By Jonathan David Faulkner
I can remember it like it was yesterday, sitting in the Principles office, where I had been so many times before (it had been a like a second classroom to me in 4th and 5th grade) for disciplinary problems. Here I was, in sixth grade, across from the middle school principle that had showed me so much grace and patience that it was almost unbelievable was once again going to teach me a life lesson I would never forget.
“You know, you of all people should understand what it is like to be bullied.” She said (I think) “So why would you do it to this person?”
What had happened was this, there was a new girl at school, she came from a broken family and had spent the last few years going from foster home to foster home. I cannot remember her name, but I remember some of the nasty things I said to her. Still on a quest to fit in and having just been told I would need another eye-surgery I had joined in with the other boys making fun of her. She was a sweet kid, probably just needed a friend and instead of being that, I was a jerk.
You would think that sitting in the office, again, would have woken me up, but I remained a bully for better part of the next decade. I just figured out how to do it and not get caught. The fact that I was taking Tae Quan Dou gave me an outlet for physical violence. After coming out of ABC as a full-blown fundamentalist, hateful and spiteful of everyone, I had gone from the bullied, to the bully.
After Denver I was radically different, those who knew me before made sure I knew that, of course, it was also after Denver that the close relationships that have defined the last five years started to form. Looking back on it, it is hard for me to believe that was, now I get called “A teddy bear” then I was more like a Monster.
Do not hear me wrong, I can still be a bear if you mess with the people I love, I will still protect those that I love against those who would seem to harm them. I still pack a mean roundhouse kick, but I promise, I only use my powers for good these days.
I remember one night, my sophomore year of college, I was angry about something, I do not even remember what it was. One of my friends tried to comfort me and I punched him in the face. Had another friend not been there, the other guy would have killed me, and believe me, he could have. Later I apologized to him and to this day we are still great friends.
I destroyed a lot of lives back them, people who I will probably never get to apologize to. All I can do is repent before God and know that I have been extended grace for those years.
It was so easy though, to tear down, rather than build up. I was as much a grace killer as those who emotionally abused me. It became okay for me to do the same. I thought I had no value, so I treated others like they had no value.
Sadly, this is the reality for many kids who are victims of bullying. They begin to see themselves as the bullies tell them they are, with no value, no reason for living. Sharp words like the ones I heard many times, words like: “You will never amount to anything, you should just kill yourself.” Tend to stick with a person, for a very long time. When you have no sense of value, when that has been stripped away from you by others then it is easy to strip that away from someone else. You have learned how to do it, it becomes second nature, and you justify it as payback, as normative behavior. Though the person who chose to bully has done nothing to you, you want to pay those that did back, but you can’t, so you take it out on the next person.
You know; an eye for an eye, except the person whose eye you are taking isn’t the one who took yours.
I suppose one of the reasons that God’s Heart has chosen to be an organization that builds up and encourages the flock is because of this past of mine. I have done a lot of work in the last few years to educate others on the effects of bullying, including a section on it when I would give presentations to Special Education Teachers, or classrooms of future Special Education Teachers at colleges and local high schools. It is a sad reality that kids who are bullied will either become bullies themselves or attempt to commit suicide, most of them before the age of sixteen.
As a believer, I do believe that man is depraved, and that this issue stems from an issue of the heart, and it is hard to change a heart with mere words. But I have also seen the power of prayer and of positive action and encouragement in the life of a child. Showing someone the love of God through living a Gospel Centric Life is transformational because it allows the Spirit to speak through you as a vessel of encouragement.
When I got to Junior High I had someone like that, his name was Mr. Kostival, we called him K-Dog. I met him in seventh grade and he followed me up to eighth. His constant encouragement and exhortation gave me the strength to survive those years when I lived between those who bullied me and those who I bullied. Looking back on it, it may have saved the life of that once angry kid who sat in the Principles office.
Jonathan David Faulkner is a student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, a Pastor, Musician and Writer. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree inChristian Education & Administration with a concentration in Urban Ministry