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No Bullies Allowed

March 19, 2011
I love St. Thomas Aquinas.  His endless works like Summa Theolgica provide a nourishing wellspring of wisdom for all time.  “The human person has a natural urge toward complete goodness,” Aquinas tells us.  Then he warns us cryptically with, “Evil does not exist, except in a good subject.”  Are the two statements contradictory?  In the first Star Wars trilogy, the embodiment of evil was tall, dark and ominous Darth Vader.  And yet his son, Luke Skywalker, adamantly professed that there was still good in him; that he could feel it.

Stick with me.

St. Thomas continues, “No human truly has joy unless that person lives in love,” and that “love is absolutely stronger than hate.”  Makes sense, doesn’t it?  We hear that ‘God is love.’  Pope Benedict even wrote an encyclical with that title.  God would certainly be stronger than hate, wouldn’t he?  Now the saint gets us to ponder: “All fear springs from love.”  Whoa.  How can that be?  Jesuit scholar and teacher, Fr. Robert Barron explains a little.  He says, “The opposite of love is not hate.  The opposite of love is fear.” This Jesuit sounds quite Thomistic in his philosophy.

The opposite of love is not hate.  The opposite of love is fear.

My son, Kevin, is a good kid.  After all everyone tells me so.  But more than that, I know it.  When he was in grade school he would protect his little sister, or join forces with a student being picked on, and, if push came to shove, he would stand in place and offer his last great act of defiance.  He despises bullies.  His Facebook status entry last week really underscored it, and got me thinking about this topic.  He wrote:

The Girl you just called fat? She has been starving herself & has lost over 30lbs. The Boy you just called stupid? Has a learning disability & studies over 4hrs a night. The Girl you just called ugly? She spends hours putting makeup on hoping people will like her. The Boy you just tripped? He is abused enough at home. There’s a lot more to people than you think. Put this as your status if you’re against bullying…

Not bad, son.  Finding some like-minded friends at his Middle School, they formed a group called Speak.  They speak out against bullying.  The group actually came into the news, when reporters were sniffing around for a story due to an incident where a student had been kicked out of school for a threatening post on Facebook.  Two of the group’s members were interviewed, and they were on television for a couple of minutes.  Yay.  What a wasted opportunity by the station – they could have spent more than a soundbite’ s moment of time to make an impact.  (If you click on the Speak picture in the margin, it will take you to these intrepid students’s site.)

Bullying occurs at all levels.  Grade Schoolers, High Schoolers.  Gang members to elderly transit passengers.  Political majority to minority protests. Big army of one country versus a little army of another.  But what did Jesus teach us about our enemies?  From the Mount of Beatitudes in his Sermon on the Mount, he said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil.  When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one to him as well…  You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5: 38-39, 43-44).  This was revolutionary stuff, people.  Jesus took and transformed the Old Testament ideal of justice, and radicalized it into the New Testament ideal of mercy.  (My favorite saying is actually ‘Grace is receiving what you do not deserve.  Mercy is not receiving what you did deserve.)  It did not go unnoticed.  Mahatma Gandhi read Matthew and got it immediately.  Martin Luther King, Jr. was another.  They took the minority, and through non-violence, changed the world.  Not just their situation, but the world.  Imagine what we could do if we thought like this?  Imagine what we could do if we all thought like this.  No more wars of aggression or hate.  No more citizenry locking up their citadel and barring the gate to threats and intimidation from thugs and hooligans. 

Funny thing is: we do think that way – every one of us.  Even the bully. 

Remember what St. Thomas said.  “Evil does not exist, except in a good subject.”  All people, even bullies, love to be loved, like to be liked, need to be needed, and want to be wanted.  Everyone has something deep down inside them.  Remember bullies are good people with evil working in their lives.  Love them out of their fear.  “Be the change you want to see in the world” (Gandhi).  If Luke found goodness in Darth Vader, his father, in the end, perhaps starting up a group to counter bullying and raising awareness isn’t enough.  Perhaps we all need to go a little further and love the bully into being a neighbor?  ‘Monsters are preposterous in nature,’ so perhaps our little group is a good, first step to returning beauty and joy to their nature.

Aquinas takes me into a conclusion with this: “Malice consists in emptiness.”  There is one who is not love, who is hate, and evil with no goodness: Satan.  And where do we find him in Dante’s Divine Comedy?  Alone, frozen in his misery. 

Let’s stop bullying now.  And please, if it suits you, let those kids know they are on the right track.  Send a word of encouragement by clicking on Speak.



PS: I’m proud of you son.  Yeah, and your friends, too.

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