Saturday, May 26, 2012

Dealing With Bullying

Captain Obvious would say bullying is a big issue in today's society. Captain Obvious would be right. But, he ought not overlook the fact that bullying has always been a big issue; it's just getting more attention in today's world.  With blogging, vlogging and social networking a big part of many people's lives, bullying is being spotlighted more today than at other times throughout history.

It's about time!

If you are being bullied, there are steps you can take to insulate yourself from its onslaught.  I KNOW how hard it is to take. I KNOW how it leaves a person feeling.  But, I also KNOW the God Who, Himself, was bullied and dealt with it squarely and forcefully, in His Word.

Look at John.  The book of John is filled with incidences of bullying and it gives us a great pattern for dealing with it. John's first encounter with his bullies happened right in the first chapter, in verse 19.  It was no secret that his teaching was radical in the eyes of the spiritual leaders of that day.  A group of priests and Levites were sent from Jerusalem to ask John who he was.  Their intent was to trap him, as the intent of bullies always is.  They were sure he would claim to be the Christ, but he did not. The exchange takes place down through verse 28, and they quizzed him again and again over who he was.  They asked him questions like, "If you aren't the Christ, why are you baptizing people?"  John responded by quoting Isaiah, so they jumped on that.  "Are you Isaiah?"  

The lessons in this brief passage are many:

1. John kept his focus on Jesus Christ. For every question they asked, John pointed them to Christ. You can do the same thing with your bully.  John had a job to do....he was sent to bear witness of One coming, the Man Christ. (John 1:8)  So, John had his own agenda and did not allow his focus to be derailed by his bullies. You can do the same.

2. John never claimed to know more than he knew.  It's best not to claim anything when dealing with a bully because the bottom line is, they've already made their decision about you and what you know, think and feel.  The bullies did not believe John, as further reading in the book of John shows.  They kept on. 

3. The priests and Levites didn't have their own words for any of their dialog, but used John's words, taking them as their own.  As soon as John quoted Isaiah, the bullies latched onto that and started quizzing him about being Isaiah.  That had not been their thought before they got there. John introduced that thought to them and they took it as their own. Your bullies will no doubt start using your own words to attack you.  Someone with a valid concern in your life will have their own words, not have to use yours.   Listen to your bully.  You might notice that the bullies in your own life don't have their own words for their plans. They think it's highly effective to use your own words against you.  They usually take your words out of context, too.

4. John never answered their questions to their satisfaction.  They asked him if he was Isaiah. He said, "I am not."  They asked him if he was that prophet. He said, "No."  Short, sweet and to the point. NOT what the bullies wanted, so they pushed further.  They tried to pin him down, so he pointed them to Jesus Christ, "I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, make straight the way of the Lord, as Isaiah said."  They asked further, he kept pointing them to Jesus.  What I learned from this is I do not owe my bullies any explanation. Neither do you. You do not owe your bullies any explanation.  Polite, short answers are best when dealing with a bully.  When you stop giving them the expected answers, they stop talking since they were using your words to begin with. Quite frankly, John never did really answer them and tell them who he was.

There's more, but I need time to think.  Keep in mind that a "no explanation" approach may produce awkward silences with your bully.  It's ok.  Awkward silences are not your problem. You are not under any obligation to fill an awkward silence. Let it sit.  More on that to come in another blog post.

Even if you are not one to use and/or read the Bible, you can see patterns of how to deal effectively with bullies throughout Its Words. I, quite frankly, find it the most valuable tool in dealing with bullying.  


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