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Dealing with Bullies

Bullys are a problem not only in schools, but in the workplace and almost everywhere else. Parents bully their children, husbands bully wives, and wives their husbands. Parents bully their parents and grandparents sometimes bully their children and grandchildren. Bullying can have unforeseen consequences. The two boys who did the Columbine, Colorado, school shooting had been bullied and mistreated by their peers. Just last week, a girl who had been bullied when she was attending high school planned to return and kill 400 people. Also, a large percentage of juvenile suicides are attributed to the victim being bullied either in person or online. “Going postal” is a term that refers to the postal worker in Oklahoma that murdered many of his fellow workers. So, bullying is a problem that needs addressing, and this blog will help provide a means of dealing with bullies.

To understand bullies, it is necessary to first understand a little about what is normal that goes awry in some people. People are made to work on a caregiver and attachment arrangement. Some people are the caregivers, and some are attached to them, or are dependent on the caregivers. This is seen in the parent-child relationship until the child grows up, and often later to some extent. The parent necessarily is the alpha, or caregiver that the child relies on for help. Therefore, caregiving is correctly the answer to dependence, the other side of the coin, if you’ll pardon the worn-out expression. A dependent person relies or the caregiver for physical things he or she needs, and for knowledge and wisdom in dealing with self and others.

The husband-wife relationship in good marriages functions on the reciprocity of the alpha-dependence relationship. Sometimes the husband is the caregiver to his wife’s needs, and sometimes the wife’s role is that of the caregiver. The roles switch back and forth as necessity dictates. Equality in a marriage relationship is founded on the reciprocity of roles. This is normal. An imbalance here often leads to problems, including bullying.

Bullies often have not enjoyed a normal alpha-dependent relationship at home. Neither parent has been a caregiver to them, so they don’t understand the relationship, and they don’t have empathy for their peers. This is true of child and adult bullies. They have never been attached to anyone else. Attachment is all about dependence, and they have never been able to be dependent on another. Bullying is a perversion of the caregiver-dependent relationship. To them, dependence is a danger, something to be avoided at all costs. Consequently, they exert dominance over people they perceive as weak in order to control them so they can feel safe. Control means not being preyed upon by others, so they prey on those they think are weaker. They exploit vulnerability in others to their own ends.

The victim feels helpless to do anything about the bullying, and therefore feels inferior to the bully. They perceive the bully as stronger, and that there is something wrong with them, or they wouldn’t be bullied. Victims feel helpless in the bully-victim relationship, and it is this helplessness that often leads to suicide, retaliating by the victim becoming a murderer or mass murder, suicide or in cases like Columbine both mass murder and suicide.

Dealing with bullies means never letting them know they have hurt your feelings, because that knowledge feeds their perversion. So, never let a bully know the negative effect of his or her bullying. Second, don’t come back with consequences like, “if you continue to bully me you’ll get expelled from school”. Consequences frustrate the bully and increases anger. Also, a bully doesn’t want the victim strong, so when a bully is confronted by an intended victim the reaction at first will be to increase the attempted dominance. The bullying will get worse before it gets better. But with persistence, the bullying will lessen or stop.

Christians are often the target of bullying because they represent the consequences the bully’s trying to avoid. Christians represent responsibility first to God, then others and also to themselves. Christians represent all the things that frustrate a bully and the relationships that are a danger signal to them. The true God-man relationship is founded on the correct caregiver-dependent relationship with God as the nurturing caregiver. Bullies are incapable of dealing with this type of relationship, so they strike out at what they think is a threat to their dominance of social situations.

The biblical response to a bully is the same as Jesus’ response to those who opposed Him. Christians are His ambassadors to the world, and it is a proactive ambassadorship. The bully sees in Christians something he or she doesn’t have, and that signifies a threat to the bully. It is the Christian’s responsibility to present Christ as something the bully personally wants. This isn’t easy. The Christian’s relationship with God needs to be sound before she can be the light shining forth to others, including bullies. Jesus tells us that in the world we will have troubles, but to be of good cheer, because He has overcome the world (John 16:33), and we overcome bullying through Him. And, you may be Christ’s way of intervening in a bully’s life.

Jesus calls us friends: “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you” (John 15: 12-17). We are hated because we are in the world and for the world, but we are not of the world: “If the world hates you, know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word I said to you, ‘A servant is no greater than his Master’. If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you also” (John 15:18-20; see vv. 13-25). The Holy Spirit in you testifies of Christ so that you may bear witness of Him (John 15: 26-27).

Christ died for us while we were still His enemies so that we may be reconciled to Him (Romans 5:10,11). Therefore, as He loved us before we loved Him, we should love bullies before they love us, and through seeing Christ in us they will love Him. That is the key to dealing with bullies and everyone else that is of the world. However, loving bullies is tough love. It isn’t allowing bullies to have control over us. Those who opposed Jesus never gained control over Him. Even at His arrest, Christ demonstrated His control of the situation by knocking the Pharisees and Roman soldiers over backward. They could not have arrested Him if He had not allowed them to do so. Accordingly, our dealing with bullies means not allowing them to have control over us. Proactive Christian ambassadors are also caregivers to others. Reverse the roles. Allow the bullies to become dependent on Christ. They will do so if they can perceive real value to them in following Him. Your dealing with bullies cannot be adversarial, because that will only make them become defensive, and worsen the relationship.

We as Christians need to “gang up” on bullies. Get other Christians to help. Have prayer sessions about the bully or bullies. Go together to talk with them and help them see that their reaction to the world is weird, it’s not normal. Yes, the world doesn’t work. The bullies are right about that! But you can present what does work to bullies, and what does work is God’s intended plan for making the world work. Be unthreatening and appealing to bullies, but do not be enablers. Never allow them to bully you, and try to divert them for bullying others. Show them that neither they no you control the world. It’s impossible for us to do so, for without Christ we can do nothing, but you can do all things Christ has planned for you to do through His strengthening you (Philippians 4:13; Ephesians 2:10). Help the bully see that they also can do all God has planned for them to do by allowing Him to work through them. His control of the bully’s life will give him peace and joy regardless of worldly situations. And, the best time to start helping a bully is the next time you encounter one.

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