Thought for the Day - 24/04/2014 - Rt Rev Graham James

Good morning. Over the Easter weekend it was reported that researchers at King’s College, London had tracked the lives of over 7,000 people born in 1958. They found that those who had been bullied as children were at an increased risk of depression and anxiety in adult life. Bullying also had long term consequences for health, made forming good relationships more difficult, and even had an adverse effect on job prospects. Perhaps the results aren’t very surprising but they emphasise the serious damage this behaviour can do. For today’s children bullying has moved into cyberspace as well. Its impact is still often unchecked and extensive. The research should increase our resolve to combat it.

Last Saturday I visited a group of children making a film for a new organisation seeking to prevent bullying before it starts. Many, if not all, of the children had been the target of bullies. They were brave to be there. Some were very apprehensive. But a professional film crew have a magnetic effect so there was excitement too.

The story line required some of the children to act the role of a bully. That was a big challenge for them. Even being filmed acting as a victim of bullying was forbidding, despite their first-hand experience. Targets of such behaviour often keep it quiet out of shame, and may even imagine they’ve done something to deserve it. Those who stand aside and allow it to happen are often ashamed too. As the cloud of shame grows it covers many of us. It’s how a bullying culture develops so easily. We see it too often in our adult lives – at work, in clubs and societies and in churches too.

Yesterday I saw the stills from the film shoot, including a lot of photos of the children after it was over. Their apprehension had gone. They were smiling broadly, injected with new life. The connection with Easter suddenly struck me. The filming had given them a new freedom. They were empowered.

Most people seem to regard Easter as all over in a weekend, whereas it lasts fifty days. During this time the Church reflects on the transformed lives of Christ’s disciples after the resurrection. Their hopes had been dashed by his death. Their confidence was shattered – in their leader and his cause but in themselves too. Their self-worth must have been diminished. Their discovery of his resurrection, mysterious though it was, altered everything. They found new energy and fresh purpose. Anything now seemed possible. The children in the film discovered something too – their intrinsic human worth and value, a dignity beyond measure. They also began to believe in a fulfilling life beyond being a victim of bullying. New life is discovered in many different ways.

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