The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

February 1, 2011

Pastors offer youth advice on how to handle a bully

By Joe Malan, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID — Bullying is something nobody wants to experience, and some local pastors say they are available for counseling or to help those who are victims of bullying.

Christopher Hall, pastor at Redeemer Lutheran Church, says it is best if a teacher or administrative official gets involved right away if they see bullying occur.

“There was an incident not too long ago where a student threatened another and said they were going to beat them up after school,” Hall said. “I urged the parents to talk to administration. The parents notified the school police to be on watch.

“What I found is the schools realize that just being too intrusive or clamping down right away or bringing consequences to the bully right away are not effective.

“The schools are very interested, from what I’ve seen, in cutting down in bullying and minimizing it. They want to know about it as soon as possible. From my knowledge, they do a good job in instead of jumping in and confronting them right away, (they put) themselves where they can witness it and put a stop to it themselves.”

Hall said children or parents who are concerned about bullying always can approach their pastor about advice on how to handle the situation.

“I can’t myself follow through or contact the school, but I will counsel them; I will help them have safety,” Hall said. “I will help them talk to their parents or encourage them to go see counselors at the school or administration at the school.”

Father Kevin Ratterman of Saint Francis Xavier Catholic Church said when a child approaches him or anyone else at the church about bullying, it is best to first see how they define “bullying.”

But if it is a case of bullying, it needs to be taken seriously.

“It would be better to overpursue (the issue) than underpursue,” Ratterman said.

Pastor Wade Burleson said he was bullied when he was younger, and the experience was something that would allow him to help out others as he grew older.

“When I was in fifth grade, I was bullied by a mean, tough kid who took a disliking to me for reasons I had absolutely no idea,” said Burleson, who is the senior pastor at Emmanuel Baptist Church. “This guy would chase me around and was threatening to beat me up.”

Burleson said he solved the situation by confronting the bully.

“I stopped running, I stood my ground. I said, ‘I don’t want to fight, but if you come after me I will hit you as hard as I can for as long as I can.’”

The bully never bothered him again.

Burleson says his philosophy on bullying is to meet the bully with toughness and confrontation, because that’s the only thing a bully understands.

“Children who run in fear and parents who run in fear without confrontation of the bully, I think only empower the bully to continue,” Burleson said.

But Burleson also encourages children to talk to their parents if a bully is bothering them excessively.



Biblical lessons



If children and parents are looking for Biblical references to help them out with bullying, Ratterman said he would first point them to the fact that Jesus didn’t flaunt his power and authority.

In fact, he said, a lot of the Bible speaks to the abuse of power and authority.

“Any time (bullying) is used against another person, there’s not much scripturally based that would be able to substantiate that kind of behavior,” Ratterman said.

Burleson turns to the part of the Bible where Jesus talks about “turning the other cheek” during a conflict.

“The same Jesus who said turn the other cheek took a whip (to) the Pharisees (who were bullies),” Burleson said.

“I would advise children to be gentle as doves, but wisdom calls for not gentleness for a bully, but with confrontation,” he said.



So what’s best?



The right way to deal with bullying probably depends on who you ask.

According to kidshealth. org, for younger kids, the best way to solve a bullying issue is to talk to a trusted adult. For teens, it depends on the situation.

If there is imminent physical danger and harm, the best thing to do is to always tell someone, according to the website. Another thing to do is to always make sure someone accompanies you to places, such as on the way home from school.

The website gives other tips, such as writing down your frustrations or exercising rather than physically venting your frustrations about a bully. Guidance counselors, teachers and friends are good people to talk to about the situation.

If you are going to confront a bully, you should first practice how you are going to respond, both verbally and non-verbally, according to kidshealth.org. The website recommends to never use any sort of physical behavior, whether it be kicking, hitting or pushing. If you are unable to easily walk away, one thing you can do is use humor of some sort to throw the bully off-guard.