Bullying has become a topic of national concern. Some of the conversation may be overblown, for who doesn't come in for some ribbing over his big ears, her first pair of eyeglasses, or a crush on the girl in his Sunday School class?

But, bullying crosses a line that is pretty clear and obvious. If it started as "good-natured fun," it has progressed now to the point of bringing anger or tears to the surface. Past that point, the razzing or teasing has become mean-spirited. It is being used to wound or humiliate. Bullying is tripping, shoving, or hitting someone to inflict physical harm. It is mean-spirited taunting that inflicts emotional pain. It is gossiping or lying to humiliate or exclude someone.

Today's highly disconnected world of people who "connect" through social media can be especially cruel. Fragile persons who have been mocked and taunted via cruel postings have taken their lives as a result of such behavior.

One of the worst bullying episodes of late involved a 68-year-old grandmother and bus monitor who was targeted by a posse of junior high boys on a school bus. Karen Klein was verbally assaulted for ten minutes or more with cruel affronts ranging from her weight to her son's suicide some ten years ago. The video of their taunts and sneers went viral on YouTube.

Guess what? The bullies immediately became the targets of vindictive taunts themselves. They have been reaping what they sowed, all right. Here are just a few posts about the merciless mob that attacked Ms. Klein:

  • "These kids need to be found and have their #@*% teeth knocked out."
  • "These punks are already lost causes. Their parents are worthless, incompetents "Please, can we lock these punks in a room with Jerry Sandusky ASAP!!!"

Can this vicious cycle ever end?
But what about this whole business of tit-for-tat and putting it back in their faces? So long as verbal abuse, malicious threats, and physical violence are met with more of the same, the vicious cycle is never going to end.

I hope the school officials and parents punished the boys appropriately and that they saw the error of their ways and apologized — it looks like this has happened. They shouldn't get by with what they did. Having said that, it's amazing how self-righteous and judgmental all of us are tempted to be when something like this happens. I am bad at it. I am too quick to judge the people who judge and to be hateful with folks who have been hateful.

Lord, forgive our foolish ways; teach us the ways of peace. Help us neither to insult nor to retaliate, neither to bully nor to bully the bullies. Instead, help us to hear this word above the temptation:

Don't repay evil for evil. Don't retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will bless you for it (1 Peter 3:9 NLT).