Listen to Nancy Fitzgerald answer this question on Moody radio with Kelly and Steve.

This question came from 12-year-old Anne, who is being bullied by students whom she tried to befriend. Her goal for her first year in Junior High was to meet new friends. It sounds simple, but her dreams of new friends began to diminish when they became less friendly with some turning against her.

There are a multitude of children in schools, both Christian and secular, who are being emotionally hurt and bullied. It appears that little can be done to stop it.

49.8% of tweens (9 to 12 years old) said they experienced bullying at school, and 14.5% of tweens shared they experienced bullying online. (Patchin & Hinduja, 2020)

Of those students who reported being bullied, 13% were made fun of, called names, or insulted; 13% were the subject of rumors; 5% were pushed, shoved, tripped, or spit on; and 5% were excluded from activities on purpose. (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2019)

Bullying is real and a serious threat to our children. Anne is one of many who find a new group of “friends” that are nice at first but, soon after, begin excluding her from some get-togethers and spreading somerumors about her. She found their behavior to be emotionally distressing, with restless nights and concerns about what the next day might bring.

Most of these students don’t want to tell their parents for fear they will call the bully’s parent, and then the bullying will intensify the next day in school. Half of the students bullied will report to the school, and the rest are left to deal with it themselves.

How can parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and friends walk with them to help them through such hard times?

There are many things that we can do to help these teens process what is happening to them. We must talk with our children about things other than homework and clean bedrooms. Talking with our teens on a regular basis as to how their day at school went. If you are concerned that something is wrong with your child, ask if there is bullying going on at school. Ask them if any of their friends are being bullied. Then, ask if they have experienced bullying. Ask how you can help encourage them!

Anne is an amazing young woman who I know well. I asked her if she wanted to talk about her experience of being hurt by her mean friends. She knows I love her and am always interested in what is going on in her life. We went out, got her favorite drink, and had a conversation.

I asked Anne how she feels when her new friends make fun of her. “There are so many bad comments that sometimes I have to ask myself if I am really that way. I am finding that the bullies make lots of bad choices because they can get by with it. Bullies attract other bullies to be friends with them, which gives them all the more power to hurt people.Their words hurt.” Anne does not sleep well at night, fearing what tomorrow will bring.

I asked Anne if she hated those who hurt her. “No,” she said, “I just feel sorry for them. I think they can turn around, but I don’t know how. They are not sorry for hurting me or other kids.” I explained to Anne that God created a perfect world without mean people. He created humans to have a loving relationship with Him. Adam and Eve, the first humans that God created, decided they did not want to love and obey God, and chose to go away from God and do their own thing. This is when evil entered the world. Instead of living according to God’s design to love God and love others, people became wicked and tried to hurt others instead of loving them. I told Anne that is what weak, mean, and godless people do. The good news is that Jesus wants us to give all our hurt and fear to Him. Only Jesus can help us at times like this.

 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

I reminded Anne that when we suffer, God is not punishing us. He wants us to give all our cares and fears to God when we pray and read the Bible, and we will become closer to Him. He wants us to be kind to those who hurt us but not to seek out them to be our friends. I gave her some scripture to read daily and at night!

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:4-7).

“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” John 14:27

Anne’s list of those who hurt her was lengthy. We talked about the love and faithfulness of God and how He wanted her to have joy and peace. To do that, she needed to give, by name, all on her list, asking God to bless and change the hearts of those who hurt her and others who these same students are hurting. After we met, she made a list of those who hurt her and gave them to God. I shared these scriptures with Anne and asked her to read them during the night and day when she became fearful or anxious. I asked her to ask God to help her focus on God and His love for her rather than on what the bullies were telling her. I reminded her that our job on this earth isn’t to fear suffering but to see it as a way to draw close to God and forgive those trying to bring us down. Bullies have no power over us that God can’t stop.

“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh, my adversaries and foes, it is they who stumble and fall. Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, I will be confident” (Psalm 27:1-3)

I talked with Anne a few days later. She said the scripture is helping her, and her days at school are much better. The fear of being around the bullies is diminishing! Anne loves the Lord and is strong and determined to survive and thrive. She is kind and compassionate and will, no doubt, help encourage others like her who have suffered.

”For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations” (Psalm 100:5)!