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It’s a tricky balancing act.  One person is angry and they are taking someone else’s power.  My son had to deal with a bully when he was in grade school. She was rude to adults and mean to her fellow students.  I can’t even tell you how often she knocked him over the tables they used as desks because he would get in trouble if he hit a girl. She wanted to show him her power.

I’d love to say I found a loving solution.  But it did stop mostly because I backed the staff into a corner.

Early on, I explained to my son that some people only feel strong when they are standing on someone else.  It’s sad but that doesn’t mean you have to let them stand on you.  And there are times you can keep them from standing on someone else.

More than once, I’ve accidentally meandered between an adult bully and their victim, while pretending to text.   I’ve asked to speak to a manager when a store employee is being harassed by an unreasonable patron.  I’ve even been known to snap a photo with my phone.

I may not have figured out how to be loving to the bully, but I can find ways to stand up for the down trodden.  I can let them know they are seen.   And from there their power can build.

Be Christ’s loving presence in an angry world.


In the eighth grade, my best friend had a crush on the class’s most unavailable boy — unavailable in that he was dating one of the more popular girls in our class. I remember my mother telling my friend that she was so much prettier than the girl in question, but my friend didn’t see it. Probably because children (teens included) lack far-sightedness: While the “girlfriend” had almost certainly done her “blooming” already, my friend had barely begun to nudge at the edges of her life-long flowering. At 52, she is still in her prime, and as any reader of Muriel Sparks knows, “Prime is best.”

It takes time to wake up to the possibilities of ourselves and to allow the negative grip that others have on us to diminish. I think that’s why so many young people feel depression and act out on it — they can’t see the way ahead. Time is the one gift we cannot bestow on another, and it’s just the gift so many need.

In my own life, I had nightmares for years about a bully from high school. I went to an all-girls’ school, and while we did not have to contend with toxic masculinity, I am here to tell you that toxicity is just as lethal in the female of the species. In our school it took shape in passive-aggressive cattiness, sudden shifts in friendship and verbal abuse. I let this person take roost in my subconscious for years because I was afraid of her. And then a funny thing happened: Time passed.

Specifically, social media happened. And it was here that I learned the truth: She was just another struggling human being. She had no power over me or anyone else. Her life was no picnic. No one’s is. And with that knowledge, she lost her hold on my psyche. I don’t dream about her anymore. I feel, if not empathy, sympathy for her. And all it took was the passage of years.

I have a young friend who is currently contending with nightmares about a person who deeply hurt her. I long to hug her and tell her that it will take time, but healing is not only possible but probable. God has given us such a gift in time. It is not a gift we can instantaneously take advantage of, however. But maybe that’s the beauty of it. In the dark days of struggle, we learn about ourselves. And we are forced to turn outwards toward God if we are to survive at all.

I hope my young friend will keep reaching outwards and allow time to show her that those who loom large today can evaporate into nothingness tomorrow. All we need do is wake up to the power and possibility we each possess. All it takes is time. And God has that well in hand.

How often do we speak when we should be silent?  I had to ask myself this after an incident with my son this week.

Monday he came home from school with a major headache.  It seems that one of his classmates had dumped over a desk with him in it and he’d hit his head on the floor.  Seriously?  This is highschool?  I couldn’t believe he was still getting in these situations and I let my thoughts on the subject be known. “Be more like Michael*.  No one ever picks on him, do they?”  (*name changed so as not to embarrass the innocent)

The next morning when he was leaving for school, my son hit me with a parting shot.  “Sorry, I’m not macho enough.”

Whoa.  That wasn’t what I’d meant.  Or at least it wasn’t all that I had meant to communicate.  But he was upset and embarrrased and I hadn’t listened.  Not really.  Cause I’m sick of it.

After school, we had another talk.  This time he could tell I was listening, because I was.  Because of it, he really listened to me.

And that is why this image of the Dalai Lama really spoke to me when I saw it later in the week.  As Christians, we are called on to work with and for people who need help.  How much more effective would we be if, instead of coming in with opinions fully formed, we listened?  I have to wonder.




SamaritanLast week, I wrote a post calling for an end to one kind of Religious Bullying.  I challenged those mothers who, when they don’t approve of a specific child, encourage other mother’s to keep their children from playing with this “bad child.”  I’m sorry, ladies and gentleman, but seeking to isolate a child you simply don’t like is wrong.

This was one of the most difficult pieces that I’ve ever written because of my own experiences with this and other types of religious bullying.  I expected a certain amount of backlash from religious conservatives, the people I most often see bullying people in the name of Christ.

There was a bit, but not much. Not surprisingly, it consisted of people telling me either publicly or privately that they would continue to practice what the Bible tells them to do, especially in regard to certain Biblically banned sexual practices.  Wow.  Make assumptions much?  That wasn’t even on the radar in this particular incident but I love the way some people bring it up to justify bad behavior on the part of other adults.

It’s just like assuming that you’re in the clear as long as you don’t bully people in the name of God.  But there’s a problem with that assumption.  Whether we are talking about the bullying mother’s I encountered, gay bashing, cutting a woman down because of how she dresses, or badgering the school board into teaching your religious beliefs in the public schools, simply not participating is not enough.

You need to speak up, even if you aren’t comfortable correcting your fellow Christians in a firm but loving manner.  You do this by playing the part of the Good Samaritan.  Reach out to those who have been robbed of their dignity.

Far too many people I’ve talked to this week had a story to tell.  I don’t know about you, but I want them to meet the God of love.  He directed us to help people who don’t believe as we do and stood up for the woman who was about to be stoned.  How can we do any different?


BullyingDuring the summer, I’m something of a professional driver. I ferry my son and a variety of boys from home to the pool and back again. My car more or less permanently smells like chlorine and there’s always a spare towel in the back.

I don’t swim so I spend a lot of time reading or knitting or whatever. Several times this summer, I’ve been surprised to be pulled out of my wool-gathering by another mother who wants to warn me about one of the boys. “With what comes out of his mouth, you know he’s from bad people” or “He’s a bad influence. I wish he wasn’t here.”

Admittedly, they’re a rowdy lot but I’ve taken the time to get to know them. And I have to say, they’re adorable. Sure, they say things that make you cringe and I’ve been sorely tempted to stand on tip toes and get in someone’s face a time or twelve, but they really are wondrous people.

What does this have to do with religion? Every single mother who has taken me aside has been a strong Christian. They make sure I know this right before they tell me to make sure my son dumps one of these boys. “He isn’t a good witness.”

Seriously? As far as I’m concerned, attempts to isolate a rowdy teenage boy in the name of God are a form of religious bullying. They are trying to isolate these boys.

Frankly, I think that Jesus has a soft spot for these goofy, loud boys who thunder through life, bumping into people, accidentally intimidating the short and affronting everyone within ear shot.  Jesus was, after all, a boy.

Spend some time with these boys and you’ll discover the kid who nearly broke down and cried when a much younger swimmer clung to the rope in fear and was disqualified from a race. You’ll see the kid who nearly stuffed me through a chair trying to be helpful when I said the heat was making me woozy. You’ll also be invited into the conversation when they try to figure out how to talk to a friend about God, a friend who has suffered through religious bullying.

I’m drawing a line in the sand. You don’t have to let your son run with anyone you don’t like, but quit trying to isolate these boys in the name of God. They are His and He is in their hearts.


I am a firm believer in taking my troubles to God. He hears from me when a friend is ill, troubled or blessed. When it storms, I pray. When I’m wide awake listening to my husband snore, I pray (it may take a while to get there, but I do pray). Yet there are other times when so much more than prayer is necessary, especially if you are a person of faith.

A few weeks ago, there was a fight at my son’s school. Two 14-year-old girls went at it, one of them biting the other in the face. Following one half-baked news story which is so inaccurate that I refuse to point it out, the community has freely tried the case on the newspaper’s web site and on Facebook. Mostly they condemn the school and the teachers. One brassy teacher, God bless her, had something to say to parents who don’t parent. Part of the reason for this extraordinary hoo-ha is that this may have started out as a case of bullying.

There’s no doubt about it. Bullying is an epidemic in our society. Kids bully kids, and its no big surprise because they’ve learned all about it from the adults in their lives. Teachers bully students. Employers bully employees. People feel free to shout down anyone who disagrees with them.

So what do you do? This is a prayer blog, so you might expect me to say “pray,” and you should. Pray every day. Pray for the kids that you know who are bullied, but also pray for the bullies. And, when you are done praying, unfold your hands, get off your knees and do something about it.

Not sure what to do? First of all, go see the movie Bully. Here in the St. Louis area it is showing at Plaza Frontenac. Visit the web site for the movie. This page has a downloadable toolkit for parents.  Be prepared. They are going to insist that you do more than pray or complain to the school. They are going to ask you to do, because that’s how you solve problems. You pray for the tools to do something about them then you pick up those tools and get to work.



Have a Mary Little Christmas

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