My son has been bullied in school and I have asked him to forgive and at the same time to report any bullying to the teacher. He is very angry with me about the idea of forgiving because he says the other students will laugh at him. He is in seventh grade. How can he forgive so that others do not see him as a weakling?
How your son understands forgiveness and how he manifests it are very important in this context. First, he needs to know that forgiveness starts with his internal response of reduced resentment. It can be a struggle to get rid of intense anger, but that is a first step. He might begin this by seeing what those who bully usually bring to that situation: a deep sense of their own insecurity, anger over something unrelated to the one being bullied (such as being abused in the home), and low self-esteem. This might help your son to see that the bully is emotionally wounded. From there, once your son is less angry, he can show forgiveness without actually using the words, “I forgive you.” Your son, for example, could become ready to help the other with a school assignment. He could respond with confidence–looking the other in the eye and to do so without malice– if the one who bullies asks a question. He must see that to forgive is not to give in to the other’s demands. To forgive is not to repudiate justice. As he sees that forgiveness comes from a position of strength, he may be more ready to try it. As we both know, it ultimately is his choice, although your encouraging him is part of his growth as a person.