Job 42:7-9 (NRSV)
7 After the Lord had spoken these words to Job, the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “My wrath is kindled against you and against your two friends; for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has. 8 Now therefore take seven bulls and seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly; for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has done.” 9 So Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite went and did what the Lord had told them; and the Lord accepted Job’s prayer.
It can be tough for us to know what to say, when our kids are being bullied, how to offer them comfort and to let them know that it will be alright, that sometimes other kids, and even adults can act like jerks. Then there are those times when it is our child who is doing the bullying, something that can be even harder for us to handle. Sure we could punish them or scold them, but would that really get the point across, or just be more careful about not getting caught?
As single parents we can feel very responsible for the behavior of our children and the people they are becoming, and it can be very disconcerting to know that it is our child who is causing someone else pain!
Now, I know it is true that most kids wind up being both the victim and the bully at times…especially today, when there are so many opportunities to exchange insults and threats via the relative anonymity of social media! However, this sense of anonymity does not negate the pain that can be caused by being bullied, nor the guilt that an otherwise good kid can feel because they have acted like a bully themselves!
Most kids…most people, know both sides of bullying and neither side feels very good. Even as parents there are times when our frustrations get the better of us, and we wind up acting in ways we are not proud of.
So what are we to do, when we find our children, or ourselves acting like Job’s ‘friends’ in today’s lesson?
We can follow the command that God gave to the three men in the lesson: to forgive and to be forgiven, not just with words, but also through our actions, just as God called the men to make amends to Job by making an offering in his name. Making amends can be as simple as just saying “I’m sorry” or it can mean doing the work to rebuild a broken relationship by changing how we behave, or making restitution for a harm done. It does not negate the action, but is an honest attempt to make things right again between the harmed and those who have done the harming.
We can teach our children how good it can feel to just let go of our resentment, pain and guilt through giving them a glimpse of God’s love in action by showing them how to make amends for those hurts we have done and how to forgive others for the hurts done to us. While none of us are perfect, falling short of God’s glory on occasion does not make us people, only true human-beings, in desperate need of forgiveness and hope!
Knowing that none of us are perfect can help us to be more forgiving of ourselves and others and to find the words to say to our children when they are the ones being the bullies, and can also help us to make amends for those times when we find ourselves acting unfairly as parents.
Yes, it does happen, even WE can make mistakes due to feeling stressed-out or overwhelmed!
Even if they do not want to admit it, our children learn from us, from what we tell them and from our own example. By showing them forgiveness in action, and by offering our amends when we have done wrong, we show our children that while to err may be human, it is does not have to leave lasting scars, as forgiveness is a sign that God’s healing grace is an active presence in our world!
Making amends, as Job’s friends were commanded to do, can give both the bully and the bullied healing, and allow us to all move forward as one family, not only as parents and children, or as brothers, sister and friends, but as part of the family of God: dysfunctional, imperfect but still filled with love and compassion for each other as we all live in the light of God’s love for us…love that forgives and accepts us as we are, love that has the power to teach us how to become better people every day, by following Christ’s simple command to “…love one another”.
Let us Pray:
Dear God, help us to have the faith to follow all of your commands, especially the command to forgive and to make amends to those we have harmed. Let us be an example of your grace in action to our children and to others, through our words and deeds and to remember that we are all humans, all imperfect, but also all loved by you, and connected to each other as part of your great family!