Quite frankly, I was honored, shocked, embarrassed and pleased, all at the same time that he applauded me. That had never happened before.

I was prepared for the question, not because it had been asked before, it hadn't, but because I have ready answers about abuse.  I know where I stand with abuse and this confidence has given me a sound set of fundamental principles from which I operate when it comes to my past abuse and any abuse I currently face or will face in the future.  My set of principles comes from Scripture.

Abusive people have unwritten rules.   One big unwritten rule is the rule of silence.  I know this silence well; it was a big part of my life for a very long time.  The victim knows the rules of silence and generally complies with those rules for fear of more abuse, or embarrassment by the abuser, which is also abuse.  The silencing plan includes spinning the truth to the point of making it seem like everything is the victim's fault.  This fear keeps the victim quiet.  It's highly effective.

Yes, abuse that happens to me is my story and I get to tell my story.  I will always tell my story of abuse. This includes abuse from my past, abuse from my present and any abuse I may fall victim to in the future.  Any attempt to quiet a victim is quite simply further abuse.

So, I will not be silent any longer.  Hence, I wrote my book, Victory Over Violence.  I will blog about abuse. I will help others who have gone through, or may be going through, any type of abuse.

I am fully aware that there are times when a person has to be quiet for their own safety.  But, later, when someone has been removed from abuse and is safe, the best advice they can get is advice to talk about it in whatever way they can.  Hushing a victim when they need to talk out their abuse is just another form of abuse.  Victims need someone who will listen with compassion and patience.

Oh, wow….I could go on and on here.  But, I won't for now simply because I know people will only read so much in a blog post. 

But there will be more to come on this topic, rest assured.


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Not My Kids

I think the man thought it was innocent enough.  He loved birds and loved to take pictures of them.  We live on the property our church owns, which houses about 110 trees, mostly oak, but some crab apple and a few maples and several evergreens.  So, we have a lot of birds and this man used to stop his van along our property to take pictures of the birds. But, I didn't know he was just taking pictures of the birds and my boys were out sledding and this man stopped his van right near the small "hill" where my boys were sledding.  I had no idea who he was, what he wanted, etc., so when I saw him stopped there, so close to my boys,  then saw him talking to them, I donned my coat, boots and gloves and walked over.

I approached his van and introduced myself.  Immediately, the man was defensive.  I'd said, "Hi!  My name is Tricia.  I'm their mom." (pointing to my boys)

He said, "So?"

I said, "Well, I see that you've stopped near where they are sledding, so I thought it best to come introduce myself and find out what you need here."

He said, "I'm just taking pictures of the birds. I'm not going to hurt your boys."

"Well," I said, "I like to know people who are talking to my boys."

With that, he reiterated that he was not going to "hurt" my boys, but only wanted pictures of the birds. He then drove off.  He started coming less and less, I kept a close eye at all times, wrote down his license plate number and warned my boys about talking to him.  They complied. He no longer stops to take pictures.

The message is loud and clear:  If someone wants access to my kids, they have to go through me. If someone will not speak to me or talk decently to me, they do not get to talk to my kids.

My word. You would not believe how often I have to act on this principle.  My job as their mom is to ensure their safety.  I do not believe my boys are emotionally, physically or spiritually safe around people who will not talk to their mom.  Period.  There are people who will not speak to me but actively try to talk to my kids.  Not gonna happen.  I will do whatever I can to protect my kids from such people, no secrets about it, no apologies given.