[I wrote a Part 2 to this post — read it here. ~Mitch]
The internet’s response to Keaton Jones’ emotional video about his experiences being bullied has been remarkable. I was heartened to notice that many folks, famous and otherwise, reacted the same way I did – they felt like Keaton was an incredibly likable kid, and that he ought to put up his dukes.
That was the advice I gave my son when he was getting bullied, some time around age 10 or so. I told him “sticks and stones” — ignore all insults and taunts — but if a bully pushes you, push him back. If he punches you, punch him back.
I was bullied as a kid. I know how it feels. I also know how it feels the first time you let a bully know that you’re not going to take any more and you hit him in the chops one good time. It feels pretty darned good, but not nearly as good as it does to walk to class with your head held high for change.
In support of my argument I present the following points:
- Each time a kid lets it slide it’s more likely to happen again. Psychologist David Coleman agrees, and he says parents should tell their kids to fight bullies.
- Telling boys to “use their words” doesn’t work. Young boys learn mostly by action not by talking, and when it comes to linguistic communication they might might not catch up with girls their age until high school or even later. Both bullies and the bullied learn something from a scuffle.
- Scientific evidence suggest that the Golden Rule isn’t as effective as an alloy. Carl Sagan explained it very well in Parade magazine back in 1993. He calls it “the Gold-plated Brazen Rule” and it’s basically with works like this: Be nice at first. If the other person persists not playing nice, give back what you got. But as soon as they turn nice, forgive and forget.
- Kids need to solve their own problems without excessive adult interference. It’s how they learn to be functioning adults.
How do I, as an interfaith minister, a seminarian pursuing Holy Orders and a martial artist, reconcile all this? Shouldn’t I be advocating the Golden Rule?
Well, the Golden Rule as given in Luke and Matthew is “Do to others what you want them to do to you.” And there is also Proverbs 27:17 — “Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another.” I don’t think the Bible says you should never ever put up your dukes. If I ever become a bully I want somebody to teach me a lesson so I learn to change my ways.
So, all in all, here’s my Interfaith, East-meets-West version of the Golden Rule that combines Confucius and Christ in equal measure:
“Repay kindness with kindness, evil with justice and repentance with forgiveness.”