From Bully to Friend: A Middle School Story

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When our culture instructor surveyed her class about possible topics to discuss, two mothers—one from Iraq and one from Thailand—asked about bullying. The Iraqi mother said that before they fled Iraq, they had many enemies, but they thought things would be different here in America. Now her middle-schooler dreaded going to school because some kids bullied him constantly because of his race. Both mothers were discouraged and hurting for their children.

A few classes later, the instructor walked her adult students through Knox County Schools’ policy on bullying, including steps for parents to take on behalf of their children. Then she laid down her papers and spoke to these worried mamas from her heart. “You will still have enemies, even here in America. Everyone does,” she gently said. “We want to protect our children, but we can’t always be with them. We must trust God that this difficulty will make them stronger.” She continued, “When I face enemies, I like to remember this verse from the Bible.” Then she quoted Psalm 18:3.

I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,

and I am saved from my enemies.

The mother from Thailand, even though she follows a different world religion, shared the instructor’s advice with her son and looked up the quoted verse from a borrowed Bible.

two boys looking upward

About four weeks later, this same mother stayed after class to share her story with the instructor. She had been surprised a few days earlier when her son asked if one of the boys from school could come over. It was the very boy who had bullied him so incessantly! She asked her son why he wanted this particular classmate to visit. “I listened to what you said, mother, and he is no longer my enemy. In fact, he’s becoming my friend!


October is National Bullying Prevention Month. Many international students face bullying and other social pressures because of their accent, appearance, or lunch time preferences. At KIN, we’re working to make sure everyone feels welcome in Knoxville. Contact us for ways to learn about other cultures and connect with international families near you. Let’s break down the prejudices that lead to bullying!

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