Thursday, April 5, 2012

No bullies allowed here

If you are one of the few people who follow this blog, you know that I write mostly about writing and books and my family and things that make me laugh.

This post is very personal.

Jason F. Wright’s recent column on bullying in church ( reminded me of two experiences. I guess you could call them the good, the bad and the ugly, except that there are only two. You can choose your own adjectives. 

how it felt
When I was thirteen and we moved into an affluent area (though we were a less-than-affluent family), I was astonished and completely unprepared to experience a form of bullying that was well-entrenched within the junior high and high school kids at church meetings.They would choose a target and simply ignore him or her - - - not for weeks, but for years. It was insidious and went unnoticed by the leaders, but for their targets, going to church was hell. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. I finally broke down one night and asked my parents, "What is wrong with me?" My baffled parents assured me that nothing was wrong with me, but they were ill-equipped to handle the situation; there was no resolution. And there's something I forgot to mention: the bullies were girls. There were some very nice guys in that ward. Thank goodness. 

how it felt
Many years later, when my own teenagers were giving me grief, a visitor sat next to me in a meeting. I had arrived with a heavy heart and the lesson hit home. I do not weep easily, and I do not weep in public, but I simply could not contain the hot tears that slid down my cheeks during the lesson. The woman casually rested her hand on my shoulder and gently traced a small circle with one finger, over and over. 

The teens eventually grew up and I’ve forgotten the lesson, or why it was so painful to hear it. But I will never forget this compassionate stranger’s kind touch and its message:
“I don’t know what has broken your heart, but you are never alone.”


Charissa said...

Bullying is heartbreaking. As a YW leader once, I was aware of some of the cliques and gave a lesson specifically directed at that...and then later, when I took one of the girls home, she told me what I hadn't seen during the lesson: one of the girls silently making fun of another girl's hole in her nylons. I about went crazy in that calling with those girls. The one they made fun of was a new member, and within the year, she stopped coming, no matter how I tried to help her feel loved. Kids can be so mean...but I wonder if they really understand the deep harm they are afflicting. As teens we are so insecure. I think the mean ones are sometimes the most insecure of all.

Janet Kay Jensen said...

Charissa: And I don't think we have a handle on it as leaders or parents.

JoLynne Lyon said...

Great post, Janet, and thought-provoking on so many levels! Girls can be mean... sadly, so can women. But the kind people can shine like jewels, can't they?