One of the paradoxes of forgiveness is that as we give mercy to those who showed no mercy to us, we are doing moral good. Another paradox is this: As we bear the pain of the injustice, that pain does not crush us but instead strengthens us and helps us to heal emotionally.
When we bear the pain of what happened to us, we are not absorbing depression or anger or anxiety. Instead we realize that we have been treated unfairly—-it did happen. We do not run from that and we do not try to hurriedly cast off the emotional pain that is now ours. We quietly live with that pain so that we do not toss it back to the one who hurt us (because we are having mercy on that person). We live with that pain so that we do not displace the anger onto others who were not even part of the injustice (our children or co-workers, for example).
When we bear the pain we begin to see that we are strong, stronger actually than the offense and original pain. We can stand with the pain and in so doing become conduits of good for others.
Today, let us acknowledge our pain and practice a paradox: Let us quietly bear that pain and then watch it lift.
A teenage girl received a series of texts allegedly from her boyfriend in which she is severely demeaned. Her reaction is to take her own life. The boyfriend never wrote the texts. His account was hacked for the purpose of cyberbullying.
Cyberbulling is a relatively new term to signify aggressive communication through the electronic media of cell phone texting, email, and social networking sites on the Internet. It is an insidious problem because it is too often anonymous, goes viral (spread to many others), and the victim feels powerless. Those who engage in cyberbullying are less easily identified than those who punch someone in the face.
So, what can we do about all of this? Of course, we can warn our children as StopCyberbullying does (the first cyberbullying prevention program in North America). We can call for more vigilance so that those who engage in this behavior are more easily identified, as is suggested in the film Submit the Documentary.
Justice is a vital part of cleaning up this problem. Yet, this is insufficient. The seeking of justice (punishment, arrest, or other form of fairness) is a temporary protection, but it is not a solution. We need to get to the heart of the matter which is the heart of those who engage in such destructive behavior.
Those who cyberbully have enraged hearts. They are displacing their anger onto others. They are wounded. If we only see their behavior, then we are missing the punchline that they are wounded inside. We can constrain behavior through justice and we can cure wounded hearts through forgiveness.
In previously posted blogs, we already have discussed the necessity of our forgiveness education anti-bullying guide for teachers, school counselors, psychologists, and social workers being in as many schools as possible. The uniqueness of this guide is that it deliberately targets the anger in the heart of those who bully. The principle behind the guide is this: Emotionally-wounded people wound others. We have a way to help bind up these emotional wounds through forgiveness education. We help those who wound others to heal from the wounds inflicted previously on them, thus reducing their motivation to wound others. The information for this guide is available in the IFI Education Store.
Yet, what do we do in the case of cyberbullying? We must recall that those who do this are not easily identified. Oh, yes they are. Although we do not catch them in the act of punching someone in the face, we can identify them because the overly-angry tend to wear that attitude on their face, in their words, in the trouble they find in school….over and over. Of course, not all who are excessively angry engage in cyberbullying. Yet, those who cyberbully likely come from this group of the excessively angry. We have to cast our intervention-net widely in this age of cyber-anonymity.
School counselors, psychologists, and social workers please take note: When you have in front of you a student who is entrenched in rebellion, in verbal aggression, in indifference to school itself, please presume that this person of inherent worth has a wounded heart. Consider presenting the contents of our anti-bullying curriculum to him or her individually or in a group for those showing such symptoms. You are indirectly covering cyberbullying if you do this. The more you can target the angry students, the more you may be either preventing or remediating cyberbullying behavior.
The stakes are way too high to ignore this advice. Your “yes” to mending the wounded hearts of students in your school through helping them to forgive could, quite literally, save lives.
Do you know the film, Independence Day, from 1996? One of the characters, an alcoholic crop-duster, Russell Casse, played by Randy Quaid, kept insisting that he was abducted by aliens. No one was buying it. Once the aliens landed, he had his day by saying, “What did I tell you?” (Quoted from memory).
It is now our turn. No, we have not been abducted by aliens, but we have been speculating within our institute about Adam Lanza, the tragic figure who turned his own fury onto innocent children in a Connecticut school on December 14, 2012. We have been saying to each other that he himself in all likelihood was a victim of severe bullying.
A recent article in the New York Daily News (April 13, 2013) by Matthew Lysiak and Larry McShane supports the view that Mr. Lanza was a victim of bullying. According to this article not only was Mr. Lanza taunted but also beaten by fellow students when he attended Sandy Hook Elementary School. A relative of Mr. Lanza, who wished for anonymity in that article, gave this evidence of bullying: “Adam would come home with bruises all over his body,” the relative said. “His mom would ask him what was wrong, and he wouldn’t say anything. He would just sit there.” The mother considered suing the school because of this abuse that she suspected.
The one bullied transformed into the one who bullies, and even worse, into the one who kills.
For a moment, let us presume even with this news story that the accusations of bullying toward Adam Lanza are incorrect. Even so, there are thousands of children as I write this being bullied and bullied very abusively in schools.
How many of them will transform into the one who bullies?
We have to do something to protect the victims, yes, but what is rarely emphasized is this: We must find a way to quell the fury within those who bully. Their fury is what is abusing and in some cases contributing to the death of other students.
What did I tell you? We are suggesting this to the world: We strongly urge all school districts in the United States and abroad to develop comprehensive psychological programs to reduce the rage in those who bully. One source for school psychologists, counselors, and social workers is the Anti-Bullying Forgiveness Education Program available in the store section of this website. This curriculum targets the anger within those who bully.
It is time to quell the fury within—-for the sake of the next victim and for the sake of those who harbor the fury. We have the resources. Now let us all pull together and do our part not to let anger have its insistent upper hand. Let us start today and achieve Independence Day for those who bully—-independence from the binding torture of their own anger.
So, what do you think? Is Kim Jong Un, the current leader of North Korea, acting rationally? He has declared war on South Korea and is saber rattling toward the United States. My take on all of this is that the guy desperately needs forgiveness therapy. Someone kicked him around in his past and he does not have the insight to recognize this. Did you know that he was raised to be a warrior? That, in combination with a furious heart, is a recipe for disaster.
His actions seem to be classic displacement and not rationally connected to missile launches in the slightest. Let’s send him a copy of the books, Forgiveness Is a Choice and The Forgiving Life……..It amazes me how too many world leaders lack insight into themselves. They impose their own personal wounds onto the world. The tragedy is that there is a solution: reduce the fury within caused by others in the past. So simple, so far from the world’s radar. (That’s why we need radar).
In the previous blog, we introduced the possibility of school counselors using some of their time to introduce entire classrooms to the concept of forgiveness. The point of this blog is to discuss what some school counselor blogs are saying that has direct relevance to forgiveness.
Let us first meet Danielle Schultz at schcounselor.com. There is a fascinating two part series on school bullying. Danielle has facilitated discussions in six classrooms and “the students love…..having a conversation about what the bullying issues are in their classroom.” They are asked to assess whether or not they have ever been bullied and then they discuss solutions.
How might forgiveness play a part in this exercise? There are two possibilities. One solution, along with justice, can be the exploration of forgiving the one who bullies while protecting oneself. A second approach is to work indirectly with those who bully by asking these kinds of questions in the classroom: Do you think that those who bully have themselves been bullied in the past by anyone? Might it be the case that those who bully are actually very angry at someone else, and not at the one who is being bullied? Might those who bully become emotionally healthier if they worked on forgiving those who have made them so angry? Then those who show persistent patterns of bullying can be helped one-on-one with the counselor outside of the classroom.
At the Elementary School Counseling blog, we meet Marissa. In the July 26, 2012 posting we hear about building relationships among staff, between staff and students, and among the students themselves. What better way to mend broken relationships than to practice forgiveness directly and deliberately as part of the school environment. Teaching themes of forgiveness in the classroom is one way to establish forgiveness as a positive norm in the school. We at the IFI have a lot of resources for teaching forgiveness from pre-kindergarten through grade 10.
Dr. Hussen has a fascinating news item about a mediation group visiting the school so that the students can find better ways to solve their interpersonal conflicts. We think that a first-step to behavioral reconciliation is the reduction in anger that should accompany attempts to reconcile. Forgiveness is the first step in such anger-reduction and therefore may prove to be an important addition to conflict mediation.
In the Savvy School Counselor blog, we meet Vanessa, who has essays on bullying and character education. Forgiveness, as we can see from the discussion above, fits well into each category and actually bridges them. One can confront bullying through the character education issue of forgiveness.
Finally, we present to you School Counseling by Heart with its wide-ranging discussions including the recent shootings in Colorado. We, too, have addressed the Colorado theatre shooting issue through the lens of forgiveness.
To all of you heroic professionals who give your lives in service to students, we are here to help you add the richness of forgiveness to your life and to the lives of students and staff. As you read teacher evaluations of our forgiveness programs, you might take seriously our encouragement to make forgiveness a part of the school day.