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Family Matters

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Linda Mintle, Ph.D. is a licensed marriage and family therapist, author of 16 books, a national expert on family issues and the psychology of food and weight. She's an assistant professor in the department of pediatrics at Eastern Virginia Medical School, a national speaker, writer, and news contributor.

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From Bully to Anti-Bully: A Change of Heart?

As Christians, how do we react when we hear news of people changing their behavior? I had to look at this in my own life when I read about Abercrombie & Fitch CEO, Mike Jeffries, reacting to all the negative press about his remarks to exclude uncool teens and unattractive people from his clothing line. His comments sounded like a grown up bully–you can’t be part of our club because you are not cool enough. This, from a 60-something man!

Now the CEO bully is offering an anti-bully college scholarship to a high schooler who has maintained high achievement in the face of being bullied. I wonder if the winner will also qualify to wear Abercrombie’s clothing as well!

I am skeptical because it feels like a reactionary move to critics rather than a genuine commitment to change. Jeffries has admitted that he is exclusionary when it comes to his clothing. He has been highly focused on image, touting thin and beautiful as the way to be in and current.

But maybe the public outcry gave him pause, at least from a business perspective.

For me, this story is about what is in the heart. Matthew 12:34 tells us that out of the heart, the mouth speaks. What Jeffries originally said was what was in his heart. Only when there was a public outcry did he try to undo his words.

So is that a bad thing?

No. Public outcry can cause us to reexamine our hearts. King David did this when he was “caught” by the prophet Nathan. He was in sin, caught, but repented and turned from his sinful way.

We all hold unkind things in our hearts that aren’t always exposed. But when we speak and the heart is revealed, it can be a window into our inner thoughts. If we truly see our sin (pride, bullying, thinking more highly of ourselves than others, etc.) and repent of it, asking God to forgive us, we can grow and behave in better ways. God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins when we confess them.

We can’t judge the heart of Mike Jeffries. We don’t know if he was driven to provide this scholarship in order to clean up his image and regain lost market share or (and we can always hope this), the public outcry caused him to re-examine his own heart and make a change. Only God and the people who know him best, know what is really in his heart.

The positive side of all the uproar is that one teen will benefit from bullying behavior!

The spiritual lesson is that even if you are caught doing something wrong, you can repent and make changes. That gives hope to all of us.

True change can be measured by consistent action in a positive direction.

Let’s see how Jeffries does. Behavior follows repentance. And ultimately, God judges what is in the heart.

Print      Email to a Friend    posted on Friday, June 21, 2013 11:08 AM

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