We live in a society where “bullying” can take place physically, psychologically, and most recently in cyberspace. While most of our students don’t engage in physical bullying, almost all of them participate in some form of conversation by cutting remarks and gossiping. Unfortunately, adults often are involved in electronic exchanges which are inappropriate and harmful to others as well. The end result of some of this online chatter is similar to the result of physical “bullying,” and should not be part of the Christian student or adult’s daily walk. Students who have been saying cutting things about each other are short fused and tired of the conflict. The student who feels that many of their classmates have been talking about them behind their backs have had enough. Psychologist Heidi Vandebosch said in the article, Defining Cyber-bullying, “Cyber-bullying is the willful and repeated harm inflicted through the medium of electronic data. These messages are sent through e-mail, text, or social media and are usually created by those who are technologically savvy and those who want to avoid (physical) confrontation.” Dan Weiss, former senior analyst for media and sexuality at Focus on the Family, remarks, “Bullying has come to the forefront of national consciousness in the past few years, and it is time our culture takes this more seriously. The call of Christ is always for the downtrodden and, unfortunately, it seems like Christians have been slow to respond.” We all know that the consequences of inappropriate talking, whether it is in the form of gossip or cyber-bullying, are hurt feelings, broken relationships, and even hostility toward others. And most importantly, we know it should not be a part of the life of a Christ follower.
In the book of James we read about the power of our words. James said, “…..the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue is also a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life in fire, and is itself set on fire by hell,” James 3:5-6. James says that the tongue, although it is a very small part of the body, can control the whole body. We see the results of that here at school when conflicts arise by what students say to each other in person and in cyber-space..
The power of the tongue can also be a positive force, however. As teachers and parents, we know that with our words we can encourage, we can inspire, we can comfort and enlighten. We can control the atmosphere in our classrooms and in our homes by just changing the tone of our voice. With a quiet voice we can bring calm and stillness, and with sharp stinging tone we can bring a sense of tenseness and anxiety. Our tongue is truly a powerful force in our life.
A lesson we need to understand, about our tongue, is also found in James. “Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you-who are you to judge your neighbor?” James 4:11-12. James is telling the church that only God is qualified to judge people. When our students, or any of us, criticize, tear down, slander, or speak evil of someone, we are taking the position that we are in a position to judge the other person and have no fault of our own. That is where the conflict always arises, because the other person knows we are not perfect and we certainly have faults of our own.
We are deceiving ourselves if we think that Jesus can be Lord over our life, without also becoming Lord over our tongue. We need to surrender the control of our tongue, and our words placed into cyber-space, to the Lord. We need to faithfully teach to our students, that no one has the right to speak evil of someone else. We need to realize that if our words, spoken or written, are out of control, we need to seek God’s forgiveness and allow Him to change the attitude of our heart and our mouth, so they will be pleasing to Him. To do this we begin by confessing the misuse of our tongue and the misappropriation of our words in a harmful way, as sin. I John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us of all unrighteousness.” Our goal in all we say and the words that we use should be like the Psalmist, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, 0 LORD, my strength and my Redeemer.” Psalm 19:14.