Bullies and Cliques: Why Do We Allow It?

I am so grateful for the trials that have made me more like Christ! I hate when I see rejection, and very likely that’s because long ago I was the brunt of jokes by popular cliques in junior high. When I look back further than junior high to around fifth grade, I can see that what I got in junior high was the very simple result of a spiritual law at work – reaping and sowing. No one can escape the spiritual laws that God has set into place, not even unbelievers, and if you treat people like dirt, you will get treated like dirt.

I Sent Her to the Shrink

Well, I’ll get back to fifth grade. There was a girl I’ll call Jenny who couldn’t pry her way into my clique with a crowbar. I ignored her. She had a bowl haircut, huge glasses, and was always doing what she was told. Way too dorky for me, Jenny was left by the roadside while I hung with a bad-girl club that was a magnet for trouble with teachers. I barely thought about her at that time, but I wasn’t very mean to her. I remember not really including her, but I didn’t call her names or beat her up. Barely on the radar screen of my thoughts or my life in general, Jenny seemed to accept her exclusion without a peep. After about a year at my school, she moved away.

Jenny moved back to my town when we were in high school. By that time, I was a completely different person. I had become fully committed to Christ and had met Him in a real way. When Jenny showed up in school, I remembered her and included her into my little group of Christians right away. She had become a Christian, too. She was very kind and seemed all right the first few days I started welcoming her, but soon I found out that she had a bone to pick with me.

One day in class while we were allowed to talk quietly awhile, she laid into me. She told me that I had caused her so many problems by rejecting her in fifth grade that she had actually gone to a child psychologist! I told her I remembered leaving her out of my group, but I didn’t know I had hurt her so much and asked her forgiveness. Needless to say, I was shocked.

Thinking about it years later, I realized that everything I had dished out to Jenny had actually come back onto me in the next few years after she had moved away. Little did she know, my sixth through eighth grades were “dork” years for me. When I look back on my pictures, I had been a beautiful little girl in grade school, but in junior high my mother had cut off all my long hair (with my permission, of course.) I had a bowl haircut and huge glasses. I looked like Jenny! Actually I looked worse because I had braces and she hadn’t had them. Many of the kids in my class called me names and left me out. It was hard to go to school. I didn’t connect that my rejection during those awkward years was a reaping, but now I believe it probably was and I deserved it. Here’s the really interesting part –the very girls that helped me reject Jenny in fifth grade were the same girls that bullied me in junior high. Spooky, huh?

Thank God He lets us suffer! I didn’t suffer much rejection through the rest of school, but as an adult I was put through a lot of ridicule and rejection for my Christian beliefs, and I’ve been on the outside of an adult clique (yeah, they have ‘em.) Now I have so much compassion for the lonely and rejected, and I wouldn’t have such a soft spot for those in that situation if He had not allowed me to experience it for myself. For that I’m grateful.

Snobby Christian Kids?

Now I’m a parent, and you can probably imagine how my past has affected my parenting in the area of cliques. I do not stand for clique behavior in my kids. I believe this is an area where Christian parents need to be more alert. I’ve seen even very strong and admirable parents fall into believing the lie, “I don’t want my kid to have to hang around someone he doesn’t like, or someone who annoys him.” Hang on a second. Why doesn’t your kid like him? Is it because he’s violent or verbally abusive? Or is it just because he’s dorky, boring, annoying, whiny, loud, wimpy or some other shallow reason? If it’s only for one of these reasons, why do you allow your child to exclude him? That is just child-centered parenting at its worst. Remember, I wasn’t even directly mean to Jenny, and I sent her straight to a psychologist. Parents, rejection is exactly like getting beat up on the playground, and don’t fool yourself into thinking it’s any less of a sin than that. A snobby kid is a bully.

When my kids tell me they don’t like someone, I say, “Who cares!” At one time there was a little boy Jacob who my son didn’t care to play with much because, he claimed, he was boring. However, his sister Alice was a good friend of my daughter’s. Once the mom of this family invited my children home to play for the day. My daughter was thrilled, but my son wasn’t around. I saw him coming out of the door of a nearby building and ran to catch him before he heard the news that he was going to this family’s home. I whispered to him something like this, “Alice has invited your sister over to play today, and Jacob has invited you over, too. There is no way that I’m telling them that your sister is going but you don’t want to go. So here is how it is going to be. You are going. You are going to smile when they tell you that you are invited. You will go and act happy to be there, and while you are there you will play with Jacob and act like he is your very best friend in the world even if you hate being there.”

My son said, “OK, Mom,” in a pleasant voice and left. When he came home I asked him how it went, and he shrugged and said, “It was all right.” Well, he didn’t have the most thrilling afternoon, but it was only one afternoon of his life, and little Jacob didn’t get his feelings hurt. I’d rather my kids have one lousy afternoon than think that it’s OK to reject others. Why are we so reluctant to make our kids uncomfortable and inconvenienced? Do they have to be having a good time every minute? Christian tolerance is a good virtue for them to practice from time to time. Don’t adults have to learn to get along with people they don’t particularly care to be around?

When you teach your child not to reject, you are keeping them safe spiritually. We think we’re protecting our children by allowing them to avoid others (avoid is just a nice word for rejection.) After all, Christians don’t want their kids to be defiled, and so they allow their kids to steer clear of certain children. Now, I believe in being very careful about who your children are with. We are home schooling parents, so obviously the protection of our children and their emotional and physical well-being is very much on our minds, and of course, we’ve taught them about “stranger danger”. But there is another side to the coin, and when it comes to their peers, the law of reaping and sowing works for kids just like it does for adults, and you wouldn’t want your child to reap a bad consequence for breaking the golden rule. “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.” Galatians 6:7. What a terrible thing it would be for your child to experience evil for sowing evil like I did. My time in junior high was a very difficult reaping, and I was treated very badly. “Well, everyone gets treated badly in junior high!” you say. I didn’t see everyone excluded, in fact most weren’t – only a “nerdy” few like me.

Spiritually protect your child by teaching him to love and accept others. Make him aware of others around him, and teach him to make sure that no one is left out of games or crafts. It’s a habit, like teaching them to be aware if they have too many toys laying around the house. Instill it into them. If you teach your kids to avoid others now, they will think it’s OK to reject people for the rest of their lives.

I believe that a difficult kid who gets avoided will actually become worse. When a child with a bad attitude comes across the path of one of my children, I teach them to include him into their group and to love him, but to reprove him. I’ve told them to say, “You shouldn’t be doing that. It’s wrong.” If the misbehaving kid won’t listen, I’ve told them to let the teacher know, then to be sure and pray for the boy or girl during bedtime prayer. The scriptures on conflict resolution and relationships also apply to our children, and Matthew 18:15-17 makes it clear that, firstly, reproof is the proper way to handle a person in sin, then, secondly, they should get authorities involved. Who knows? Your children may be the ones to make change come about in those naughty kids around your church and family.

When to Avoid Others

I do tell my children to avoid a violent kid for their safety, but I still encourage them to pray for the child. There was a stomach-puncher in one of our social circles a few years ago, and I’d rather the kids avoid a kid like that. But typically I think rejection is brought on more often by whimsy than by violence.

So How Do I Teach My Kids to Accept Others Without Them Getting Defiled or Abused?

In the past we’ve also had the issue come up of whether or not to invite over certain problem kids when, because of surrounding circumstances, it seemed rude not to invite him. We didn’t want our kids to be around bad influences or to have their safety jeopardized, so we prayed and decided to keep certain friends as “under-supervision-only friends.” These are friends that are not allowed to come over unless my husband or I are freed up to sit down and supervise the play time. Our kids do have friends that we feel comfortable out of sight with our children, and we know the kids and their parents well. For other kids, we are in the same room with them at all times when they come to play. This is a way to get around rejecting a questionable kid who is clamoring to come over to our home. While he’s there, we reprove him if he behaves badly, which gives my husband and I the opportunity to speak truth into his life, and after he goes home we tell our children why he was wrong. If the behavior was very wrong, we talk to his parents.

“Best Friends”

Christians use David and Jonathon as an excuse for allowing themselves and their children to put the “best friend” label on their favorite person. Perhaps David was very close to Jonathon, but that doesn’t mean he never developed close relationships with others also, or if he didn’t, he certainly could have if he had wanted. Jesus may have taken only certain disciples with him to see certain miracles because he wanted secrecy and discretion (He made it clear He wanted certain miracles to remain a secret), and He knew who He could trust, or maybe He was preparing them for leadership because He knew they would lead, but I don’t believe He had favorite disciples. My family doesn’t use the term “best friend.” We’ve told our children that if they have a person in their life they consider to be a best friend, they need to keep it to themselves. They shouldn’t go around talking about it. It’s hurtful to another person who may have thought he was the best friend, or at least a close buddy.

We should all be friends, and we should be playing with and talking to everyone in our group, especially if they are the same gender and close to our age. It’s not easy to be mindful of others’ feelings, and it’s certainly lots of fun to talk to our closest buddies, but we are not called as Christians to have it easy all the time, and neither are our children. God is not a respecter of persons, and He is our ultimate example. It’s natural for boys and girls to separate into different herds, but other than that, let’s include everyone. I hope it goes without saying that this goes for adults, too.

“Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering, bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another, even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.” Colossians 3:12-13 (NKJV)

“Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” Galatians 6:1-3 (NKJV)

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