Our oldest son is just the nicest kid – he is smart and friendly, witty and creative. He’s responsible and caring (and as sloppy as they come, but I try to overlook that part). He’s a leader in his class and has lots of friends. And he has a bully who’s been bugging him all year.
It’s admittedly not the worse bully case of all – but it is hurtful all the same. We’ve talked about it and offered suggestions for the past few months, but last Friday, my 10 year old came home with teary-eyes because this mean boy just won’t leave him alone. We talked it through and have a few positive next steps, so we’ll get the issue taken care of, I’m sure. As much as I want to step in and protect my baby, I know situations like this will build his character, teach him compassion, show him what it means to pray for his enemies. He will be better because of moments like these.
But I can’t stop thinking about this one thing, this one reality that I’ve known was there all along, but it hasn’t been an in-your-face part of my children’s’ lives until now:
the world will try over and over to tell them who they are
Sometimes it will be good, like when they win an award or score a goal or get promoted. Their friends/teammates/colleagues will offer praise and give respect and it will feel great. They will feel confident and proud and think they are pretty awesome.
Other times, it will be terrible. When they don’t get chosen or are left out or made fun of or passed over for the promotion and their friends/teammates/colleagues will laugh or ignore or say hurtful things and it will sting. Over and over and over, these inadequacies, negative comments, hurtful words will work their way into their hearts and soon enough, they will begin to believe them.
I don’t like this. Either one, really – feeling awesome because of what we’ve done or feeling awful because of what we haven’t. We base our identity on our successes or failures and that just leaves us scrambling, striving, doing all we can to be good and avoid mistakes and try desperately to prove our value to the world.
It’s so my story. Probably yours, too. Maybe all of humanity, even.
We look to the world to tell us who we are and the world doesn’t even have the right to voice its opinion in the first place.
I’m still learning the lesson. I care way, way too much about what others think of me. I always have. I’ve been reminded over and over again that basing my value on the world’s opinion of me will never satisfy,and I’m getting closer to believing it, but I still haven’t quite grasped it.
My oldest son’s bully experience has deepened my desire for our kids to have a solid understanding and confidence in who they are – in who God says they are – so that they won’t get caught up in the people-pleasing-accolade-chasing-fearful-perfectionism that so easily entangles. I want them to go through life having people either wildly approve and accept them or hurtfully make fun of and ridicule them and not waver from their belief in what Jesus thinks of them.
I want my kids to twirl, really. Not just Audrey, but the boys too (maybe it’s not the right word for them, but see the original post and the follow up and hopefully you’ll get the point). To be who God made them to be, thanking Him when they are successful, accepting His unending grace when they fail. And knowing this:
"The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you; He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing." Zephaniah 3:17
So many beautiful promises in one little passage.
God is with me. He saves me. He delights in me. He loves me. He rejoices over me
God is with you. He saves you. He delights in you. He loves you. He rejoices over you.
This is the verse we chose for our daughter, but I pray it for my boys as well.
So when a bully tells my son that he’s not good enough, it will hurt. It should hurt. But he will know, deep in his soul, that because of Jesus, he is enough. He is chosen and adored and that is enough.
Note: Written in 2014, but just as applicable today