Friday, April 13, 2012

Bullying – It’s Not Just for Kids

Photo: The Weinstein Company

When watching the new documentary “Bully,” it might be easy to remove yourself from the story at hand. The film shows how children are bullied in their neighborhoods and schools. Those of us, who were bullied as children, can totally relate to the kids on screen. The issue is bigger than most people would care to believe. However, while watching this film, I couldn’t help but think that bullying isn’t just an issue for children and questioned how many times I witnessed bullying of another kind and never said anything.

For many victims, being bullied has little to do with physical harm and more with name-calling, physical threats and isolation. Grown-ups rarely complain about being bullied and would never consider themselves a bully, but are we just fooling ourselves?

The whole premise of ABC’s “GCB” (“Good Christian Belles”) is about a small, yet powerful group of religious women who look down on anyone who isn’t like them. These self-righteous women, who have obvious flaws and sins in their own lives, would rather point out the failures in others, including those in their own congregation. Like the Pharisees in the Bible, these women know their Bible verses and are not afraid to quote them to point out the errors in others. (One of the best lines in a recent episode was when two ladies, Carlene and Amanda, were trading scripture verse barbs and one upped the other. Her friend Cricket says, “Well, well, well, Carlene. I think Amanda just out Christianed you.”) It’s easy to say, “Oh, that’s just television. That type of behavior doesn’t happen in MY church,” but I bet it does. I’ve done it myself.

Not too many years ago, churches were famous for shaming un-wed mothers and divorcees. (It’s interesting that the same pressure never seemed to be mounted on the un-wed fathers or divorced men.) It’s only recently that churches have begun realizing that members in their own congregation could actually be abusing alcohol, drugs or pornography and have begun allowing support group ministries inside to help deal with these problems.

Still some churches frown upon others who are not like them such as those in inter-racial relationships, those who don’t who don’t dress in their Sunday best and those who smoke cigars on the weekend. Some Christians would never be caught at R-rated movie or be seen ordering a beer in a restaurant. Some would never admit to their deepest and darkest secrets to other Christians. What would the others think?

None of us get through this life unscarred, but many of us try to pretend to. All of us have made mistakes and will continue to do so, but most of us are afraid to let others know of our past or current sins because we don’t want to be shunned. Unlike Jesus, our example, we Christians tend to follow the Pharisee’s example. Ironically, the only sinners that Jesus shamed publicly were the Pharisees themselves. From the tax collector in the tree to the woman at the well, Jesus treated each with respect and love.

It’s easy to judge single parents, homosexuals, drug users and others when we are far removed from them. It is a much more difficult thing when these same people are your family members, neighbors and friends. It is then that we are faced with the fact that they are real people with real thoughts and feelings, just like ourselves. How many times have we wished for grace from others instead of judgment, and then turned around and judged another? And how about those “odd” people who come to church with zero social graces, bad breath and lack of manners? Would it really kill us to actually talk to them and make them feel welcomed? If Jesus touched lepers, couldn’t we do a little more?

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