introduction: It’s Thursday … it’s an authentic Thursday… it’s just what we do around here. Sometimes I invite guest bloggers… sometimes I just share from my heart. Today I share about something that has been “brewing” in my heart for quite some time. Some of this knowledge is from personal experience, some of the information is from my own research, some of it comes from talking with friends who have been bullied… bullying is everywhere my friends. I would encourage you to watch for harmful behavior towards others and speak up for yourself or for others those who cannot or will not speak up for themselves… – Lori
At a recent celebration with friends I witnessed what I believe was bullying between spouses.
Words were thrown like daggers to the soul.
The intense looks that were shared embarrassed me. All over something that dropped under the table. She leaned in and used words to demean and belittle her husband … and in front of family and friends. My first thought? If she belittles him like that in front of us, how much worse is it at home? How does she treat him behind closed doors?
I admit it, I was quick to judge this woman… a friend of mine. And I said nothing. I mean, who am I to get in the middle of whatever is happening between the two of them? And more importantly, do I have something so special to say that she’s actually going to correct her ways? Then I remembered this is not the first time I’ve witnessed this sort of behavior from this individual, and towards her husband.
I just couldn’t help but hear how loudly her character was screaming that night.
You know what? Looking back at it now… I still don’t know the answers to those questions. What I can do is be a friend and try to find a time to talk to her about it, come to her like Christ came to his family and friends and held them accountable to right behavior. (But I can’t help wonder if that’s even going to get through to her…)
“Bullies are people who use conflict as a means for obtaining power. Some young people grow out of this; others don’t and become old bullies.” – Bob Goff
And for another example, Bullying in good ol’ Cyberspace. Like just about everyone, I participate in various Facebook groups and it sickens me to watch people bully others with their words and attitudes via words on a screen. The other day I watched as a lady who asked for recommendations on local kid-friendly restaurants was belittled by someone else in the group whom she has never even met. The victim’s husband even got in on the conversation and tried to stand up for his wife… and in turn he received a lashing as well. Turns out the woman bullying the other woman was a waitress who was sick and tired of parents allowing their kids to act like maniacs in restaurants. (At first I thought it was a misunderstanding, but the whole string of comments got out of line and was eventually removed by the group admin.)
But if you’re wondering… yes, I felt the need to call the bully on her attitude. I could have stayed out of it. But I didn’t. I posted a matter-of-fact statement to the bully saying “Hey Waitress – You’ve gone too far. She asked for a restaurant recommendation, not parenting advice. Leave it alone.” (Paraphrased so as to protect the individuals involved.)
I could list other examples too… but I think we get the point…
Sadly, it happens everywhere. We are full of a world of humans… humans who have emotions and motivations and desires and a sinful nature… and we often get off course. For some people that behavior looks like manipulation and power and control over others. So… let’s take a look at bullying.
The American Psychological Association defines bullying as “a form of aggressive behavior in which someone intentionally and repeatedly causes another person injury or discomfort. Bullying can take the form of physical contact, words or more subtle actions. The bullied individual typically has trouble defending him or herself and does nothing to “cause” the bullying.”
Dictionary.com reads “a blustering, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates smaller or weaker people”.
Granted, the Dictionary may not be the best place to go for a clinical explanation of this psychosomatic issue. And that’s because I have personally not found this to be completely accurate.
However, I believe Wikipedia does a little bit better with the explanation. Wikipedia starts with “Bullying is the use of force, threat, or coercion to abuse, intimidate, or aggressively impose domination over others. The behavior is often repeated and habitual.”
But in my experience and opinion, I think it looks a little more like this: “a person who repeatedly uses controlling expectations through words and actions to make others feel small, stupid and/or irrelevant (intentionally or unintentionally) which in turn brings about feelings of inadequacy, anger and apathy in the recipient.”
What I KNOW about bullying:
– A bully likes the feeling of power;
– Most bullies would deny being one;
– Bullying is often masked or excused away as ‘teasing’ or ‘joking’;
– Bullying is motivated by selfishness;
– Some victims of bullying may not recognize the behavior as such;
– Most victims of bullying do not feel protected enough to speak up for themselves;
– Bullying is everywhere. It happens in our workplaces, schools, community, homes, in cyber space, in our work/sports teams, and the list goes on…
– Bullying can occur in our marriages and families;
– Bullying does not always involve physical violence
What bullying can LOOK like:
– Belittling of other people
– Controlling manipulation of other people’s time, resources, opportunities, team involvement, work advancements, etc
– Passive-aggressive behavior towards others
– Excessive teasing or joking
– Sabotaging the success of others
– Taking credit for others ideas
WHY do bullies do what they do? In my opinion it boils down to one thing,, really… they do not have RESPECT for themselves or others.
WWJD – What Would Jesus Do?
Yeah, I went there. I’m a Christian. And I believe the Bible has some pretty straight-forward advice for us when it comes to how we speak to and of other people.
Scripture strongly urges us to watch our words and their impact on others.
I won’t lie. I am not always successful at this… but I’m cognizant of the fact that words can be used for edifying and for tearing down, for encouraging and for breaking people’s souls, for lifting up people and for tearing apart dreams, for holding people accountable and for blatantly stirring up dissension…
And since bullying occurs with more than words I would be remiss in not saying that when we also give up ownership of our spirit and our heart and motivations… and we instead allow God to use those things for His glory then we’re guaranteed to generally be more encouraging than bully-like.
And to speak up for ourselves, or those who can’t speak up for themselves, is where we will rely on God for confidence and wisdom and strength … and more than anything we will find the understanding that those words or actions don’t hurt me unless I give them power.
And if I realize that the problem with bullying is the person themselves, then we will learn to see the bullies through the eyes and the heart of our Heavenly Father. And in that moment we will learn how to love like Christ does. In that moment we will learn how to forgive and to pray for the bullying spouse, co-worker, boss, community leader or whomever it may be who uses their influence, words or false confidence to manipulate others.
Before I leave you with some of those scriptures, can I challenge you to consider speaking up for others who are being bullied? Or, if you know the bully, have a heart-to-heart conversation about the impact of their actions.
Psalm 10:2, 7
“In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak, who are caught in the schemes he devises.”
“His mouth is full of lies and threats; trouble and evil are under his tongue.”
But to the wicked person, God says: “What right have you to recite my laws or take my covenant on your lips? You hate my instruction and cast my words behind you. When you see a thief, you join with him; you throw in your lot with adulterers. You use your mouth for evil and harness your tongue to deceit. You sit and testify against your brother and slander your own mother’s son. When you did these things and I kept silent, you thought I was exactly[c] like you. But I now arraign you and set my accusations before you. “Consider this, you who forget God, or I will tear you to pieces, with no one to rescue you: Those who sacrifice thank offerings honor me, and to the blameless I will show my salvation.”
Proverbs 18: 21 (The Message) – “Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit — you choose.”
James 3:7-10 (NIV) – “All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.”
“Is your Spouse a Bully?”, by Dr. David
American Psychological Association: http://www.apa.org/topics/bullying/
BullyOnLine: The world’s largest resource on workplace bullying and related issues
Bullying in the Workplace: http://www.apa.org/monitor/julaug06/banishing.aspx
Bullies Among Us – What to do when Work’s No Fun, by Jean R. McFarland, Ph.D.
Surviving Bullies, Queen Bees and Psychopaths in the Workplace, by Patricia Barnes