A spiritual response to bullying

A Christian Science perspective: Our prayers can make a difference for victims and offenders.

It’s a familiar story – the bully at school who intimidates another child into giving him his lunch money. I was that other child on a number of occasions. I wanted to play it safe, so I gave in to his demand. It wasn’t the horrible kind of bullying we often hear about today, but it bothered me.

Then one day I had a different response when he approached me with the usual “request.” I found myself saying calmly and with a touch of authority, “Don’t do this!” He backed off, and that was the end of the bullying.

What probably impelled my response was what I was learning about God and His creation in a Christian Science Sunday School. I suddenly had an intuitive sense that what he was doing simply wasn’t normal or just, and I felt that by standing up to him I could appeal to his true nature, to the normalcy and goodness of who he really was as God’s expression.

The Bible does say that man (which includes all of us) is created by God in His likeness. And the Scriptures teach that God is good, that He is Love, that He is pure Spirit. So our actual nature must express the divine nature in goodness and love. It must be spiritual, not carnal. Yet it often seems the very opposite is true. Do such Bible teachings really have relevance in dealing with today’s challenges?

There’s a lot of “bullying” going on in the form of aggressive, destructive behavior toward individuals, groups, and nations. While dealing with a schoolyard bully can’t begin to compare with what some are facing today, it may point to the possibilities for progress in the larger arena. To me, it indicates that we can make a difference when we stand firmly in thought for the power of divine justice and for the actual, spiritual nature of man in God’s likeness. We’re helping humanity when, following Christ Jesus’ teachings, we value prayer. And our prayers can embrace a conviction that good must prevail because God is good and all-powerful; that man, in truth, is not a bullying or brutal mortal but the very image of God.

Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes in “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures”: “A mortal sinner is not God’s man” (pp. 475-476). And a few paragraphs after that she says: “Jesus beheld in Science the perfect man, who appeared to him where sinning mortal man appears to mortals. In this perfect man the Saviour saw God’s own likeness, and this correct view of man healed the sick” (pp. 476-477).

Clearly, we can’t be naive about misguided, apparently entrenched, hateful states of thought that are doing so much damage these days. But as the Bible assures us, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16). We can support progress in a powerful way by opening our thought in prayer to a higher view of man.

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About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

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The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

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