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October 23rd, 2010
06:00 AM ET

My Take: Love is the answer to bullying

Editor's Note: New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Karen Kingsbury is America’s No. 1 inspirational novelist. Dubbed the Queen of Christian Fiction by Time Magazine, Karen has written more than 50 of her Life-Changing Fiction ™ titles and has nearly 20 million copies in print.

By Karen Kingsbury, Special to CNN

Can you see him?

The figure of a lonely kid straggling down the hallway, hunched over, hiding behind the bulk of his backpack. Hair in his eyes. He passes the jocks, the cool kids, and someone spots his flute case, the one tucked under his arm.

“Look at him,” one of the guys sneers. “Here comes the flute player!”

A round of cruel laughter ricochets down the hallway. “Flute player?” another guy makes a face. He jabs his friend in the shoulder. “You know what I hear? Flute players are queer.”

The lonely boy moves a little faster, willing himself to disappear. You can do this . . . just get past them . . . get to class.

“Hey wimp!” The shout comes from the biggest one. “Where you going? Lookin for another flute player?”

From the opposite direction, four pretty girls walk together. They start to giggle, stopping to bat their eyes at the big-shouldered boys. In unison they turn and scowl at the shadowy figure, the outcast. The flute player.

I see him.

I named him Michael Schwartz in my novel Unlocked that releases October 12 – in the midst of National Bullying Prevention Month. Unlocked is about autism, and the miraculous power of friendship. Michael is not a major character in my book and he would not be a major character in life.

Kids that are bullied never are. Not until they become a statistic, a headline in a newspaper, a reason to shake our heads and wonder what in the world we are doing wrong if our kids are jumping off bridges and hanging themselves and putting guns to their heads instead of facing their reality.

Michael was a nice kid. Split his time between his divorced parents’ houses, played flute for the school orchestra, did his homework, kept to himself. Kids at school knew Michael was being bullied, but they did nothing. They said nothing. Better to laugh along with the bullies than have them turn on you.

Bullying is epidemic today.

Insecure loud-mouth kids willing to get attention at the expense of someone else – someone different, an easy target. In today’s social media-centric world, bullying has advanced far beyond mocking in the hallways or being left out in the lunchroom. Today it lives in a cyber world. It’s a live-video feed on Twitter or a text message spread like a bad virus among a teen generation whose prurient interest knows no bounds.

As Michael came to life, I read case studies and watched Youtube clips on kids who didn’t make it out of their bullying nightmare. I checked out the U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources page on bullying and found thoughtful messages.

Carefully crafted cartoon webisodes and tipsheets and PSA’s for kids who are victims and their often helpless parents. Lend a hand . . . take a stand. Tenets our kids would do well to adopt.

But still, very clearly, something is missing.

In a culture saturated with graphic imagery and sensory overload, and set against a political and entertainment arena that has consistently devalued life and faith, it seems our youth have reached a chilling conclusion – a mantra no public service announcement can quickly fix.

Very simply, our kids don’t care.

The answer is one you won’t find on any of the anti-bullying websites. For me the answer is love … it’s been the answer all along and it comes from the teachings of Jesus Christ. Jesus taught us to love one another . . . to consider others better than ourselves. The greatest commandment, He said, is to love.

It’s trite and clichéd at this point in the discussion to cast aspersions at the church, accusing believers of being intolerant and the general cause of all meanness. Exceptions exist, but I live and work and move among people who claim faith in Christ, and I can tell you this:

For the most part, they know how to love.

They accept weaknesses and imperfections in themselves and others, and allow an overriding dose of God’s love to define them and their purpose. The command of Jesus to love one another is needed more today than ever. Love one another as I have loved you, Jesus said. And so we should.

Michael Schwartz lived only in the pages of Unlocked. He lived there and he died there because no one at his high school cared enough to love him. It’s time to live out our faith, the faith this nation was founded on.

Maybe in an era where kids are dying for lack of love, we might together revere a God who taught us this simple truth.

Love one another. For now these three remain . . . faith, hope, and love.

But the greatest of these is love.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Karen Kingsbury.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Culture & Science • Opinion

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soundoff (163 Responses)
  1. Peace2All

    So, what I am getting here is that the answer to any bullying is: Jesus...? While I understand that for the most part as it is written in the bible, shows Jesus being a person of love and peace, I am not convinced that Jesus is the answer to every problem in the world.

    I am assuming that all of the christians out there, or a vast majority of you, who claim christianity as your religion, teach your children already about the quote .."Love of Jesus Christ".. and I am also assuming that most of you..., you and your children go to church, and get sermons by your clergy on the "Love of Jesus Christ."

    With ALL of the teaching about Jesus and His love that is going on.... Why isn't it working...? Or..are you saying that 'anybody' who bullies someone is 'not' a Christian...?

    Seems to me that families, parents, teachers, clergy- everyone should be speaking and demonstrating acts of loving kindness. Jesus... or no Jesus.

    We obviously have a 'ton' of teaching about Jesus going on in our country, as I understand it. What is the statistic.... 85-90 % of our country (U.S.A) claims to be christian....?

    So, I would suggest that teaching loving acts of kindness, regardless of one' religious affiliation or not, is the way to go.

    October 23, 2010 at 7:10 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      Yes,
      Anyone can teach love! It is an action!!

      October 24, 2010 at 1:09 pm |
  2. Miette

    Thank you, Karen! I love how your books point to Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life. I finished UNLOCKED a few days ago, and it was a phenomenal story. I could definitely sympathize as I am one who was bullied all throughout Jr. High and High School, and as a now 50 year old, I have continued to face bullying in every one of my jobs as a nurse...in fact, I just lost my previous position 4 months ago that I held for 6 1/2 years due to the extreme bullying from my nursing co-workers-ADON and DON included. Bullying is definitely not just a problem for students...it is very real for adults too. Without my faith and trust in Jesus Christ and His love for me, I would have never survived! Thank you again, Karen, for your heart of love for Jesus and for others...

    October 23, 2010 at 7:03 pm |
  3. Angel

    Thank you Karen for your thoughts regarding this challenging topic. I am an avid reader of Karen Kingsbrry and I have yet to read a book of hers that wasn't filled with God's hope and love. I am sorry to read the comments from people that have had negative experience with Christians . Unfortunately we are all human, but those who love Jesus and want to live according to his will,should display the fruits of the Spirit. Love, joy peace patients and self control. I myself experience bullying when I was young and it was because I am Christian. I was told I worshiped Satan, I was sick, I was stupid and I had fellow students who wanted to fight with me just because of my beliefs. It hurt very much at the time, but I was able to realize that regardless of what they may do, my faith was strong and God's promises are true. I realized at a young age that I control my actions and I would not treat anyone that way. Passing along those experience to my daughters and their friends will hopefully help to stop any bullying that may occur in their lives.

    October 23, 2010 at 6:41 pm |
  4. Susan

    Thanks Karen! God's love is the greatest force in heaven or on earth!

    October 23, 2010 at 6:28 pm |
  5. Renee

    I could not agree more with Karen. This society has been built on "me" no one else matters. Until this nation turns back to helping their fellow man and opening their heart to others these awful scenarios will continue. I know that many people have closed themselves off to allowing anyone in or allowing love to come in or out of them because of past hurts. As long as we remained closed off to others we will never see a more pleasant way of life.

    October 23, 2010 at 6:27 pm |
  6. Renette

    "Unlocked" is a great book that shows what giving someone a little hope can do and how it can change their life.
    As one who experienced bullying i can assure you if even one person shows you a little love and compassion it can make a difference. If we would take the time to care for each other we might find we know an Einstein or a Picasso .
    Jesus ministered to the poor and those who others bullied and even to the ones doing the bulling, we see great examples of this in David and Paul.
    Mrs. Kingsbury does not just talk she lives what she writes. Her stories are life changing weather you are christian or not.
    I for one am very Thankful for her honest approve to life and Her boldness in standing up for a GOD who loves us enough to send us His son to pay for our sins.

    October 23, 2010 at 6:22 pm |
  7. Peace2All

    So, what I am getting here is that the answer to any bullying is: Jesus...? While I understand that for the most part as it is written in the bible, shows Jesus being a person of love and peace, I am not convinced that Jesus is the answer to every problem in the world.

    I am assuming that all of the christians out there, or a vast majority of you, who claim christianity as your religion, teach your children already about the quote .."Love of Jesus Christ".. and I am also assuming that most of you..., you and your children go to church, and get sermons by your clergy on the "Love of Jesus Christ."

    With ALL of the teaching about Jesus and His love that is going on.... Why isn't it working...? Or..are you saying that 'anybody' who bullies someone is 'not' a Christian...?

    Seems to me that families, parents, teachers, clergy- everyone should be speaking and demonstrating acts of loving kindness. Jesus... or no Jesus.

    We obviously have a 'ton' of teaching about Jesus going on in our country, as I understand it. What is the statistic.... 85-90 % of our country (U.S.A) claims to be christian....?

    So, I would suggest that teaching loving acts of kindness, regardless of one' religious affiliation or not, is the way to go.

    October 23, 2010 at 6:04 pm |
    • Deanna

      The part u have 86-90% "claim" to b a christian is the key here....claimin to b and really being one separates the two. Our actions speak louder than our words at times.

      October 23, 2010 at 8:09 pm |
    • Peter F

      @Peace2all

      Amen, brother. LOVE is the way to go. It takes some real guts to love and care for others unconditionally.

      October 24, 2010 at 12:53 am |
    • CatholicMom

      Yes, love is a decision, an action we decide to do.

      October 24, 2010 at 1:06 pm |
  8. Love Vs. Bullying

    I enjoyed your article Ms. Kingsbury. Well said. It saddens me to see our youth care so little about humanity. Love is the answer, but love, like bullying, is an action. And it needs to be taught to our children. The need to know what love looks like. Not how it makes them feel and what they will get out of it.

    October 23, 2010 at 5:57 pm |
  9. Wendy

    Just finished reading Take Four. I love all your books. Looking forward to reading "Unlocked"

    October 23, 2010 at 5:57 pm |
  10. Janet

    Thanks so much Karen for the article and the book Unlocked! While I have never dealt with bullying personally, this is an eye opener. Those of us that read your books know your heart and how passionate you are about the subject. I worry about today's world. People today seem to have no respect for themselves, much less anyone else. Everyone feels like the world owes them something in one way or another. Maybe soon people will begin to understand the price has been paid, it's there's for the asking! Thanks again Karen for being there to make us all see things a little clearer.

    October 23, 2010 at 5:40 pm |
  11. Linda

    Look at Christ not Christians for real truth and love. Christ has entrusted His message of redemption with such flawed but forgiven followers. We get it wrong so often but He still trusts us with His truth. Our feet of clay stray from the path we should follow but even for that, there's forgiveness and daily startovers. And that love He asks of us continues to be light in a dark world.

    October 23, 2010 at 5:29 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Linda

      But I thought you were an atheist? Or does that depend on which blog you are on?

      October 25, 2010 at 2:23 pm |
    • Linda

      Maybe there's more than one Linda posting here? Hmmm? So wipe that atheist froth away from your mouth – it's icky.

      October 25, 2010 at 11:21 pm |
  12. lovetoshop

    Just read Unlocked and it was amazing. thank you, Karen!!! My children's elementary and middle schools are going through the GREAT program this year because of all the bullying. If students (and parents) would learn to accept differences instead of ridicule them; and learn to love instead ostracize, wouldn't the world be a better place!

    October 23, 2010 at 5:21 pm |
  13. A Gonthier

    As a mother of an 4 special needs children, one who is bullied quite frequently at school, this is becoming a problem in the schools. I believe I read one comment that bullies are a product of the parents which I believe, but we as parents need to stand up for our children and say this is enough. Our children need to speak up at school and school officials need to listen. This also does not just happen to special needs children too.

    October 23, 2010 at 5:19 pm |
  14. Terry L.

    I am thankful for friends (though we have not met in person) like Karen Kingsbury that use their God-given gifts to share His love and to use fiction stories to address true-life situations. I am half way through the Unlocked book and even in that much you can see how lives are changed by the working of God, often through another life. God gives life and He is the best example of love. The love of God was extended to everyone past, present and to be born through the gift given by Jesus Christ on the cross. None of us, Christians or not, are going to get everything right until eternity. But each day we need to ask God to help us to love others as He would love them. Even if we disagree with how some acts, etc. we need to talk to them with love. We don't love each other's sins....we just love them. Thanks Karen for another great book and for addressing those we meet with special needs and those that are bullys. Thanks CNN for interviewing Karen!

    October 23, 2010 at 5:19 pm |
  15. threegirls

    As a Christian, I am appalled by the your story at the park. I am so very sorry that that happened to you. I was raised as a pastor's daughter, and I definitely saw the good, the bad, and the ugly within the church. But the most important thing I learned, is that I cannot ever look to other people...even other "Christians" to show me how to live. I can only look to Christ. If you look to any other person, it is only going to disappoint and even anger you. However, I find it ironic that in response to an article that addresses bullying of someone "different," some of the previous posts have chosen to "bully" the author simply because of her faith. Sadly, I imagine that if she had left Christ out of it, and only spoke of love, there would be no issue. Everyone is welcome to their own belief, but just as I don't judge all Muslims because of the extremists that attacked us on 9/11, please do not denigrate all Christians because of a few misguided and foolish souls.

    Thank you Karen for your post. You have inspired millions. God Bless.

    October 23, 2010 at 5:12 pm |
  16. shana

    Really loving others can take care of so many problems we have in our society. Bullying is so sad and dis-heartening. As the mother of 6, I know how real it is in our schools. Something needs to be done and love is a fabulous place to start.

    October 23, 2010 at 5:10 pm |
  17. Ann M.

    Amen Karen! Anyone who knows Karen or reads her books knows that she is the real deal. None of us (Christians or otherwise) are perfect, and we can ALL come up to a higher level. Lets just treat each other as we would like and expect to be treated and the world will be a better place for it. As for Jesus and Christianity...it's real. It took me 40 yrs of my life and a lot of pain and heartache before I became a Believer...but it's the best decision I have ever made, and I pray you will reach the same decision for Christ sooner, rather than later.

    October 23, 2010 at 4:57 pm |
  18. L. Leighton

    I know Karen Kingsbury's heart, and I can tell you, this article has nothing to do with wanting to plug her book. She spends countless hours researching the issues that she writes about, and the fact that "Unlocked" came out during a month dedicated to ending bullying was a coincidence, I'm sure. The other thing I am sure of is that bullying starts out from fear...a fear of being picked on yourself, or of looking stupid in front of your friends for being kind to the "unlikeable". What I have found, though, over my life, is that as the Bible says, "perfect love casts out all fear". If we truly allow God to work through us and in us, we don't have to be fearful of what other think. We will want to live like He lived–loving the unlovable, touching the untouchable and forgiving the unforgivable. To me, I want to follow what Jesus called the greatest commandment–to love one another as He has loved us. If we all followed that example, bullying would be extinct.

    October 23, 2010 at 4:50 pm |
  19. Judy Lane

    Thank you Karen, Love is the only way that things will change regrardless of how you feel about christians. Love and acceptance is taught at home. But when you have God in your life, love over rules.

    October 23, 2010 at 4:48 pm |
  20. Mary

    God is love and love is the answer. And God is always by your side waiting to hear from you.

    October 23, 2010 at 4:46 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.