Typically in the early mornings our family reads the Bible together. Right now we are working through the Bible in consecutive order to try to see how quickly we can read through the whole thing together. That’s always fun and challenging. But every now and again, we will discuss a specific issue and deal with related passages, so that we can have a Biblical approach to everyday issues. After all, the Bible is sufficient – offering us everything we need to be adequately equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:17).
So, our daughters had occasion to wonder what is the Biblical response to dealing with other kids who are unkind and physically hurtful. So…to Proverbs we went.
First, we considered the way God designed to keep children from behaving cruelly.
We started with Proverbs 29:15: “The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child who gets his own way is a shame to his mother.” I explained that parents have a responsibility to teach their children, and both the rod and reproof are important tools for giving wisdoms to children. The rod represents an instrument that adds pain to the discipline process – not for abuse or to cause injury, of course, but rather to help the young student understand the idea of consequences. Reproof is verbal admonishment or correction. These two work hand in hand – again, never for punishment (for there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus [Romans 8:1]), but rather to train up in righteousness – to disciple. So, parents have the responsibility to teach their children wisdom. This obviously includes teaching them kindness and respect for others.
However, some parents don’t teach their children with rod and reproof, and so some children simply don’t have wisdom and can be very cruel, even physically hurtful. What then? There are Proverbs for that…
First, if a “fool” does something hurtful and cruel, we should never seek to repay their actions with something hurtful or cruel on our own part. “Do not say, “I will repay evil; wait for the Lord, and He will save you” (20:22). It is better not to become angry (19:11), but to show kindness instead (25:21-22). At the same time, it would be foolish to continually put ourselves in the same position to be mistreated by one who is behaving foolishly:
“Do not associate with a man given to anger; or go with a hot-tempered man…” (22:24). “Keeping away from strife is an honor for a man, but any fool will quarrel,” (20:3). “Let a man meet a bear robbed of her cubs, rather than a fool in his folly” (17:12).
In light of these verses, I instructed my girls not to repay evil for evil, but to remain kind and to immediately remove themselves from the situation. Walk away, and don’t have anything to do with someone who treats them like that.
But every once in a while it may be impossible to walk away. Maybe the child won’t stop, or the attack, if it continues, will be exceedingly hurtful. Well, there are Proverbs for that too. “When the scoffer is punished, the naïve becomes wise; and when the wise is instructed he receives knowledge.” (21:11) “Strike a scoffer and the naïve may become shrewd, and reprove one who has understanding and he will gain knowledge.” (19:25)
So here is what I told my two gentle-spirited daughters: If someone hurts you, then get away as quickly as you can and come tell us. But if someone is hurting you and you can’t get away, then it is your job at that moment to teach that person that it is wrong for them to hurt you – so that they don’t keep hurting you, and so that you can get away from them. Punch them in the face (the nose if you can get to it) as hard and as fast as you possibly can, and if they don’t stop, repeat that process until they do – all the while the goal is to get away from the person. Hopefully, the misbehaver will learn the lesson well.
Finally, I explained that it was never acceptable for them to hit someone else for any reason (playing, anger, etc.), and that if they did they would face a stern lesson and consequences from me. But I also wanted them to know that if they ever had to defend themselves as described above, that they would have our complete support.
As we concluded the discussion, I was assuming this whole time that this was the first time the issue of self-defense had come up in our household, I realized quickly that my lovely bride had already handled some other important methodology. My youngest daughter quipped to me emphatically and with deliberateness, “Mommy said that if a man is hurting us that we should kick him in the private parts and run away.” Well-said, young daughter, and well-taught, my lovely bride. I’m pretty sure there are some Proverbs for that too.
So bullies and other misbehavers might want to think twice before messing with these girls.
They know Proverbs.