(Photo: Life Without Limbs)
Throughout my life I've seen that bullying is real and part of the dark side of human nature. Bullying has been with us as long as sin has existed.
Jesus Himself was a victim of constant bullying from His enemies. When the high priest questioned Jesus before His crucifixion, a temple official slapped Jesus in the face for daring to speak the truth. Jesus did not back down from these religious persecutors. Instead, He demanded to know why the official had lashed out.
Jesus was teaching us that no one should give in to being bullied or persecuted. We should put our faith into action, stand against those who would intimidate and persecute us and anyone else, and demand to be treated fairly.
As a child, I was an easy target for bullies. In school, I was constantly taunted with hurtful comments and mean-spirited teasing by my classmates. What made it worse, no one stood up for me.
Why was I bullied? I was born with no limbs. Yet, I didn't think it was a big deal until I was 6-years-old, when I began to carry the frown of the world. I heard the cruel names, hundreds of times. I didn't think it was funny, but many thought otherwise. While smiling on the outside, inside I was screaming for a way out. At the age of ten, I even attempted suicide, having lost all hope and with seemingly no purpose in life.
Today, I travel around the world talking to tens of thousands of young people. From their response, it is evident that no one is immune from being bullied. There is not one group in society that is not affected by gossip, teasing, hatred and slander.
As a boy and as a man, my experiences with bullies left me feeling intimidated, depressed, anxious, stressed and sick to my stomach. I didn't tell my parents when I was picked on because I didn't want to upset them. I thought I could handle it myself, but I was wrong. I should have told them from the beginning. It is a lesson that I share with my audience, especially with young people.
Victims of bullying do need help. And parents must teach their children to be compassionate and Good Samaritans, to step up if they see such someone being mistreated.
The Bible tells us how Jesus answered the question, "Who is my neighbor?" by offering the story of a man who was robbed, beaten, and left for dead on the road. Two people passed by without offering any help, but a third, who was from Samaria, went to his aid. The Samaritan treated the victim's wounds, and took him to a hotel where he cared for him. Before leaving, the Samaritan gave the man money and promised to return to check on him. After telling the story, Jesus asked who was the true neighbor? The reply was the one who had mercy on the victim. Jesus then said: "Go and do likewise."
I urge parents to teach their children to "Go and do likewise." The Bible instructs us, "Do to others as you would have them do to you." It is the Golden Rule, one of the most basic principles of Christian living. It goes hand in hand with "Love your neighbor as yourself" and with the assurance that as we treat others, God will treat us likewise.
God wants us to do the right thing, and that includes never letting another person suffer if you can help it. As God's children, we are expected to help one another. Standing by and watching someone be harassed and bullied is not Christian behavior.
Equally important, parents of children who are bullied must take it upon themselves to help their kids in believing and achieving. It's about having faith in God and being used by Him in your talents and your purpose to love others the way God loves them. It's about treating people with kindness and gentleness because it reflects God's love within us.
We must put our Christian faith into action and join those who are standing against bullying and other forms of social injustice.
I cannot hide the fact that I have no arms and legs. It took time, but I am proud of who I am. I don't need to be athletic, popular, or limbed to show love and to give a helping hand.
We all can be more compassionate. If no one stood up for you, then stand up for someone else. My mission and purpose is to help kids who are being bullied. My message is simple: If a man with no arms or legs can overcome challenges like bullying, anyone can.
Besides, it is the Christian thing to do.