Young People Ask . . .
How Can I Cope With Being Taunted?
YOUTHS who act or dress differently from their peers may be the victims of cruel taunting. This is true of Christian youths, whose conduct is often quite different from that of other young people. Did not Christ say of his true followers: “If they have persecuted me, they will persecute you also”?—John 15:20.
How does this affect youths who are Jehovah’s Witnesses? Some of them are ridiculed for not celebrating certain holidays; others are criticized for not saluting the flag. A number of them are even harassed for not abusing drugs, for being honest, and for upholding the Bible’s moral standards.
This situation is not new. Indeed, the apostle Peter told Christians living in the first century: “Because you do not continue running with [the people of the nations] . . . , they are puzzled and go on speaking abusively of you.” (1 Peter 4:4) Other translations put it, they “call you ill names” (Knox) or, “They insult you.”—Today’s English Version.
Have you ever been ridiculed because of your religious convictions? If so, take courage. You are in good company! And you will be happy to know that you can learn to cope with the discomfort of being taunted for your faith.
Why They Ridicule
Why do some make fun of those whose beliefs and conduct differ from their own? Sometimes ridiculers—much like bullies—are insecure. They may mock you in order to boost their image in front of their peers. Likely, when left to themselves, few of such hecklers would have the interest—or the courage—to criticize you openly.
On the other hand, some ridiculers are, as Peter wrote, “puzzled.” Yes, they may be genuinely baffled at your course of conduct. For example, if you are one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, they might sincerely think it strange that you do not participate in activities associated with certain holidays. They may have even received distorted information about Witnesses from determined opposers.
Whatever the cause, when faced with an onslaught of derisive remarks, you may agree with the Bible proverb: “There exists the one speaking thoughtlessly as with the stabs of a sword.” (Proverbs 12:18) But remember that those who engage in such talk are probably not doing so because they dislike you as a person. More likely, they are doing precisely what the Bible proverb states—“speaking thoughtlessly.”
Still, being ridiculed can hurt, just like a stab wound. You may even feel tempted to compromise your faith to stop the barrage of insulting talk. How, then, can you cope with being taunted for your beliefs?
Making a Defense
The apostle Peter admonished Christians: Always be “ready to make a defense before everyone that demands of you a reason for the hope in you, but doing so together with a mild temper and deep respect.” (1 Peter 3:15) To make such a defense of your faith requires that you take in accurate knowledge and that you come to understand the reasons for your beliefs.
However, you must also learn how to express yourself to others with “deep respect” or, as The Bible in Basic English renders it, “without pride.” Your knowledge of the Bible and its teachings should not make you feel superior to others. On the contrary, you should strive to cultivate the attitude of the apostle Paul, who wrote concerning his ministry: “I have made myself the slave to all, that I may gain the most persons.”—1 Corinthians 9:19.
If you find that you are timid about making a defense of your faith, do not despair. Many Witness youths have felt the same way. “When I was in grade school,” says Jamal, “I did not know how to explain to others why I did not celebrate holidays or salute the flag or even why I go out in the door-to-door ministry.” What helped him? “My father kept working with me until I could finally explain these things, and this made a world of difference.” If you have trouble explaining your beliefs to others, perhaps you can enlist the assistance of a parent or of another mature member of the Christian congregation to help you to gain a thorough grasp of the knowledge of God.—Ephesians 3:17-19.
A 16-year-old Witness youth said that a program of personal Bible study helped her to summon the courage to speak up at school. “Before, when my classmates would tease me about being a Witness, I didn’t know what to say,” she admits. “Now, as a full-time evangelizer, I study the Bible a lot more, and I am able to make a reply. Keeping up with the latest articles in the Watchtower and Awake! magazines helps me to talk to my schoolmates about my beliefs.”
Of course, no two situations are alike. Different circumstances will therefore call for different responses. However, when you are provoked by an unkind remark, it is never proper to “return evil for evil.” (Romans 12:17-21) An insulting comeback, no matter how witty it may seem, will only add fuel to the fire and may even encourage further taunts. Hence, some have found it better to ignore the insult.
In some cases, such as when a statement is simply a good-natured attempt at humor, it may even be prudent to laugh along with the remark rather than take offense at it. (Ecclesiastes 7:9) If the taunter sees that his words are having little or no effect, he may well cease the harassment.—Compare Proverbs 24:29; 1 Peter 2:23.
There are times, though, when it may be possible to offer a brief, tactful explanation of your beliefs. A 13-year-old girl tried this and had marvelous results. “I was on my way to class,” she said, “when several students began making fun of Jehovah’s Witnesses. I felt moved to speak up, but they just walked away and continued to laugh at me—except for one, that is.” The Witness student explained: “A girl named Jaimee turned to me and told me that she had the book You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth.* She said that she had read most of it and was interested in obtaining more information about our beliefs. I began studying the Bible with Jaimee.” Encouraged by her experience, the Witness youth began talking to other young people. “I regularly visit four fellow students who have shown interest and who I am sure will study soon,” she said.
Years ago a student in the African country of Liberia had a similar experience. During a sociology class, he respectfully explained that as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, he believed in creation rather than in evolution. At first, many of his classmates were highly critical. But the teacher let him explain his beliefs to the class, after which the teacher accepted the book Life—How Did It Get Here? By Evolution or by Creation?*
After reading the book, the teacher told the class: “This book is beyond compare. It is one of the best science books about creation that I have ever read.” Then the teacher explained that he intended to use the Creation book along with the class textbook for the next two semesters, and he directed the class to obtain copies from the Witness student. Dozens of books were placed, and many students changed their view of Jehovah’s Witnesses!
A Tested Faith Is a Strong Faith
Granted, at times you may feel overwhelmed by the number of those who do not share—or appreciate—your Bible-based position. (Compare Psalm 3:1, 2.) Therefore, it is wise to seek out the companionship of those who do share your convictions and beliefs. (Proverbs 27:17) But what if there are no youths of like faith in your school or in your neighborhood?
If this is so, remember that your greatest Friend is Jehovah God, and he can support you. He has borne the brunt of Satan the Devil’s taunts for thousands of years. Thus, we can be sure that it makes Jehovah’s heart rejoice when you stand firm for your faith. Such a course gives him an opportunity ‘to make a reply to Satan, who is taunting him.’—Proverbs 27:11.
It is only to be expected that from time to time, your faith will be tested. (2 Timothy 3:12) Yet, the apostle Peter assures us that the tested quality of our faith is of “much greater value than gold that perishes despite its being proved by fire.” (1 Peter 1:7) Hence, when you are reproached for your faith, view it as an opportunity to strengthen your faith and to demonstrate your endurance. The apostle Paul wrote that endurance leads to “an approved condition.” (Romans 5:3-5) Yes, the desire to gain Jehovah’s favor provides powerful incentive for you to cope when you are taunted for your faith!
Published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
Published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
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Can you make a defense of your faith?