“Want some milk with your cookies?” I asked six-year-old Jonathan one day after school.
“I dunno,” his eyes were downcast, his sweet voice glum.
“You dunno?” I studied him. I sat down on a kitchen chair and peered into his eyes. “What’s wrong, Jon Jon?”
His elbow rested on the table, his chin in his hand. My precious little bright-eyed boy definitely had something on his mind.
“Didn’t the boys let you play with them again today?” I speculated.
Sadly, my son shook his head from side to side. “I brought the Hot Wheels you bought me, but they still wouldn’t let me play.” He gulped back a sob. “Sam said I stink.”
“Oh, that’s too bad,” my heart sank at the sight of Jonathan’s pain. “Sam kind of sounds like a bully, huh?”
His eyes downcast, my son slowly nodded his head.
“Well, let me tell ya what to do about bullies,” I went on. “The trick is to outsmart them. I know you can, because you’re even smarter than I am.”
This brought a smile to the corners of my boy’s mouth.
“Next time Sam says someone stinks, tell him, ‘Actually, that putrid odor is coming from your nasal passages.’”
Jonathan gave me a curious, amused sort of look. “WHAT??!”
I chuckled. It means, “The stink is coming from your own nose.”
“O-oh,” Jonathan said, liking the idea.
“If you say that, Sam will know you’re saying something about him, but he won’t know what it means. He’ll feel silly, and I don’t think he’ll bother you any more after that. Wanna give it a try?”
A big grin on his face, Jonathan enthusiastically nodded his head up and down.
At recess, Jonathan shared his plan with his friend Natalie. “Tell him to tell me I stink and I’ll do the rest,” he said.
Sam ended up right in front of Natalie in the line for the slippery dip. “Hey, Sam,” Natalie got his attention. “Tell Jonathan he stinks.”
Sam squinted his eyes and hooked Jonathan’s gaze. “You stink!” he stared straight at Jonathan, expecting him to drop his eyes in shame.
But Jonathan didn’t even blink. “Actually,” he said calmly, “that putrid odor is coming from your nasal passages.”
Sam gave Jonathan a confused stare, dropped his own eyes, and walked away, mumbling something.
As Natalie took her turn on the slide, several of the others slapped Jonathan on the back and said, “I guess you told him!!”
Sam never bothered Jonathan again.
From that time on, Jonathan knew how to deflect the unwanted attentions of bullies. He had gained the confidence in his ability to both stand up to and outsmart anyone who tried to give him a rough time. Another boy could be victimized right next to Jonathan, but the bully wouldn’t even look Jonathan’s way.
My son’s competence in dealing with bullies is an example and inspiration to me, when I am dealing with the biggest bully in my life, the bully of all bullies—that’s right, the enemy of both your soul and mine.
I need more than cryptic comebacks to deal with this devil of an enemy. Nothing short of God’s Word is potent enough to send him cowering away with his tail between his legs.
The tricky thing about the enemy is that he distorts or twists the truth, so it gets confusing. But God’s Word tells me the whole truth.
So when he throws a past or present failure up in my face and tells me I have no right to love or be loved, I need to turn to God’s Word. I need to read for myself in a place like Romans 6 that through His redemptive love, God freed me from the grip of sin and death and has given me the gift of eternal life, that I might live unto good works, rather than drown in the cesspools of despair.
Once I know, declare, and live this out, the ultimate bully has to hunt for other prey. He knows his time and efforts will only be wasted on me.
In fact, the knowledge that God loves me and has a higher, more loving purpose for my life than I could ever dream of for myself is enough to deflect any bully that could ever come my way.