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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)
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  4. Sarah

    I gazed at the name of the victim, Michael Schwartz, and wondered about the reason for this obviously apparent Jewish name. I am currently the victim of religious prejudice in my neighborhood in the South and have an obviously sounding Jewish name. I am a middle aged female adult and my requests and pleas to various organizations in this church laden city have gone unheard. I am being bullied, and none of the dozens of adults I have contacted have responded to my requests for assistance. As a former teacher I wonder how we can stop bullying in the schools when bullying continues to exist in our communities....

    December 1, 2010 at 12:30 pm |
  5. Viviana

    I love this video. It talks about the supernatural love we can have in God.
    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EQ8dnqf-Dvw&w=640&h=360]

    November 11, 2010 at 3:28 pm |
  6. John

    I have launched a new website that is designed to stop bullying and abuse.

    http://www.haltnow.ca/ – Humanity Against Local Terrorism – HALT.

    The more of our voices that say HALT; the more of our children we can save. This new website offers education, prevention, support and services to abused and bullied victims as well as hopefully finding a solution to stop this local terrorism of bullying, abuse and domestic violence within our communities. Please help us stop these senseless acts. Please take time to visit this site, become a member and add your voice.

    October 31, 2010 at 2:21 am |
  7. Christopher C. DeSantis

    Love *is* the ultimate answer... and, it doesn't respond to the problem of _now_. School administrators (and some teachers) must get beyond warehousing of students and bumping test scores. They must treat school as an integral part of the students' lives, where focusing on their social development is just as important, if not more, than the traditional 3R's. While this does not allow parents to abrogate their own responsibility, our educational system is beyond broken in this area.

    October 27, 2010 at 5:39 pm |
  8. Don Regan

    "Christian Fiction" ? Really? That has to be the greatest oxymoron in history. We don't need christian fiction. We only need Christian TRUTH!

    October 27, 2010 at 2:37 am |
  9. Dish

    After reading the comments to Karen's article, it's not surprising that hate is such a strong influence in the world today. Living in the Bible Belt has sheltered us from many of these radical views. What happened to kindness and civility? When did we lose the ability to forgive and love? Bullying is not new but it seems to be getting more cruel. Mrs. Kingsbury is one of the finest Christian authors in our society. I dare anyone to read just one of her books and not be affected. I am a borned again Christian–not perfect-not even close but do know that truth and love WILL be the Ultimate winner. Keep it up Karen–just touching one life is worth having to read some of these comments.

    October 26, 2010 at 10:46 pm |
  10. Lee

    Hey Everyone, I am a Highschool principal. I deal with the bullies and jocks on a daily basis. I would love for this book be the principal's book of the month. I have 1360 students in my school. I will do some checking and make it heppen and I can tell you from experience this book Unlocked hits close to home!

    October 26, 2010 at 9:39 pm |
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    October 26, 2010 at 7:34 pm |
  12. GM

    Karen, thanks for the article. It created a variety of discussions. I find it rather ironic how much bullying is going on in these posts. All I want to say is no matter who you are or what you believe, bullying is wrong. Each of us needs to look at our own thoughts and actions and stop mud slinging words at each other. Actions not words.

    October 26, 2010 at 11:46 am |
  13. tacoma

    thanks, Karen, for writing that.

    October 26, 2010 at 3:41 am |
    • Rose

      Do you think some of this behavior of bullying and disregard for others stems from our societal idea that life isn’t worth living unless it is your own? (CatholicMom)

      Sorry, I didn't get back here to answer sooner.

      I think that alot of the bullying problems come from the fact that kids are not taught from a young age, about respecting others, loving others, and treat others as you would want to be treated. In other words, total lack of nothing being taught anymore in the home about this.

      To answer your question more directly, yes, I think any time we are taught "its all about me" (selfishness) , the end result will wind up being a negative one.

      Alot of self esteem isues too. If one feels the only way they can be "heard" or "seen" is by negative assertion of thier self, then we have a "bully". Some of it is probably learned in the home, by example. Old saying, Children are what they learn. If they see this in the home, they follow suit.

      I am looking at how "adults" act under this blog, and see it right now. Cannot express ones self, due to anger, and thus resort to name calling and cursing. That has nothing to do with religion, or beliefs, has to do with exerting ones self.

      I also see the "gang: mentailty...supporting your friends with similar views is fine, but why resort to those kind of tactics? Then we wonder why it is the way it is today? I think alot of times, religion is a scapegoat to blame ones actions on, wether it comes from a Christian or non Christian.

      I wonder how the children of these people who need to attack and cuss at another, are raising thier kids? Kids do learn from example. Interesting....

      October 26, 2010 at 8:01 am |
    • CatholicMom

      Thanks for writing, Rose. I think you are right. It makes me wonder if all the name calling and cussing is done in front of their kids or even ‘at’ their kids because the anger does not seem under control.

      October 26, 2010 at 9:16 am |
  14. dx2718

    You don't need a belief in a supernatural deity to be compassionate and treat your fellow man with respect and care.

    October 25, 2010 at 10:16 pm |
  15. jim frank

    I grew up as a jewish male in the 1950's..the memory of the Nazi genocide just a decade old. "love' did not help those in the Warsaw Ghetto against the biggest bully of the 20th century. My dad a W.W. II veteran taught me that you "bust up" a bully and teach him a lesson, make sure that He Does Understand that the price to mess with you is just to high. Gay or straight sometimes the answer is a "knuckle sandwich". I wish the schools or authorities would be more proactive...my people in eastern Europe waited for action too! Six million were lost to a Bully. The answer is a Knuckle sandwich.

    October 25, 2010 at 4:48 pm |
  16. Frogist

    "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.
    ...
    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."
    So you say you're dealing with the bullying but not the fact that gays or those perceived as gay are the targets of bullying. Ok.... And then you're blaming "graphic imagery and sensory overload" and not the many religions who have set up the idea that being gay is wrong. And the solution is more religion... not less? Because it's trite to put the blame for anti-gay sentiment where the majority of it lies? Is she kidding?
    Yes, love helps. But the answer to halting anti-gay bullying? Teach your kids there's nothing wrong with being gay.

    October 25, 2010 at 12:03 pm |
    • Frogist

      I might add that the author's Christians are trying to get into office by being predominantly anti-gay and anti- any other religion but Christian. How do you not consider O'Donnell's treatment of her opposition with implications, albeit false ones, of being gay and taunts like "put on your man-pants" as anti-gay bullying by a Christian? These "Christians" are all over the media maybe that's the trend that's igniting so much bullying. Where's the outrage against them? Or do we withold that outrage because they will bring your "faith" back to the political arena?

      October 25, 2010 at 12:40 pm |
  17. MOM3

    Thank you for this article on bullying. We should all show love to each other–we can love each other and not agree with everyone's personal choices. I am sorry for those who have come in contact with people who claimed to be christians, but did not show christian love. I hope you have many oppotunities to truly see God's love through christians. Also, some comments have asked how someone can show love while in the middle of being bullied. I believe what Karen is saying is that if we all would show love to each other then there would be no bullying. I teach my children to be kind even when the people they come in contact with are not. Also, I teach them to include others, especially when they see them being mistreated or alone. I back up my words to my children with my actions. I'm not be perfect, but I try to show love in my actions.

    October 25, 2010 at 10:12 am |
  18. Giant Pen1s of Doom

    THE GIANT PEN1S OF DOOM WILL CRUSH YOU ALL!!! REPENT OF YOUR SMALLNESS BEFORE THE GIANT PEN1S!!!

    October 25, 2010 at 6:12 am |
  19. Al Faltyn

    Karen,

    I only have one thing to say about your article. You are totally delusional if you think that your love is going to stop a bully from harrassing, intimidating and striking one of his peers. It is time for the parents of the bullied to "Step up to the plate" and head down to the prosecutors office and drag the other parents through a nightmare. It is time to empower the bullied person to have "his day in court". Otherwise bullied children will still swallow those pills, place a gun to their head, jump off bridges or buildings amoungst other ways to die. And without leaving a note for or the reason they did it. No one to blame except themselves. The parents better get a grip on this and start a march now to the prosecutor if they want to save their child from future insults both physically, and emotionally.

    October 25, 2010 at 6:03 am |
  20. Jay O'Connell

    Nice sentiment. Do you agree that the blood of many of the recent suicides is on the hands of some Christian leaders who demonize gays and lesbians? People like you should reach out towards the non-accepting, ignorant Christians, like Fred Phelps, the Pope, and his ilk. They wont listen to me or my people, but maybe they'll listen to you, since you share the same belief in the same magical books.

    October 25, 2010 at 1:54 am |
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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.