Bully

Opie, on his way to school, is being threatened by a bully

Netflix Screenshot

It’s possible to agree with someone and still disagree with them at the same time.

It happened to me just yesterday.

Our son and I watched an episode of the Andy Griffith Show on Netflix while we ate our lunch.

Opie Taylor was being bullied.

Every morning on his way to school he would have to cough up his milk money (5 cents) to a mean boy who threatened to beat him up if he didn’t give him the nickel.

Sheriff Taylor (with assistance from trusty Deputy Fife) caught on to what was happening, but struggled with how to help.

“I don’t want him to be the kind of boy who goes around lookin’ for a fight,” Andy Taylor muses. “But I don’t want him to run from one when he’s in the right.”

Without letting on that he knew about the milk-money-bully, he told Opie a story from his own childhood.

He stood up to a bully, took a punch in the nose (“I didn’t even feel that knuckle sandwich”), laughed at the bully and then “lit into him like a windmill in a tornado.”

Opie takes the story to heart, stands up to the milk-money-bully and appears at his dad’s office with a black eye.

He is proud of his black eye and strategizes how to make the swelling and bruising last as long as possible.

Sheriff Taylor supports the response by referring to Opie’s black eye as a “medal.”

So that’s how I agree with Andy Taylor and disagree with him at the same time.

I agree that we should never go around “lookin’ for a fight.”

And I agree that we shouldn’t “run from one when…in the right.”

But I disagree with the idea of lighting into our enemies “like a windmill in a tornado” and I cringe at the idea of then swaggering around with our injuries as if they were some sort of “medals.”

Opie flashes a big smile when his Dad tells him he can try to keep his black eye "medal" for as long as possible

Netflix screenshot

I prefer the lesson taught by Sister Benedict in the movie Bells of St. Mary’s.

She notices a boy being picked on and encourages him to turn the other cheek.

When the bullying continues, and the bully gets a pat on the back from the priest for being “manly,” she teaches the boy how to box defensively.

He successfully protects himself and then, instead of lighting into the bully “like a windmill in a tornado,” he offers his hand, helps the boy up, and invites him to be his friend.

There are lessons for us here in how we deal with disagreement in our highly polarized world.

  • We should not go around “lookin’ for a fight” with people who believe differently than we do. (Don’t be a troll.);
  • We should not run from debate with them when we feel we are in the right. (Participate in discussion and debate about important issues.);
  • We should not combat bullies and trolls by lighting into them “like a windmill in a tornado.” (Don’t stoop to their level.); and
  • We should defend ourselves, but then be willing to offer an open hand and a fresh start. (Take the high road.)

It is possible to agree and disagree with someone.

Even Sheriff Taylor.

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3 thoughts on “Bully

  1. I think this is a great example of how we can see the same thing and have the same values but interpret a scene differently. The black eye IS a medal. It’s not that Opie “lit into him”, it’s that he stood up for what he believed. It’s not about his skill (or lack of) in fighting, but that he stood his ground in what he believed right. A blackeye of courage, so to speak. And I’m convinced this is why his dad doesn’t want the badge to go away too quickly. Being willing to sacrifice my personal safety for the cause of my faith is one of the most important lessons I can learn and pass on to my children. That’s my take away from this episode which has always been one of my favorites.

  2. I just saw this episode today and found it disturbing. Especially the fact the his father is the sheriff (!) no one is an upstander here and reports the bullying? Who is to say the bully wont simply move on to a less aggressive target next time? I thought it was a horrible episode and not a useful life lesson.

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