October is National Bullying Prevention Month. Initiated in 2006 by the PACER Center, it is the designated 31-day period each year when schools, organizations, and communities across the country–and in more and more countries around the world–join together in their battle to confront and stop bullying and cyberbullying.
As its contribution to that initiative, the International Forgiveness Institute (IFI) is making its groundbreaking guide, The Anti-Bullying Forgiveness Program, available free of charge for a limited time. Developed by Dr. Robert Enright, this program is an invaluable tool for school counselors, social workers, teachers, and homeschooling parents.
Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Bulling may be verbal, social (hurting someone’s reputation or relationships), or physical. Cyberbullying is that which takes place over digital devices like cell phones, computers, and tablets–often called “online bullying.”
Bullying is a problem that can derail a child’s schooling, social life, and emotional well-being. According to a report by the National Center for Education Statistics, about 1 of every 5 students ages 12-18 reported being bullied at school during the 2017 school year. While some adults have a tendency to ignore bullying and to write it off as a normal part of life that all kids go through, bullying is a real problem with serious consequences.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s website Stopbullying.gov, being bullied can lead to negative health and emotional issues, including:
- Depression and anxiety, increased feelings of sadness and loneliness, changes in sleep and eating patterns, and loss of interest in activities the person used to enjoy. These issues may, and often do, persist into adulthood.
- Health complaints and mental health issues.
- Decreased academic achievement (both GPA and standardized test scores) and school participation. The bullied are more likely to miss, skip, or drop out of school.
- Negative behavioral changes including substance abuse and, in extreme cases, suicide.
Countless anti-bullying techniques and programs have been developed over the past several years with administrators and teachers reporting varying levels of effectiveness. The IFI program is significantly different than most of those because it is not based on confrontation and/or disciplinary action. Instead, Dr. Enright’s approach focuses on the behavior of the one doing the bullying because “hurt people hurt people.”
That pithy observation is more than a clever phrase; it’s a sad truth. Dr. Enright’s scientifically-conducted research projects have repeatedly confirmed his contention that “hurt people hurt others because they themselves have been hurt. We’ve all been hurt in one way or another and those hurts cause us to become defensive and self-protective. We instinctively may lash out at others so that hurting becomes a vicious cycle full of pent-up anger.”
“Unless we eliminate the anger in the hearts of those who bully, we will not eliminate bullying.”
Dr. Robert Enright
Forgiveness can be a powerful way of reducing pent-up anger, Dr. Enright says about his strategy of incorporating forgiveness education into his anti-bullying approach.
“It is our contention that bullying starts from within, as anger, and comes out as displaced anger onto the victim,” according to Dr. Enright. “Forgiveness targets this anger and then reduces it, thus reducing or eliminating the displaced anger which comes out as bullying.”
The Anti-Bullying Forgiveness Program is for children in grades 4 (age 9) through grade 9 (age 14). It includes 8 lessons, each taking from 30 to 60 minutes. All of the material needed to teach these lessons is self-contained in this guide; there are no other textbooks or materials to purchase. The manual is now being offered free for a limited time and is available only in the electronic version. To order, email your request to the IFI Director at email@example.com. Indicate whether you would like the Standard or Christian version. ⊗
- Learn more about The Anti-Bullying Forgiveness Program developed by Dr. Robert Enright that employs Forgiveness Therapy principals.
- In 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and the Department of Education released the first federal uniform definition of bullying.
- View the most-recent National Statistics on Bullying.
- Read a 10-page report, The Relationship Between Bullying and Suicide, by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Search the current State Anti-Bullying Laws and Regulations for each of the 50 states.
- New research defines the Life-Long Effects of Childhood Bullying.
Yes. There is a film entitled, Fambul Tok, in which small communities in Sierra Leone, Africa come together around a bonfire at night. The aggrieved person states the injustice and then the offending person emerges to explain the injustice from that vantage point. They express the seeking and the granting of forgiveness. This is done in front of the community. It is important to keep this in mind: This ritual does not change what forgiveness **is.** It changes how forgiveness is **expressed** relative to how we usually go about forgiving in the United States.
Learn more at What is Forgiveness?
My son has been bullied in school. He actually came to me and asked how he might start to forgive those who bully him. I was surprised by his maturity, actually. What can you tell me in terms of advice that I can pass on to my son?
Yes, I agree with you that your son is showing maturity in wanting to explore forgiveness. First, I would take the time to be sure he knows what forgiveness is and is not. He needs to know that as he forgives, he needs to strive for justice, as you do, with the school administrators. Next, I would ask him to see the people who bully as genuine persons, who have built-in worth despite their troubling behavior. This can take time and effort. Help him to see more broadly than just the hurtful actions of those who bully. For example, you could ask this: “Do you think that those who bully you have been hurt in the past? Might they be carrying these wounds into the school and imposing their own hurt now on you? Can you see a hurting person through their inappropriate actions?” Again, I would be sure that your son sees the need to forgive and seek justice together.
What is the one, central issue about forgiveness that you would give to those who are preparing for marriage?
I would encourage them to get to know very deeply what forgiveness is (a moral virtue in which you practice goodness toward those who are not good to you) and is not (to forgive is not to excuse unjust behavior, to automatically reconcile when the other is a danger to you, nor to abandon the quest for justice). Then I would urge both people to examine the injustices which they suffered in their family of origin, forgive the people, and discuss the pattern of injustices together so that they do not reproduce the injustices in their own marriage.
Learn more at Forgiveness for Couples.
You say that all people have inherent worth. What about mass murders or those who commit other horrific crimes. Don’t you think they have lost that right for us to see them as having worth?
We need to separate a person’s actions and who they are as persons. Some who commit horrific crimes end up repenting, being very sorry for what they did. They no longer will engage in such behaviors. Still others may remain unrepentant, but should we define them only by their actions? Are they not unique human beings and if so, does not that make them special and irreplaceable?
People of faith would say that we are all “made in the image and likeness of God.” If we are **all** so made, then so too are those who commit horrific crimes. We, then, are not to stand in judgement of them as persons, although we must have impartial law officials make judgements about their behavior.