The Many Faces of Bullying
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When the term “bullying” is discussed, we often think of children being tormented and pushed around by their peers. This is very true and happens somewhere on a daily basis…maybe even to you. Why do people bully? Why do people let others bully them? There’s a reason why people become bullies; there’s a reason why some people are bullied and don’t know how to either stop it or deal with it.
BULLYING IS CRUEL AND HURTFUL. Bullying is often provoked by the simple fact that the “victim” may be vulnerable, (quiet, different, dedicated, productive, ethical, etc.), and this grates the inner being of a self-centered bully.
There’s a difference between those in authority who are perceived to be mean because they are strict and adhere to the rules, policies and procedures, and “leaders” who are mean because they may be a bully. A bully enjoys belittling and berating to cover up their own insecurities. The bully may scream, yell, or humiliate to make others feel incompetent, and fails to recognize or reward good efforts. Some mean bullies may not be confident in their own abilities. They may have a poor self-image and can become that mean dictator that no one dares to question.
The word “bullying” is not in the Bible, but there are many individuals in the Bible who are classic examples of bullies or bullying and we can recognize bullies as we look through God’s Word:
Satan – Through temptation (1 Corinthians 10:12-13)
Satan – Cannot stand Godly people (James 4:7-8)
The Pharisees – Casting doubt to believers about Jesus (John 7:25-8:11)
Paul – Tormenting Christians before he became a Christian (Acts 9:1-20)
Sanballat – Taunting and tormenting Nehemiah (Nehemiah)
Goliath – Leading the Philistines over David and the Israelites (1 Samuel 17)
Delilah – Using her beauty and influence to destroy Samson (Judges 16)
Cain – Belittling and killing his brother Abel (Genesis 4:1-26)
Joseph’s Brothers – Intimidation and jealousy (Genesis 37:3-35)
No doubt there are various levels of bullying. Children bully children and, if not corrected, can become vicious adult bullies. Children may bully their parents and parents may do the same to their children, many times causing great conflict in the family. Often we find that those in authority will bully their subordinates, and even their peers.
Many times people find that they are bullied by those they have regarded as their friends. This is most hurtful because the cruelty of a bully against a friend gives the one taking the bullying a sense of betrayal, which is felt when the bullied one remains silent and inactive, on the sidelines (Luke 6:31).
MY FATHER WAS A PASTOR and I paid the price for his position in the form of bullying by school classmates as well as some teachers. I was the target of continual taunts, teasing, being kicked, tripped, snared with fish hooks, beaten black and blue, humiliated, demeaned, and even threatened with my life. Why? Because my father, being a pastor, encouraged unchurched parents to bring their children with them to church. The fallout of my father’s ministry was evidently a discussion (or argument) at home that the children heard and eventually ended up with my being the brunt of the feelings that had developed against the church. The bullies in these situations were individuals who would be my friends at one point, but then turn on me at school or elsewhere. I was never sure if their parents knew of the bullying, as I never told anyone. These bullies knew I would never “squeal” for fear that it would have an effect on the church, so I endured in silence, (Luke 10:30-33; Proverbs 29:25; Deuteronomy 1:17).
I, must admit that, as a child and then a teen, I really did have a fear of these individuals. Even though I had accepted Jesus and became a Christian at an early age, I continually kept a low profile by staying quiet so as to not be bullied over and over again. I don’t remember ever praying for them much, although I may have from time to time. But I do know that I never went out of my way to retaliate or seek revenge (Luke 6:31).
THE MANY FACES OF BULLYING (what does a bully look like?)
Bullies are needy people. They redirect their feelings onto vulnerable individuals that they have observed as loners, quiet and reserved. Bullies are angry and embittered people who are often reacting to something ingrained in them from past encounters. Maybe they were bullied at one point and are reacting to not being able to have victory over that past individual or situation.
Bullies are insecure, controlling, and self-centered, and often have an ego (pride) that’s insatiable (unending appetite to receive a pat on the back). Bullies are likely to fear confrontation. This is one reason why they are seemingly always on the attack, looking for someone to humiliate, confront, threaten, intimidate, blame, persecute, or demean. Bullies may do their dirty deeds one-on-one, but most times they like to make “noise” so that others will get the message that they are not to be “messed with.”
Bullies are likely to be frustrated, even after their actions against another, and those they have bullied are frustrated for allowing themselves to be controlled.
HOW DO WE HANDLE BULLYING, AS A CHRISTIAN?
The influence that parents and churches once had in bringing up children is disintegrating at an astonishing rate. The absence of discipline, the violent and immoral films and videos, the throbbing, pulsating noise that has been accepted as “worship,” along with access to the internet by children, are filling the minds and contributing to the aimless and meaningless lives of many individuals (Romans 1:28). Children, at an early age, view violence as OK, (Ephesians 5:15-16; Judges 2:10-12).
We cannot blame everything on our schools, our churches, or parents, but these areas are where children spend most of their time, and where their minds and characters are influenced and developed (Psalm 111:10; Psalm 14:1).
People can be difficult to deal with. Bullies will test our spiritual reserves. While we should not respond to bullies with revenge, we should remember that our strength is not in ourselves, but in the God who loves us all. This can give us confidence to endure when our own resources are low (1 Samuel 24:12-13). At times we must flee from a bully in the workplace, on the street, or in an abusive relationship. This is not being a coward. It’s wise to retreat when we are unable to protect ourselves. Trusting God to step in and turning the situation over to Him takes great faith.
Turning to God when someone is attacking us gives us understanding, patience, and courage (Acts 13:22 – say a prayer). Being confronted by a bully tests our spiritual witness because people are watching. We can lose our temper or we can react calmly and with love. We cannot control a bully and we cannot change them, but with God’s guidance we can better understand and find a way to cope with them (1 Samuel 30:6).
WHAT TO LOOK FOR:
Can it be so? Is it possible that a bully would actually have a medical condition? We don’t often think that a bully could have a personality disorder and need a doctor’s attention, but maybe they do. A bully may be narcissistic. Narcissism is a term used to describe a focus on the self and self-admiration taken to an extreme. The word “narcissism” comes from a Greek myth where a handsome young man named Narcissus sees his reflection in a pond of water and falls in love with it. People who are bullies often have unstable emotions, and a distorted self-image. Narcissistic individuals have an abnormal love of themselves, an exaggerated sense of superiority and importance, and are obsessed with success and power. However, no matter how nasty or mean a bully can be, those attitudes and behaviors do not reflect true self-confidence. Instead, the attitudes conceal a deep sense of insecurity and a fragile self esteem. People with this personality disorder also set unrealistic goals, and in the workplace or where they are responsible or have authority (or think they do) over others (people reporting to them or those they intimidate); this can be especially brutal for those being bullied.
Self-Centered and boastful
Seeks constant attention and admiration
Consider themselves better than others
Exaggerates their talents and achievements
Believe they are entitled to special treatment
Are easily hurt and may not show it
May take advantage of others to achieve their goals
Preoccupation with fantasies that focus on unlimited success, power, intelligence, beauty or love
Belief that he or she is “special” and unique
Expects that others will automatically go along with what he or she wants
Inability to recognize or identify with the feelings, needs and viewpoints of others
Envy of others, or a belief that others are envious of them
Very touchy with insults (real or imagined), criticism, or defeat, possibly reacting with rage, shame, and humiliation
Arrogant behavior and/or attitude
WHAT CAN BE DONE?
There is no common cure for narcissistic personality disorder. Only God and God’s praying people can help. If the bully claims to be a believing Christian, treat them with the love of God and try to put Scripture references in front of them to help them see how God and His Word can help. If the bullying person is not a professing Christian, the best “medicine” is still another Christian intervening with prayer, Scripture, sincere love and the opportunity to share Jesus with them.
It is not fun to be on the receiving end of a bully’s actions and treatment. However, it is probably no fun being known as a bully as their friendships are only individuals who ultimately are afraid of them. The bully doesn’t trust; the bully is paranoid.
One would expect that a bully is an unchurched, tough street person, and that is highly possible. But we can also recognize a bully as a neighbor, a co-worker, a teammate, a relative, or an educated professional. And yes, a bully can also profess to be a Christian and involved in God’s work.
Make it a point to pray for those who are difficult to you. Let God handle each situation and each individual. God is always in control, (2 Peter 1:5-9, Proverbs 3:5-6). Remember, bullies are God’s children too. He cares for them, He loves them and wants His best for them, and it’s our opportunity to show God’s love to them as well.
(Scriptural helps to manage a bully: Leviticus 19:18; 2 Timothy 1:7; Romans 12:19-20; Matthew 5:43-48; 1 John 3:15; Matthew 5:38-41; Matthew 5:11; Psalm 18:3).