Written By Ellen Bargh, UK
I didn’t realise I was different until kids at primary school kept pointing it out. You see, I have ginger hair. No one else had ginger hair in my school apart from my brother, but they always picked on me, never on him.
Most of the time, it was one or two kids who picked on me. But sometimes they would do it in front of my friends, and my friends would join in too. They called me ginger minger and carrot top. I was left out of their games in the playground and I hated going to school.
I wanted to be like everyone else, I didn’t want people to call me horrible names. I thought if I was the same as them, they would stop. So I begged and begged my mum to let me change my hair colour; I didn’t tell her the real reason. But she wouldn’t let me dye it blonde. She said it was unique and beautiful. But I hated it.
I badly wanted to fit in but I also wanted revenge. So I tried to get my brother to pick on them. He was older and could make their lives miserable if he wanted to, but he didn’t. Maybe he thought that they would pick on him too if he did.
By the time I was in high school, I had managed to convince my mum to let me dye my hair a little bit. I was allowed blonde highlights—at least that disguised it a little bit. Though people still made fun of me, I was determined to convince myself that I was blonde with ginger highlights so that it would hurt less.
I didn’t think it would happen when I was older. I didn’t think adults would be as cruel, but just a few of years ago, I faced a similar situation at work. It wasn’t because of my hair; it was just because the person didn’t like me. She didn’t call me names to my face. Instead, she told everyone around me that she didn’t like me and didn’t want to work with me. What really hurt was that we used to be friends, but now she wouldn’t acknowledge me when I walked into a room. In meetings, others’ opinions and suggestions were valued but mine were ignored. It was as though they had not even been said.
The same feelings I had when I was in school arose and I felt isolated and alone. I felt stupid for feeling left out. I wasn’t a kid in the playground anymore; I was an adult. How could I let someone treat me that way? I didn’t know what to do, so I didn’t respond or retaliate. I didn’t want to go and talk to her about it because I felt so small and I was worried that she would say that I was making it up.
I thought it was my fault, that I must have offended her in some way. But she never said what I had done wrong. I went to talk to another friend about the situation and we began to pray about it. At first, I couldn’t even pray about the person I was so angry with, but God softened my heart.
Here are three things I’ve learned about how to deal with bullying:
1. See them from God’s Perspective
Though we are each made unique, everyone is made in the image of God and Jesus loves us equally. We need to see ourselves and others the same way God does. God created us all. He doesn’t want any of us to feel isolated and alone.
When I was able to see my colleague as someone whom Jesus died for and loved, and not just as a bully, I was then able to pray for her. Because we had previously been friends, it was also easier for me to remind myself of her good qualities.
2. Pray for their good
When Jesus told His disciples to love their enemies and pray for those who persecuted them, I don’t think it was just so they would stop persecuting them, but that His disciples would be able to see their enemies in a different light (Matthew 5:44).
When we start praying for good things to happen to the other person, it helps change our perspective of the situation and the person. It helps us to love them. Sometimes, the way they behave may be because they have terrible things going on in the background that we don’t know about.
The more my friend and I prayed, the easier it became to ignore my colleague’s behaviour and not let it affect me. Though I did not confront her about the issue, I did go out of my way to try to acknowledge her.
3. Tell someone
Facing a problem with someone beside you is better than facing it on your own. By sharing with someone more mature, you can keep your thoughts in check and not allow them to overwhelm you. It also means someone can pray for you and with you about it (Galatians 6:2). As my friend and I talked and prayed about the situation, she helped me to see that I hadn’t done anything wrong and that I should not be afraid to continue to be myself.
There are times when bullying can become so bad that action needs to be taken by your school or workplace to protect you or others. But no matter how bad the situation is, we can always take it to God and know that He is in control.
I no longer work at that place today. But whenever the situation comes to mind or if I happen to bump into her, I pray and ask God to bless her. But ultimately, I’m learning to remind myself that the opinion of others doesn’t matter. I want to fix my eyes on Jesus and His love and care for me.