Bullies And God

The Bible has a lot say about bullies. One of the most notable passages is 1 Samuel 17–the account of David and Goliath. We marvel at this story of young boy named David who came up against a (literal giant) bully named Goliath. It is said that Goliath was over 9 feet tall—this is the height of floor to ceiling in many homes.

As we look at some of the verses in this chapter we see interesting parallels to the bullying dilemma. But, first we should note that “bullying” is nothing new to God. In fact, this passage is seen by many scholars as insight into the ultimate bully–Satan–who comes against Jesus the Victorious Shepherd of our Souls.

In verse one we notice the formation of a bullying environment,

“Now the Philistines gathered their forces for war and assembled” (v1)

The word gathered has the meaning of building numbers. We can see how this happens in any environment being primed for bullying. Bullies like to form large groups of followers—gatherings of terrorizing proportions. 

One of the ways this is achieved is through bullies cultivating loyalty. Of course, intimidation is the means by which they are successful. Have you ever experienced the strange sense of silence around a bullied person by the community at large? The quest for loyalty influences the group to either join the bullying tactics, or keep quiet. Often, those who keep quiet are not loyal to the bully’s agenda, but stay quiet out of fear of retribution. The famous quote by Martin Luther King might well apply here, “There comes a time when silence is betrayal.” For a bullied person silence often feels like betrayal. But keep in mind–the silence is a tactic initiated by the bully. The bully wants to disarm their target with a sense of non-support.

Verse four gives us further insight with the word champion. 

“A champion named Goliath, who was from Gath, came out of the Philistine Camp.” (V4)

Interestingly, we often think this story is soley about David and Goliath when in reality it was about the Israelites battle against the Philistines. Goliath was simply a tool, a means to an end. The Philistines are the obvious villains in our story, never-the-less, they were convinced at their reasons for war. This brings us to another persuasive tactic used by villains—bullies playing the victim. They solicit sympathy. It is frustrating, to say the least, if you are the target of this kind bullying tactic. Bullies who hurt others, but portray themselves as the victim, are hoping to siphon sympathies for themselves.

In verse five we gain insight into the man selected as the ace-in-the-hole— Goliath (their pawn).

“He had a bronze helmet on his head and wore a coat of scale armor of bronze weighing five thousand shackles.” (V5)

Five thousand shekels is about 78 pounds. This bully was big, strong, and armed in the most superior ways. Goliath was definitely what might be considered champion material. His stature itself was superior in nature. It comes as no surprise that bullies thrive on superiority.

Verse eight tells us that the bully, Goliath, verbally accosted the subjects of his bullying.

“Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel” (v8)

Discrediting is another powerful tool bullies use. We noted that loyalty, sense of cause, and superiority can play out powerfully, but now we see discrediting deliver a confusing and disorienting blow upon the psyche of the target. This very effective tactic unglues confidence. Hope begins to fade. No wonder the Israelites shuddered in terror.

Verse eleven gives us a clear picture of the effects of bullying.

“The Israelites were dismayed and terrified.” (V11)

Discrediting naturally causes a bullied victim to question their own narrative. This clever tactic is called gaslighting. Gaslighting is a common technique used by bullies, to not only sway the crowd, but to cause the bullied target themselves to question their own reality. At this point it feels like all is lost. It certainly did to the Israelites.

When young David came onto the scene, his brother, who was apart of the Israelites army, derided his presence. This is another issue that can happen in a bullying circumstance—breakdown from within our own support system.

David who was a sheep herder and had spent lots of time in fields meditating on God, delivered a different narrative that day. It was one of hope in something bigger than the bullies that stood before them—it was God Himself.

Sometimes we are so close to the emotions surrounding a bullying situation that we are unable to see the bigger picture. Yet, this is exactly what we need in a critical onslaught of bullying.

When news of David’s hope made it to the king, the king swiftly put him in the battle. The words David spoke to Goliath in verse forty five instantly changed the bullying climate, as well as, history.

“I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty.” (V45)

David placed complete confidence in the a Lord. David knew that he belonged to God and for the Philistine bully to come against him was to come against God’s people. In fact, it would mean the Philistines were trying to bully God. This perspective empowered David because it was completely reliant on a God’s provision. Amazingly, God had already armed David with the abilities he would need to face this particular giant. Fighting off bears and lions to protect his sheep made him a valiant warrior. David skillfully brought down the bully with a stone and a sling. 

I pray that if you are currently in a bullying situation God would provide you with all the provision and the encouragement you need to face your Goliath.

For more information on the characteristics of a bully visit:

Bullies Demand Loyalty

Bullies Discredit

Bullies Play The Victim

Bullies Gaslight

Bullies Crave Superiority

X Marks The Bully

Bullies Phantom Influence

Bully Proofing

Bullies Phantom Influence

Lingering allegiance to a bully is a common occurrence, even if a bully’s primary position in our life has changed. Similar to phantom pain from a missing a limb–past trauma from a bully can linger into our future.

Because bullying creates deep impressions in the brain, phantom loyalty often carries on long after it should. We feel bound by pledges of loyalty (spoken or unspoken). Our falling-in-line to avoid retaliation (or to gain favor) becomes automatic. We don’t realize we may still be carrying on a bully’s disrespect for ourselves or others treated unfairly. We are swept along by lingering loyalties.

We see this play out in adult children who feel a great sense of loyalty to a bullish parent. Even after the parent is out of the picture, the adult child still feels obligated to their parents wishes and ideas about life. There are feelings of guilt and internal conflict in pursuing a different course of action, or thought.

We can feel confused moving forward. Freeing ourselves requires healthy understanding that it’s “okay” to think differently.

Here are some tips:

1. Identify ways in which you desire to behave differently than the person who has been a controlling influence in your life.
2. Admit (your own) mistakes that were inspired by the bully.
3. If you once said “yes” under pressure, it’s okay to change your mind and say “no”.
3. Seek a trustworthy accountability partner.
4. In taking these steps remember that feelings of guilt are natural part of breaking free. Misplaced loyalty is often driven by guilt—that’s why it has a powerful hold.

*Seeking a qualified counselor may be helpful.

Bully Proofing

Bullies Gaslight

In the article “11 Warning Signs of Gaslighting” published by Psychology Today, gaslighting is described as a tactic in which a person or entity, in order to gain more power, makes a victim question their reality. The article goes on to say that gaslighting is a common technique of abusers, dictators, narcissists, and cult leaders.

Applying this thought to a bully’s overall agenda we see how all bullying characteristic works together to achieve one ultimate goal–gaslighting. That is, to create a “believable” false narrative that influences others against their victim. It is sabotage on every level. Onlookers becomes numb and impaired in their judgement. This is because they have drunken, so to speak, from the Kool-Aid of gaslighting.

The brave few who stand up in defense of a victim are quickly cut down to a stump by the gaslighter or their followers. Unfortunately, a gaslighter typically has loyal followers. Utilizing followers is strategic too. They are methodically placed within a bullying scenario to cheer on the bully and brow beat opposers.

For those of us who recognize being in this kind of bullying situation, or a eyewitness to it, we must decisively put down our cup of Kool-Aid. This is a decisive step in combating bullying. We must stop drinking from a narrative that has become convoluted. Even the best minds will have trouble deciphering between what’s true and what’s being deliberately spun. Therefore, the antidote is not found in looking at facts (that may be falsified) but rather character. It all goes back to character. When in doubt character is a safe guide back to reality and wisdom.

For instance, a victim’s narrative may look bleak because it’s been vandalized and discredited by a bully—but their character will always tell a different story. Likewise, a bully’s narrative may look very sleek and well packaged—but their character will always smell of fear and intimidation. In other words, even if a bully’s narrative is convincing joining their camp is a dangerous venture. In the same way they treat others they will eventually treat you.

Do you know someone who is being bullied? If so give them an encouraging wink that lets them know that you are not drinking the Kool-Aid served by bully/gaslighters.

Bully Proofing

X Marks The Bully

      This months segment is “X Marks The Bully”. Our goal is to place a mental X mark on characteristics we observe as bullying behavior. The last few months we have talked about some of the often overlooked characteristics of a bully: bullies play the victim; bullies crave superiority; bullies demand loyalty, and bullies discredit those they perceive as a threat. teen-bullying-2

      Placing a mental X mark on bullying behavior is powerful tool. It does more than just identify bullish tendencies, it becomes a flashing sign designating danger. You would be surprised at the practical value this has in counteracting bullying. One of the main reasons bullying continues is because we have the human proclivity to lose sight that someone is, in fact, a bully. This is because the bullying process manifests similar effects to the Stockholm Syndrome. Stockholm Syndrome is a psychological phenomenon in which hostages display an alliance or empathy for their captors. It is a brainwashing that happens through abuse of power and indoctrination. The name comes from a town in Sweden where a botched bank robbery in 1973 turned into a 6 day hostage situation. Instead of seeing their captors as criminals the victims began to bond in an effort to survive. The psychological dynamics cause an almost spell-like hold. They even defended and became protective of their captors. Although many violent captive situations are facilitated by bullies—thankfully, most bullies are not lawbreaking kidnappers.

      Interestingly, studies show that elements of Stockholm Syndrome can overflow into other areas of life where abuse of control and influence are evident (bullying). We can find it in the work place, home, schools, etc. For example a domestic abuse victim chooses to stay in toxic circumstances. Here are similar criteria as defined in Stockholm Syndrome:  Perceived Threats—a bully makes a victim believe that making waves, or challenging the norm could ostracize them (they’d be on the outs).  Small Acts of Kindness—a bully (who otherwise discredits) shows small acts of kindness to keep a victim loyal.  Isolation From other Perspectives—a bully shuts down any attempt from others to influence those under their control (this is how it’s done, period).  Perceived Inability to Escape—a victim feels stuck and tries to make the best of the situation.

      It is a captivity of sorts. This is why the mental X mark has value. It keeps the reality in focus that the controlling person is, indeed, a bully. Visualizing a bully’s behavior with an X is an empowering reminder that bullies are master manipulators. It reminds us not to be spell bound by it. It also opens opportunities to connect with others who are gaining awareness that a bullying situation is in progress. People feel enabled when they sense blinders coming off of others. This is key because it changes the “me” to “we” which then neutralizes the Isolation From other Perspectives. Discussions can now take place as to how a particular bully is holding a group or person hostage, so to speak. Collaboration is an effective way to bring unknowns out into the open in order to address avenues of change. This counteracts the Perceived Inability to Escape.

       You may have several people in your life that come to mind when thinking about placing a mental X as a bullying reminder. Sometimes it’s people we love and care about. They are in our families, neighborhoods, churches and government. Sometimes it’s us.  Kindness and compassion goes along way in redirecting a bully who is open to change. Meanwhile, get your mental pen out and draw a big X on any bullying behavior holding you or others hostage.

Bully Proofing

Bullies Play The Victim

      In our quest for Bully bring you this moths segment “Bullies Play The Victim”.  Over the last few months we have examined several characteristics of a bully. It’s apparent that dealing with a bully can be both lengthy and complicated process.
 
      One of the biggest complications arises outside the bully themselves—that being the circle or community where the bully holds clout. A collective group can take on a bully’s agenda feeling fully convinced that they are doing a good thing. This stems from the often over looked bullying characteristic of a “Bully Playing The Victim”.women_sunset_silhouette_dark_black_sun_warm_dawn-603578.jpg!d-2
 
      Playing the victim is arguably one of the most powerful strategies a bully can utilize because the emotional charge it generates to fuel support. With this maneuver a bully is able to turn the table on their own victim. This happens in the court rooms regularly—lawyers often defend guilty clients by casting them as the victim. When the jury deliberates we see the complications surface. Although they were initially influenced by the client and the lawyer, it’s no longer about just them, it has now grown into a community of people whose emotions have been tampered with. The primary goal all along was to cause the jury doubt towards the real victim by inciting sympathies for the guilty party.
 
      This can manifest itself in all types of real life bullying scenarios. Many times a bully, because of a broken background, actually does feels like a victim. They have a hard time separating out their acts of bullying with feelings that they are being victimized themselves. Especially if on lookers do not show support of their efforts of control. This compels them to heighten their pseudo victim platform. The bully capitalizes on their victim’s emotional expressions to do this. It becomes tactical in that to provoke an emotional response from their victim, will make their victim look foolish. This in turn garners speculations that they themselves are the ones are being mistreated. Bullies manipulate to gain false credibility by these emotional instigations. On top of this they derive a measure of satisfaction in goading their victim into an emotional response—it shows vulnerability, and for a bully exposing vulnerability is empowering.
 
      Dealing with a bully can be extremely tricky, especially when it comes to the community dynamic. If you can answer yes to any of these questions you might be dealing with a bully or a group of people who are under the influence of bully’s “victim mentality”.
 
1.    Is there someone you know who is trying to keep control by using a victim status?
2.    Do you sense a growing division or rallying of sympathy for someone who has a history of being bullish?
3.    Is a person in your life displaying any of the previous discussed characteristics of a bully: discrediting, demanding loyalty, a need for superiority, or leveraging of a victim mentality?
 
      When helping someone who is being bullied one of the best things we can do is employ logic rather than emotion. No matter how emotionally destabilizing a bully’s actions or remarks can feel, remember they are trying to push the buttons of emotion to build their personal “victim” platforms. If we can identify and recognize this pattern it will help us to replace our emotional reactions with intellectual reason and acumen.