My oldest daughter has some girls in her grade that just aren't very nice to others. They spend their time looking for ways to make others feel bad. They love to exclude others and make fun of people they perceive as weaker than themselves.
Unfortunately, this isn't an unusual occurence. By the time our kids hit third or fourth grade, they've encountered at least one child who makes herself feel better by attacking others.
I have to admit that my first reaction to these types of girls is to pull out my momma bear claws and want to step in. When my oldest is on the receiving end of the hurtful things these girls can say, I really am not interested in teaching her to turn the other cheek and love her enemies. My first instinct is to tell her to fight back and be just as mean as those girls are.
But, that's not the best solution. It simply causes her to stoop to the level of these girls. Jesus' solution for dealing with people who wanted to hurt Him was to pray for them. The world tells us to fight back when someone attacks us -- to hurt them as badly as they have hurt us. But Jesus said, "You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." (Matthew 5:43-44)
No matter how hard, God asks us to love those who dislike us and even pray for them. That's a tall order and it goes against human nature and the general sentiment of the world. Yet, learning to love our enemies and pray for those who hurt us, makes us people of compassion. It shows others a picture of God's love for us.
God has every reason to dislike us. We break His commands. We forget to praise Him and thank Him for all He has done for us. We treat Jesus' sacrifics on the cross lightly. Yet, God loves us anyway. He's not asking us to do anything He hasn't already done.
Does it break God's heart when people treat each other poorly? Yes. Does it make God sad when people choose to hurt others? Yes. Do those things make God stop loving us? No. God loves us in spite of our actions. He sees beyond the surface and loves the person He made in His own image. The key to loving others and praying for our enemies is to see others through God's eyes.
Help your kids love their enemies and pray for those who persecute them by helping them find God's perspective on the person who has hurt them.
- Pray about the situation, and pray specifically for the person who has hurt your child. It's hard to dislike someone when you are praying for them. Ask God to help your child see that person as God sees them.
- Talk about reasons that people act in a mean way. Usually kids who are looking for ways to demean others are very insecure about themselves. They may put on a good front, but deep down they're terrified of losing the approval of their friends, and they don't think very highly of themselves. They target other kids who are weaker or who they see as a threat to their status. Understanding that the other child's hurtful comments and actions are rooted in their own insecurities can help your child feel compassion for them.
- Teach your kids to always respond with kindness. This is hard. It's not easy to be kind to those who have hurt you. But responding in kindness puts your kids above the fray, and they won't ever have to be ashamed of their actions. Proverbs 25:21-22 says "If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you."
- Remind your kids that every child is a masterpiece, even the one's who are mean to us. Help them see the other child as a lovable person, created in God's image.
Loving our enemies is hard. It's not easy to take the high road, especially when we are hurt. Our first instinct is to lash out at those who have hurt us. But when we put on the lenses of God's eyes and we pray for those who have hurt us, God will help us love them. And love always triumphs.