How to Deal with a Bully
"Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong." 1 Corinthians 16:13 (NLT)
As another year of school begins, stories of bullies will surface. The most shocking ones make the news, but those are a small percentage of the actual bullying that takes place. Sadly, victims of bullies often keep silent due to shame, intimidation and a silent unspoken code.
But the schoolyard isn't the only place we'll find bullies this month. Bullies are everywhere. They are in offices, committees, homes and community meetings. They are found anywhere they can dominate through force of will. And I believe they have intimidated a generation of people long enough.
Sadly, many well-meaning Christians have "turned the other cheek" (Matthew 5:39) when bullied. However, a closer examination of that passage reveals something vitally important. Turning the other cheek involves us willingly ignoring an offense to us, even though we could defend ourselves. We don't turn away because we are afraid.
Jesus could have called down 1,000 angels to protect Him from being crucified, but He willingly laid down His life. Jesus states this in His own words, "The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father" (John 10:17-18 NIV).
Jesus saw a greater good in submitting to those who would take His life. He did it for us. In an instance such as that, turning the other check is the best response.
Although Jesus calls us to a life of forgiveness and compassion, even He didn't tolerate those who dishonored God's holy temple. With righteous indignation, Jesus turned over tables, and drove out money changers and those who were selling doves within the walls of the temple, accusing them of turning His father's house into "a den of robbers" (Mark 11:17). Jesus also trained His disciples to put themselves in the path of danger for the sake of others.
As Christians, I believe we are called to play an unusual role in dealing with bullies. It is not a role the world plays—filled with anger and vengeance. It is not a role of passivity. It is not a role of hate. We can't gratify our flesh and play tit-for-tat games. In other words, it's not easy.
We are called to love our enemies, to pray for them, but to stand firm against unrighteousness and injustice. We are called to draw a line in the sand about our beliefs. We aren't aggressive, but we are assertive. We aren't boastful, but we are confident about our God's wishes for His people. Most importantly, we can't ignore the problem.
Ignoring a true bully doesn't make the bullying stop. It just fuels his or her need for power. So what does help? First, pray for God's wisdom in the situation. Understand that God loves you, and all His people, and wants not one of His children to be victimized in any way. Then, if there are physical threats or violence, get to somewhere safe and tell someone in authority. If the bullying is of an emotional nature, determine to respectfully take a stand on what you believe God is calling you to do. If it's important enough, then be strong.
While that's not a guarantee a bully will back down, it's a start to developing a bully-proof life. Really, it's a start to building moral courage in your heart. And bullies can't stand that.
I believe God calls us to a life of passion for His people, and sometimes that takes moral courage. In fact, it's going to take a lot of moral courage to address the injustices in this world. And it's going to take a righteous indignation like Jesus had about the temple money changers. And it just might start with facing the bully in your life.
Dear Lord, I praise You for Your holiness and righteousness. Your ways are perfect. Help me to know the right thing to do when facing the bullies in my life. Help me know when to stand firm and when to turn away. I trust You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
If you're facing a bully in an area of your life, are you responding in fear or confidence? If you have fear, it's time to do something about it. Gather one or two wise friends and pray for God's guidance on what to do.
Have I ever faced a bully and backed down? What were my fears?
What are some practices I can put in my life to prepare for the next time someone tries to bully me?
1 Samuel 17:37a, "The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine." (NIV 1984)
Micah 6:8, "He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." (NIV)
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