Something perverse happens to girls during the summer before they enter the eighth grade. Having previously been fresh faced twelve-year-olds with a childlike sense of the world, they arrive three months later wearing too much eyeliner and demonstrating their ability to verbally eviscerate anyone who gets in their way. Strangely enough, these same thirteen-year-old girls are also extremely fragile creatures willing to believe the worst lies, gossip and misinformation. It is to these children of God that a wise catechist should introduce Luther’s explanation to the eighth commandment.
We are to fear and love God, so that we do not tell lies about our neighbors, betray or slander them, or destroy their reputations. Instead we are to come to their defense, speak well of them, and interpret everything they do in the best possible light.
In a culture that is dealing not only with old fashioned harassment, but also the cyber-bullying that happens in social media, the Small Catechism provides pastors, catechists and parents an opportunity to discuss this important topic from a Christian perspective. Research “tells us that children really do look to their parents and caregivers for advice and help about difficult choices and decisions.”[i] The Lutheran “so that” found in the explanation to the eight commandment can guide conversations about how we can prevent bullying by putting the best construction on the actions of our neighbors. Equally significant for the person of faith, we do these things, not because we are frightened or simply obeying the rules. We do these things because we love God and God’s people.
[i] [i] “Make Time To Listen...Take Time To Talk...ABOUT BULLYING,” U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Mental Health Services, accessed September 3, 2013, http://store.samhsa.gov/shin/content/SMA08-4321/SMA08-4321.pdf