As part of my personal reading time, I’m trying to mix in some children’s and young adult books, especially now that I have children and want to have a wider variety of books to read to them and recommend to them as they get older. Upon recommendation from a friend, I recently read Jerry Spinelli’s book Loser. The story traces the early life of a kid named Zinkoff and some of the challenges he faces.
An early scene in the book captures an all too real occurrence among children in a school setting. Proud of his "giraffe hat” he recently received as part of a zoo visit with his family, the first-grader Zinkoff brings his unique hat to recess only to have it snatched by some older kids. Thinking that the other kids are initiating a game as they pass around his hat, Zinkoff joins in laughing along with them. An intimidating fourth-grader eventually walks up and grabs the hat, putting it on, and asking, “Whose hat is this?” As Zinkoff runs forward, he trips and falls flat on his face to a chorus of laughs. Responding with, “It’s my hat,” Zinkoff watches the much bigger boy shake his head with a twisted smile and responds with, “It’s my hat.” In sharing the inner thoughts of Zinkoff and how he tends to think the best of people, the narrator tells us Zinkoff genuinely thinks that maybe the older boy was at the zoo the same day and bought the hat first. So he smiles back at the fourth-grader and cheerfully says “Okay.” In that moment, the fourth-grader loses his smile, looks disappointed, and throws the hat back on the ground, saying, “It’s not mine, you dummy.”
The narrator then shares what has just happened. “Zinkoff does not know it, but he has just cheated the boy. The boy expected Zinkoff to make a fuss, to try to get his hat back, maybe even to cry or pitch a fit…He is cheated of his fun.”
Bullies desire one of two things in their victims: either a retaliatory response (especially if they know they have advantage in an altercation) or a display of crushing defeat. They feed off of either of these reactions. And we are not just talking about playground bullies - but even adults who get satisfaction out of wronging others. But what happens when someone takes the unexpected path of responding to evil with a blessing instead of either a sulking or retaliation response? Well, you might just rob the bully of his satisfaction. Perhaps, this is part of the reason for the wisdom in Romans 12:17-21:
“Never pay back evil for evil to anyone…But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.”
To His Glory,