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

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 Crave Superiority

      Bullying has been part of culture since the dawn of time – whether It is Napoleon, King Henry VIII, or Catherine the Great, power thirsty leaders want people to be subject to them. They crave superiority. Although the classic bully is typically portrayed as physically intimidating–many times its not size, but intellect, skillsuperiority_vs__inferiority_3_by_chiptheghost-d2yhib3 sets, resources, or position that intimidates and influences people.
 
      The Bully’s drive to be superior generally comes from deep seated insecurity. Overcompensating for this emotion becomes the means by which they create a world where they can appear superior, not only to others–but to themselves. Often they are people with winsome personalities which can make this quality hard to uncover.
 
      One of the destructive by-products of a bully’s craving for superiority is the need to protect a persona. To the bully, it is less about the person bullied (which may be you or someone you care about) and more about managing their own image. The bullied recipient is simply a casualty of the bully’s sense of superiority being challenged. This is why a bully will pick a certain person to constantly berate, primarily in public to demonstrate their dominance to others. Bullied victims often don’t realize they have just stepped on a hornets nest when they question, resist, or challenge a bully. But you can be sure that the response by the bully will always be double in intensity. For instance, a person might think they’re suggesting or recommending something reasonable or helpful when fire-hose of berating is opened up on them at full blast. The intimidating tactic of superiority is always in the back pocket of a bully ready to fire, and they use it proactively.
 
      If you can answer yes to any of these questions you might be dealing with a bully:
 
1.    Have you tried to reason with someone whose response surprises you in intensity?
2.    Has the response intimated you or undermined your credibility?
3.    Does the intimidating person calm down as long as you fall in-line?
 
      Recognizing the characteristics of superiority in a bully is key to helping others who are being bullied. When we see a person responding in exaggerated intensity towards someone—do not jump on the band wagon. Ruining someone else’s reputation is a classic way bullies build their superior posture. Joining in a bully’s defamation contributes to their continued building project of superiority. Staying out of it, or jumping off the bandwagon always helps the person being bullied to regain their balance.
 

Bullies Demand Loyalty

This months segment is “Misuse of Loyalty”.

A bully enlists and utilizes loyalty for
their own benefit. In fact, you may hear the word loyalty quite often in a bully’s Bully 2 bluevocabulary. It may be concealed in phrases or questions designed to establish a sense of camaraderie: “are you with me?”, “can I count on you?”, “do I have your support”? With a bully there is an ulterior agenda—a binding of loyalty against something or someone.

The dictionary describes loyalty as faithful adherence. Because of its favorable connotation we naturally think of loyalty in a positive light. But for the bully it’s far from altruistic. Loyalty to them is simply a means to an end. Any deviation from faithful adherence is perceived as an affront.

A bully uses several methods of manipulations to gain loyalties. The most common being an offering of favor or acceptance. Not only does it feels good “not” to be on the bad side of a bully’s reproach, but there are tempting benefits too. If it’s in the school lunch room it might be an invitation to sit at the cool table. If it’s in the work place it might be the carrot of advancement. If it’s in a social setting it might be the allure of recognition. If it’s the home it might be the peace and calm that comes from non-confrontation. The thought of being considered “disloyal” is too risky of a challenge for many which makes loyalty a powerful tool in the hands of a bully. Bullies can build quite a submissive following with this one maneuver.

Another way bullies gain loyalty is blackmail. Not the obvious kind with threats scrawled on mysterious notes, but in small ways like hints of exposure to shame. The bully is skilled at finding and holding misgivings over the people they influence.

Additionally, bullies operate by promoting an exaggerated sense of loyalty by others for themselves. They act as their own publicist touting inflated stories of support by people who secretly do not support them at all. This in turn influences a going along with the crowd mentality. No one wants to be the naysayer or noticeable cog in the wheel of a seemingly united front.

In summary, exposing loyalty manipulation may help shed light on how bullying takes shape in a community. Identifying the misuse is a good place to start. If you can answer yes to any of the following questions there may be in an environment of bullying.

1.Have you felt an onslaught of favor or buttering-up in a effort to win your loyalties?
2. Have you felt pressured into a group’s mentality against someone or something or someone?
3. Have you feared retribution for not being loyal to someone’s agenda?

Combating bullying happens by becoming familiar with these and other signs. You can help by refusing to be swept into a bully’s manipulations. By not going along with the crowd when you see these signs happening—you will be slowing down the momentum of loyalty that keeps a bully in power.

Bully Proofing

Bullies Discredit

(Bullying Awareness Series Part 1)

One way we can make a difference in the anti-bullying movement is by shedding light on characteristics of a bully that often get overlooked. Bully 1.jpg

We start with the characteristic of DISCREDITING. A bully’s power of control can be found in this pervasive action. The New Oxford American Dictionary describes the word “discredit” as a way to harm a reputation (a person, piece of evidence, or idea) causing it to seem false or unreliable. In other words, it’s a deliberate weakening of someone’s reputation in order to strengthen ones own. Bullies can easily garner support by others in this way. Onlookers stay silent because they do not want to become the target of similar treatment, or they are tricked into believing the discrediting stories are actually true. Unfortunately, this allows the bully to gain substantial power. This dynamic can be found in schools, homes, families, work, church, etc. Bullies can be children or adults, and all sexes. Here are a few questions that will help you identify this particular quality in a bully.

1. Is there a “repeated” pattern of discrediting?
2. Are people afraid to speak positively about the person being discredited?
3. Does the discrediting somehow boost the position or reputation of the one discrediting?

One of the greatest ways to combat a bully is simply by recognizing this characteristic. If we see multiple people being discredited by a person or group—it should raise a red flag immediately. Our refusal to be drawn into believing the discrediting news begins the process of empowerment. Not only for us but for the person being bullied. There is comfort and strength we give a bullied-human when we turn our backs on the bully’s persuasions. The act of not automatically embracing a bad story is life-giving. Even if it seems convincing. Consider the source and ask the questions above. If you can answer yes to any of the questions then you might be dealing with a bully.

Bully Proofing