I recently read Eight Keys to End Bullying: Strategies for Parents and Schools by Signe Whitson. Written from a secular education viewpoint, this book takes the familiar stance of attempting to explain away unkindness apart from a sinful nature. The term bullying is a relatively new term for an age-old problem: selfishness. Kids have been mean to each other since Cain and Abel. Had they lived today, would we call Cain’s actions bullying? Probably so. But the point is that the underlying cause of unkindness has been around since the Garden of Eden.  This book would be a lot shorter if the truth about people was the main premise. Namely, that we are sinful creatures capable of great selfishness, and this flaw in the human heart can only be addressed through a spiritual relationship with Jesus Christ. Does bullying exist in Christian education? Absolutely.  And it has existed since Adam blamed Eve for his sin. However, we don’t have a special name for it. We just call it what it is: selfishness. Children are especially prone to selfishness, and this comes out in various forms: cruel words, harsh language, and hurtful actions. These are the ugly outgrowths of our fallen nature.

Whitson offers a multitude of practical lists on handling the symptoms of bullying while never truly addressing the cause of the problem. This is a common approach in secular writing (especially in psychology, which is Whitson’s field) but one that only places a band-aid on a life-threatening wound. Wouldn’t educators be wiser to offer long-term, life-changing help to young people, rather than merely helping them manage the pressures? Whitson’s approach, and the predominant secular mentality, is that everyone is owed an apology for being mistreated. Certainly, if a bully selfishly mistreats another person, he or she ought to restore that broken relationship with an appropriate apology. But let’s say the bully doesn’t apologize? What then? How does the bullied person respond? Does life stand still? Secular wisdom would have people linger on the hurt and blame any subsequent poor life choices on unresolved mistreatment. In other words, secular wisdom encourages individuals to be victims rather than overcomers; hurters rather than healers; grudge-bearers rather than forgivers.

The option to forgive and move forward is one of the greatest gifts that Jesus Christ gave us, and this life-changing realization does just that: it changes lives. This certainly does not relieve my offender of guilt or responsibility. However, it does move my focus off of depending on someone else and onto the only person I can control: ME. When a student internalizes this truth, it becomes a very practical and liberating force. Encouraging students to rise above their circumstances and overcome actual or perceived wrongs through the power of Jesus Christ equips them to free themselves of issues that would otherwise beset them. The alternative may be a life stymied by self-pity and resentment.