Lucky for Us!

Guest post by Joshua Sanders. He is a sophomore at Plant City High School in Plant City, Florida. He worships with the brethren at University church of Christ in Tampa, FL.

If any of you are in public school like me, you are bound to face the concept of the origin of the world. My current unit in Biology is evolution. For those who don’t know, evolution is  the process by which all species develop from earlier forms of life (according to scientists). It can be hard to stand strong in your faith while facing all the adversities that come from this theory. How do we overcome this as young Christians?

In Biology class the other day, my teacher decided to show us a video. It was the History of the World in 2 Hours. In this video scientists explained their theory from the Big Bang to now. It was an interesting video, but obviously false. First off, a Big Bang did not create our universe, an awesome God did (Genesis 1:1). Secondly, we did not evolve from animals, God created man. He even created us in His own image (Genesis 1:27).

A common phrase in the video was “lucky for us.” “Lucky for us” the Earth is placed in the perfect position to sustain life; “lucky for us” we developed  opposable thumbs to grab objects, and the list goes on. This did not happen by chance! We have an amazing Creator who loved us so much that He sent His son to die on the cross (John 3:16). That to me is the only explanation for the “history of the world.” But even though some are too stubborn to believe this truth, I do not fret. As it says in Philippians 2:10-11 “… so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

“Lucky” for us!

Considerations Before Going to the Prom or Dancing

As school winds down in the Spring, young Christians in high school face a question unique to this period in life: “Should I go to the prom?” Non-Christian kids may be wondering if they can get a date or afford the costs of this expensive night. Some kids aren’t interested in anything associated with the prom. However, young Christians often face  several choices that their non-Christian friends do not have to deal with:

  • Is right to attend the prom or dance?
  • If I decide it is right, what is modest to wear?
  • What do I say to Christian friends who believe it is wrong for me to attend? How can I defend my decision?
  • What do I say to my friends if I am not going to attend? How can I use this as a teaching opportunity?
  • Why is it such a big deal?

The answer to the last question is easy. As Colossians 3:17 tells us, the authority of Jesus should guide our life. We are an example to others and must dress and act in ways that glorify God and do not lead others into sin. The reason that dances in general and the prom in particular become an issue is the activity that takes place at these events and often surrounds them and the clothes (or lack of) that are worn. A broader issue should also be considered: am I concerned more about enjoying worldly entertainment and approval than keeping myself unstained by the world (James 1:27)?

I have found two very good articles that any young person (and their parent) should read and consider before deciding to go to dances and the prom:

  • A Teenagers Answer to “Shall I Go To The Prom?” I went to college with Sherry. In school she was extremely outgoing, attractive, and talented. She was popular at college and I’m sure she was in high school. Her article describes the struggle with the question, her desire to go, the consequences of her decision, and her lessons learned. This was written when she was a teenager and reflects the emotional struggle and scriptural issues surrounding the question. After 25 years, the issue and emotions have not changed for it was also a time when dancing was popular and young people struggled with the question.
  • Is There Life Without A Prom? Steve Higginbotham has written an excellent article that addresses the spiritual concerns and he shares some of the consequences of young Christians in his area as well as the world’s view of the prom as described in teen magazines.
  • David Hartsell’s 2011 FC Alabama Winter Camp class on dancing and modesty (both issues are linked with these questions)
  • If you want to go true “old school,” some of the principles regarding dancing were addressed by Benjamin Franklin, a 19th century preacher (not the founding father), in a sermon on dancing. No surprise that many of the same questions were asked then as are considered today.

Though you didn’t ask, my decision was not to attend. I knew my mother and many godly people that I esteemed would not approve of a decision to attend. If I went it would most likely be with someone who did not embrace the standards of modesty that I did which would be embarrassing and tempting. In addition, I knew a lot of my friends were going to use the night as a pretense to let many inhibitions go (they were talking about it for weeks before the prom). I did not want to be associated with any of that and had no interest in attending. I didn’t wrestle with it, that I recall, since nothing associated with the prom interested me.

For our kids, my wife and I decided before we had them that it would not be a part of their lives. We don’t anguish over the decision because the “no” is our final answer. We approach it from the perspective of adults that have lived longer and seen more than they have seen. In addition, we have worked to provide wholesome alternatives for them such as a banquet at a nice location with a lot of their friends where they can dress modestly, have a nice dinner, take photographs, and have a memorable evening in a morally positive atmosphere. We are firm believers that if you say “no” you need to provide a good alternative that they can enjoy.

As with all of your decisions prayerfully ask yourself whether choosing an action will glorify God or hinder your ability to shine your light.

School Bullying 4: Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is a new type of bullying that arose with the introduction of email, texting, and social networks such as Twitter, MySpace, and Facebook. StopBullying.gov describes cyberbulling as:

  • Sending hurtful, rude, or mean text messages to others
  • Spreading rumors or lies about others by e-mail or on social networks
  • Creating websites, videos or social media profiles that embarrass, humiliate, or make fun of others

This type of bullying takes place at all hours of the day and does not require the bully and their victim to interact in the physical world. Sometimes the bully can act anonymously so the victim doesn’t even know who the bully is. The mean messages can be sent repeatedly to harass the victim and can even be automated. As a result, the victim can feel that there is no safe place to avoid the bully or bullies and will fear that their reputation is being ruined.

The first thing you have to remember about cyberbullies is that they are cowards. They strike from a distance and the anonymous bullies are the greatest cowards. There are people who occasionally want to post mean messages in response to my articles. They are not wanting to discuss differences of opinion but just want to insult me and move on. In the Internet world they are called trolls and most bloggers just ignore them because they obviously have nothing good to contribute to the conversation.

It is more difficult when the person attacking you is doing so in school and online. Victims of cyberbullying may not want to go to school to hear how others responded to the online attacks and may start to feel bad about themselves. As with bullies in the physical world, there are some things you can do (much of the advice was from StopBullying.gov).

  1. Don’t Start the Bullying. Be careful what you say online about other people. Some people start bullying because they think they were wronged by someone and they are lashing out immaturely. Don’t reveal anything that might embarrass others (even if it is true) or to put another person down. The old advice of “if you can’t say anything nice about someone, don’t say anything at all” is wise online.
  2. Don’t Reveal Anything Embarrassing About Yourself. Don’t post secrets or other things that you wouldn’t want everyone in school to know. Don’t take immodest pictures of yourself and certainly don’t post such pictures! Once information is published you have no control over where it goes.
  3. Restrict Your Friends List and Followers. Make sure your privacy settings on social networks only reveal things to your friends. Stalkers look for public pages for victims so there is more reason than just cyberbullying to restrict your posts and pictures to friends. Keep your tweets private and only share with your friends. This will allow you to control what is placed on your wall and who sees your information.
  4. Do Not Retaliate. If someone starts cyberbullying, do not respond online!! Do not allow them to draw you into a fight. Deal with the problem offline.
  5. Block the Cyberbully. Thankfully the technology exists to block phone numbers and social network users. Stop them from accessing your accounts or phone if possible.
  6. Report the Cyberbully. As with other bullying, get the adults involved. Most online services have rules against using their services to attack others. Reporting the abuse to the service provider will often get the account suspended while the provider investigates the user’s posts. If they find that there is abuse they will close the account. School officials will also want to confront the bully to stop them from attacking others as well and perhaps help the bully get counseling to help them to quit their abuse.
  7. Seek Help. Get help from adults to deal with the emotional effects of the bullying. Even though you know what the person said wasn’t true, it sometimes helps to have someone who is older and more experienced to help you deal with any lingering effects of the bully’s actions and to put it behind you.

For all bullying, there is a wealth of helpful information online. Do a Google search and discuss some of the things that you find with your parents. The adults who love you want to help you and often you can help them by educating them on how they can assist.

What advice would you give others for dealing with cyberbullies?

School Bullying 3: The Jerk

In the previous article we discussed bullying by the violent unstable kid, sometimes called extreme bullying. In this article we’ll examine how to deal with the bully who may act violent but is just a jerk.  The jerk is simply someone who likes to pick on others to make himself feel better but is pretty scared deep inside. Having to deal with the bully who is a jerk is not easy to deal with but often this person is so insecure that when you stand up to them, they will shrink away from you.

Sometimes this kid is jealous of you or feels threatened by you and so they feel that they must attack you to make them look stronger. Ever seen a small dog bark loudly to a much larger dog? These bullies react in a similar way. They don’t like that you are different or they perceive that you are weak so they pick on you. Here are some tips on how to deal with them.

  1. Avoid them if possible. As with the violent bully, there is no sense in creating problems where there are none. Don’t try to hang around with a known bully but you should not live in fear of them either
  2. Don’t give them the reaction they are seeking. Some bullies want you to cry or act scared. They cannot stand it when you do not act scared and, in fact, you act like you don’t care. Like spoiled kids they hate it most when you just ignore them. If they say something to you to hurt you or try to get you to argue or yell at them and you just look at them blankly then turn around, they may say another thing or two but then will often leave you alone and try to find someone else.
  3. Stand up to them. If they do confront you and will not accept a blank stare for an answer, calmly but firmly tell them to leave you alone. If they persist, more firmly and a little more loudly tell them to leave you alone and walk away. The jerk does not want the attention of an adult (remember they are acting out of fear inside), they will often stop when they know they might get in trouble. Again, ignore any comments they make while you are walking away. What they say about you doesn’t matter!
  4. Report bullying. As in the first article, if they do not quit bullying you, report it to an adult. The jerk will not welcome the attention from the school officials and will stay away from you to avoid more problems in the future.
  5. Pray for them. It’s hard to think that one could pray for good to come to their enemies but that is exactly what Jesus taught. Ultimately you should desire that they turn away from being a jerk and embrace the love of Jesus. Think how much happier they will be and how much better the world will be if they were to embrace kindness and goodness. In any interaction with them reflect the beauty of Christ in your life and show kindness to them. They are expecting others to react angrily to them so your unexpected kindness may light the way to a better way of living.

Most of all, remember that anything the bully says reveals more about who they are than who you are. Don’t listen when they talk about what you wear, your hair, or other physical features. When you hear the words, picture the crying kid inside of them that wants love and attention and is not receiving it. They are trying to hurt you because they are hurting. Do not take to heart what they are saying; it is not based in reality.

When I was in high school there was an older and taller kid who used to pick on me a lot. He’d thump my ear when I sat in front of him or poke me and would say dumb things. One day I was fed up and turned around and asked, “What joy do you get in picking on me? I’m not telling you to stop but I need to know how it is making you happy because it is really bugging me.” He got this funny look on his face and said, “I don’t know. I just do it.” After that he didn’t pick on me again and, in fact, we became friends and had fun joking around together. One day this older and bigger kid who was definitely a violent bully started picking on me, challenging me to a fight, when the teacher left the room. I just ignored him and some of my classmates were telling him to leave me alone. The ear thumper came around and tackled the other kid and started to fight with him. It wasn’t the reaction I wanted but it wasn’t the only time that someone who used to pick on me actually protected me from another bully. But that is a story for another time.

School Bullying 2: The Violent Kid

There are two kinds of bullies that you will typically face: the violent kid and the jerk. The violent kid is mentally unstable and gets a thrill from hurting others. The jerk is simply someone who likes to pick on others to make himself feel better but is pretty scared deep inside. We’ll talk about the jerk in the next article.

The violent kid is someone to avoid. Sometimes this person has been the victim of terrible abuse and has a lot of anger that he directs towards others. He sometimes lashes out and hurts others because he is hurting deep inside. Sometimes he or she has grown up where the adults are very violent and so he has learned from their example. This type of person does not want anyone to take advantage of them and will resort to violence to demand respect that they are not getting by acting respectful of others.

Here are some suggestions for dealing with this kind of bully:

  1. Avoid them if possible.There is no shame in taking a longer way home or avoiding certain bathrooms in your school to avoid the places where these bullies hang out. With some of these people, if you give them their room they will leave you alone. They do not like someone coming into their territory. I know it sounds foolish (even stupid), but you be smart and avoid their path. Proverbs 27:12 says, “The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it.”
  2. Remember the safety in numbers. If you cannot avoid them, do not cross their path alone. Violent bullies like to get people alone and are not as comfortable confronting a group. The more people you have with you, the greater the odds that if they do try to pick on you, the people you are with will come to your defense or, if in the unlikely event it becomes violent, someone can run for help.
  3. If they bully you, walk away. Although they want you to get mad and hit them, you do not want to get in a fight with them. Remember, they are unstable and may be very violent if they get aggravated and not think clearly. The best thing you can do is to say “I don’t want any trouble” and just walk away. If they grab you, yell “leave me alone” and try to jerk yourself away. Sometimes the yelling bringing attention to them will lead them to back off. Even if you have to run and endure their laughing, it is better to do that and get an adult to intervene.
  4. Report bullying. As in the first article, if you do become a victim of their bullying, report it to an adult. Often these very violent kids have been in trouble with the school, and sometimes the police, before and they need to be stopped before they hurt someone seriously. If you see them picking on someone else, report it as well.
  5. Pray for them. It’s hard to think that one could pray for good to come to their enemies but that is exactly what Jesus taught. Ultimately you should desire that they turn away from violence and embrace the love of Jesus. Think how much happier they will be and how much better the world will be if they were to embrace kindness and goodness. In any interaction with them reflect the beauty of Christ in your life and show kindness to them. They are expecting others to be mean and violent to them so your unexpected kindness may light the way to a better way of living.
My story: When I was in college I was in a room with a bunch of friends joking around and talking. There were about 15 of us at least and we were having a great time. Two guys from downstairs came busting in the room mad at us and full of bad attitude. They were basketball players so they were much taller and in better physical shape than most of us. One of them barked, “Whose room is this?” to which a guy who was not an athlete and spoke nervously, replied, “Me.” The bully bent over, pointed his finger in his face and started yelling at him about all kind of things which was obviously upsetting the boy. It seemed that the more fear this kid showed the more the bully yelled.
We were all shocked. Finally, I said sharply and firmly, “Leave him alone.” The bully stopped dead in his sentence and with eyes full of wrath yelled, “Who said that?” I was pretty perturbed by this point and said (again sharply and firmly, but not yelling), “I did.” He walked in front of me, bent down, and pointed his finger in my face touching my nose but not saying anything. I knew that if we got in a fight I’d probably be beat up but I stared in his eyes sending a message “you will not intimidate me.” We stared at each other for what seemed like an eternity but was only about 30 seconds. He was caught off guard. I wouldn’t punch him, I wasn’t backing down in fear, but I wasn’t yelling either. After the stare-down, he just said, “Ya’ll keep it down” and he and his friend left the room. I did report it to the school officials the next day and we didn’t have trouble with him again. Later on everything was fine and we got along fine. No one tried to get him back through revenge and he didn’t try to start trouble anymore.
Remember, these violent, or extreme, bullies are used to living with violence and are comfortable with hurting others seriously. It is best to involve adults, often including the police, who are better equipped to handle their violence.

Do you have any suggestions for how to deal with encounters  with violent bullies?