Chaplain's Corner + Bullying: Defacing God's Image


by Fr. George Morelli

The recent arrest of local office holder in California for the corporal punishment and name-calling abuse of a child made headlines. Arrest, office holder, politician or not, bullying is always an egregious affront to God and to man whom He made in His image.

Plain and simple, bullying is abuse. Those who bully and those who are bullied are found everywhere. Bullies can be bosses, clergy, military superiors, parents, police, teachers or simply acquaintances etc. Children and adults can be the brunt of bullying. They can be called loathsome names, be belittled, laughed at and/or be ignored. Emotional abuse is one form of bullying that is often most unnoticed because of its ubiquity and subtlety. These practices in our society are so common as to go virtually unperceived. However, emotional abuse but can be equally devastating to the victim as physical and or sexual abuse. Research has shown that victims are susceptible, for example, to clinical depression, suicide and other disorders.

Helpfulness may be considered the opposite of bullying. A kindly disposition is inherent in the tenets of many religious traditions. In the fall of the year Hindus celebrate Karwa Chauth. While this feast mainly focuses on married women, the spirit of the celebration is prayer, relief from household duties, and giving gifts. Basically, it is to insure others’ "well being."i In Buddhist scripture we read: “Hatred is never appeased by hatred in this world; by love alone is hatred appeased. This is an Eternal Law.” (The Dhammapada, Verse 5) In the Hebrew Sacred Scripture, we read that David, despite his position of power was a supporter and protector of his friend Jonathan (1Kg 20) and certainly not his bully. Jesus goes even further in telling His Disciples what can only be the most extreme opposite of being a bully. He likens true helpfulness to agape -- Godly selfless love: “Greater love hath no one than this that one should lay down his life for his friends." (Jn 15:13). To help us supplant any tendency in ourselves to bully others we should cultivate the virtue of kindness. To accomplish this it might help to reflect on the spiritual perception of our Eastern Church Spiritual Father, St. Gregory the Theologian, who tells us: "[All] men are our brothers in God and [have] a nature like ours, being drawn from the same original mud, they are composed as We nerves and bones..."ii With this in mind we can see how horrific and un-Godly any form of bullying is. Echoing the words of the Prophet Hosea (6.7), Jesus told his listeners that the core of true worship of God: "I wish mercy, and not sacrifice." (Mt. 9:13) Considering that mercy is a disposition to be kind and forgiving, it can be shown how truly important being helpful and kindly is; and, conversely, how un-Godly any form of bullying is. Kindliness is next to Godliness.

ENDNOTES

i http://www.karwachauth.com/

ii http://www.migne.fr/gregoire_de_nazianze_discours_14.htm