I watched this beautiful video recently and it really got me thinking. It’s a powerful message and reminder to be kind to everyone.
What’s been on my mind in the days since watching it are the choices we make. Unfortunately, no matter how many amazing videos there are that teach us not to bully or be unkind, no matter how we strive to teach it in our homes, churches, and schools, as long as there is agency to choose right from wrong, there will be those who choose to be unkind and downright mean. Sometimes the unkind acts are intentional, sometimes they are unintentional – the offenders may not even be aware they have caused offense or hurt feelings. Not only do we need to teach our children how to be kind and (hopefully) not be the bullies, and by all means, correct their behavior when and if they are, we also need to teach our children that they have a choice on how they will let others affect their lives.
We can choose to let them rule us, let their words and actions keep us from reaching our full potential. We can choose to let them drive us from church. We can choose to hold a grudge that will eat away at our spirits.
We can choose to not let what others say and do keep us from reaching our full potential. We can choose to not let others drive us from developing a close and personal relationship with God. We can choose to forgive and rise above, gleaning good lessons from our experiences.
Some might read my post so far and say, easy for you to say such things, what can you possibly know about being bullied or picked on.
You’re right, I may not know as much as some, but this is what I do know.
I know the moments when I walked into the lunchroom in grade school and sat at a table only to have it immediately evacuated. But, it taught me to be more compassionate and to seek out the lonely.
I know the sinking feeling of waiting to be picked for a team and always to be chosen last. To hope that this time I’d do a good job at kickball or whatever sport we were playing, only to be jeered by both my team and the others when I royally messed up. But, it taught me to be patient with others as they practice and learn to do things.
I know all to well the embarrassment and dismay of finding out that vicious rumors were being spread about me, not only at high school, but at church – and they were started by the girls I went to church with. But, it taught me to be careful with my words.
My list could continue, there were many moments through middle school and high school that were hard and hurtful. I was rather awkward, and though I strove to show confidence, I was a quivering mess inside. But, each experience taught me something and made me stronger. I know I wasn’t always successful in showing the lessons I learned. I am sure I made mistakes, though hopefully not the same ones that hurt me as I grew up.
We all, in life, experience many things, many trials, whether it be bullies, or sickness, or death. And with each trial we have a choice. We can give it power over us. We can become the victim. We can get angry and let it drive us away from all we hold dear and true, or we can stand tall, lift our chins and press on with conviction. Conviction that we are of worth – that no matter how others may see us, we are sons and daughters of God. We can develop forgiveness in our hearts, and be the comfort bringers to others who have suffered similar hurts who may not know how to overcome.
There are days when my girls come home upset, sometimes even in tears, with what kids have said to them. Does my heart ache for them? Yes! But, I know that if I strive to teach them right, these experiences can be for their good. Rather than sitting and talking about how mean the bullies are, or how we’re justified to dislike them or be rude back, we talk about how they can be sure not to treat others that same way and how we can choose to forgive and move on. I remind my dear daughters (and sons) that they are beautiful children of God, and that they have the power to choose. I remind them to keep that power, and not give it away.
Just the other day one of my daughters mentioned to me how she saw a girl sitting all by herself, and she went and sat with her. She didn’t know the girl, but she knew what it was like to sit alone. She excitedly told me how grateful the girl was and how the girl felt she had no friends. My daughter could understand and reach out because she had learned her lesson, and rather than letting it defeat her, she chose to rise above and bless someone else’s life. I was prouder in that moment, than any other about the choices she is making.
Yes, bullying needs to stop. It’s cruel. It’s wrong. Yes, we need to teach our children to be kind and to not bully.
But, we also need to teach our children that when they are picked on, made fun of, bullied, or treated unkindly, that they can choose to let it defeat them, or to let it make them into strong, compassionate people. We need to teach them to rise above and to love, even the undeserving and the unkind. We need to teach not to sacrifice their eternal well being for anything.
I remember Lizy coming home one afternoon from elementary school in tears. The girl who upset her had been rather mean. We talked for quite a while. As her tears dried up a thoughtful look crept upon her face. “Mom, maybe that girl can’t help it. Maybe she doesn’t have someone at home to love and teach her.” I recall nodding my head in agreement as I told her, “we have no idea what trials others are passing through and how it affects them. But we can choose how we will let their words and deeds affect us.” She went to school the next day with the determination to show that girl more love, and what an example she taught me!
Gordon B. Hinckley says in his book “Stand a Little Taller”:
“Rise Above Weakness
‘And blessed is he that is found faithful unto my name at the last day, for he shall be lifted up to dwell in the kingdom prepared for him from the foundation of the world.’ – Ether 4:19
“Do we have frailties? Yes, of course we do. Do we have members of the Church who are not what they ought to be? Of course we do. Some of them may be your neighbors. You might have one for a roommate. Do not condemn the Church for that. Rather, say to yourself, “My membership in this Church is worth more than all of the evil that people can do to me,” if that is what it takes. You be faithful, you be true.”
‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not parish, but have everlasting life.’ – John 3:16
“Love is the only force that can erase the differences between people — that can bridge chasms of bitterness.”
I strive to live my life so that I can be found faithful and true to the end. I do this one day at a time. Every day I have to forgive myself and forgive others. I hope that they will in turn forgive me for actual or perceived wrongs that I have committed. I pray for love and compassion towards others, especially those who are difficult to love, and I hope they do the same for me when they find me difficult to love.
Life is a series of experiences designed to help us learn and grow and reach our full potential. It’s too short to let the intentional or unintentional injuries caused by others to the body, spirit, or soul get or keep us down. What we take away from life is up to us. Only you can decide how the actions or words of another will affect you. Will you get to the end with a list of grievances about how it’s been unfair, how you let others control your life by their actions? Or will you get to the end knowing that no matter what happened to you, you strove to love and learn the good lessons and let those experiences, both good and bad, shape you into the amazing person you are?
The choice is yours.
“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” –John 13: 34-35″