Thursday, May 15, 2014


Usually, when we think about bullying, we think of it as something that older/taller/stronger kids do to younger/smaller/weaker kids. Sadly, this is just one kind of bullying, and maybe not the worst kind.

Let me tell you a story of a woman I knew through church. Her and her husband went to church together; she started out happily married and had friends at church. Over time, her marriage deteriorated; neither she nor her husband fixed it, and eventually it ended in divorce. In addition to feeling like she was hurting so much she couldn't recover, she noticed that some at church who were once her friends no longer said hi or invited her places. Many people had decided that it was her fault she was getting divorced and that her husband was guiltless in the matter. Church, which had been a refuge to her for her entire life, became a major trial every week. She loves the Lord and His Gospel, but seeing the people at Church and overhearing comments made became more and more difficult.

For me, the saddest part of this story is that it is the story of more than one person I know. In some cases the story is exactly the same, except the congregation all seems to side with the woman and not the man. The ending hasn't stayed constant: I know some who somehow stuck through it and continued to be active in church, but I know others for whom it became too much and they stopped attending. Some of these later returned, others haven't returned yet, but the question is: why do we put our brothers and sisters through this?

I'm still fairly young, but I have known enough marriages to know that everyone has disagreements and fights in their marriage. Some of these people get divorced, but I have not yet met someone who - even in the tiny amount I observed of their relationship, the public part - was perfect. Everyone makes mistakes. Most of us who are still married are still married greatly due to the fact that our spouses have forgiven us over and over again.

Why should we pretend we are better than others? I've seen this kind of exclusion happen around divorce, around unmarried pregnancies, young men who choose not to serve missions, or any number of other things that are less than ideal. If we take upon us the name of Christ, shouldn't we also take His works upon ourselves? Didn't He reach out to those who were stigmatized by society? Indeed He died for the just and the unjust, that all might have the chance to repent. We cannot follow Christ by scorning those who have the misfortune of sinning in ways that become publicly known.

I believe that many, many members of the Church and of any church simply don't engage in this sort of behavior. I'm certainly not saying that I've seen the entire congregation act this way, but if you put yourself in the shoes of the one going through it then you can see that it doesn't take a lot of people doing this for you to feel that it is everyone, or that the ones being nice are the exception. All I can say is that none of us can practice this kind of hypocrisy and think that it will be viewed with the least degree of tolerance in the eyes of God.

Instead, we ought to realize how much reaching out can lift up someone who is likely going through one of the hardest times of his or her life. I know that Jesus is the Christ for all 100, but He leaves the ninety and nine and searches for the one. If we will follow Him then we must do likewise.