Monday, December 30, 2013

How to Handle Bullying for Adults and Children

Bullies will always be around.  So how do we deal with those who hurt others?
My boys and I met for "Dad's Discipleship" yesterday and Micah brought up the subject of bullies.

I have been the victim of bullying and often still have to deal with adults, who are typically more of social, mental, or spiritual bullies.

So let us dig into a couple of stories, and then a big curve ball.  Here are a few verses from the Scripture on bullying:

1. Elijah & the lads- 2 Kings 2:23-25
"From there Elisha went up to Bethel.  As he was walking along the road, some boys came out of the town and jeered at him.  'Get out of here, baldy!' they said, 'Get out of here, baldy!' He turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the Lord.  Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the boys.  And he went on to Mount Carmel and from there returned to Samaria."

These boys were verbally attacking the dignity of:
A. A person made in the image of God & very precious to God.
B. An elder (Lev. 19:32)
C. A prophet
D. A bald guy

Have you ever had someone attack your dignity?

At any rate, what was God's response here and how did that differ from how our culture handles abusive people today?
Notice God DIDN'T say, "Hurt people hurt people.  Perhaps their dad's were too busy to raise them correctly.  Boys, you know, they are mean.  Boys will be boys." These are all things I have heard from well meaning people, who seek to understand the bully.

No, God sent a couple bears to maul the boys.  In other words, God does not come to the defense of the abuser but to the abused.

Also notice that God had the bears attack 42 of the boys!  I doubt that all 42, in chorus, were saying this (if you've ever tried to organize 42 boys to do anything quickly, like teach a gym class, you know that this is most likely the case).  Some of these boys were mauled, guilty by association.  They should have refused to be a part of this.  They should of said, "C'mon guys, this isn't right."  Those who quietly stand while another is being abused is as guilty as the one doing the abusing.

If you find yourself in an office, or a place where someone is being verbally assaulted or attacked or hurt, YOU, the godly person, reflect the image of God & stop the assault.  Those times are not times to sit quitely by while someone, whom God loves, is destroyed.

You may get in trouble for this, but not with the Lord.

Defend the helpless and weak.

2. Shamgar & the Philistines- Judges 5:6, 3:31
Shamgar was a farmer during a very difficult time in Israel.  He was a Hebrew Redneck, probably driving a four wheel camel and listening to the twang of the harp.  I digress, here is the passage-

The context-
*Now for this discussion, I learned much of the context from Tony Evans' book, "Kingdom Man".  Take your boys through it.

"In the days of Shamgar son of Anath, in the days of Jael, the highways were abandoned; travelers took to winding paths."

Why do people make roads?  To travel.
Why would people not take the direct routes, and instead take the winding paths?  Well in that culture, this would only make sense if the roads were unsafe.  There were dangers on the public roads.  People were being robbed nasty bullies.

An example- when I was in high school, I was walking home one day after being suspended.  On my way home, while fuming, a peer rode alongside of me and started to rip into me verbally.  Well, I wasn't in the best of moods, so I grabbed the teen off of his bike, and threw him on the ground.  Then I continued on my way.
The problem with this was that he was the younger brother of one of the toughest fighters in school. The older brother, Jim, came up to me and said something to Liam Neeson in the movie, "Taken".  Jim said, "I will find you and I will kill you." Crud!  So what did I do,  knowing he was looking for me in the hallways?  I took the round about routes, cutting through the gym (and hoping he wasn't also cutting through the gym).

Back to the roads in Israel.  There were destructive people on the road!
Which brings us to our next verse-

"After Ehud came Shamgar son of Anath, who struck down six hundred Philistines with an oxgoad.  He too saved Israel."

Ehud, the farmer, took an oxgoad.  He used what he had.
He killed 600 Philistines with this oxgoad and saved Israel.

Now let's think about this...did he go Chuck Norris and kill all 600 at once?  I doubt it.  More likely, here is how the situation went down-

Shamgar, laying in bed one night, "Ugh, I am sick of taking these winding roads.  My produce gets stall along the way. Something needs to be done with these nasty Philistines.  They are ruining people and destroying our nation."
Then he notices the oxgoad sitting in the corner & puts 2+2 together.  "Someone needs to do something about this..."
He gets up, still night, and spots 4-5 of the bullies on the road.  Shank.
The next day he sees a few more waiting to hurt someone...shank.

This goes on until the roads are safe to travel again.

Am I saying that you should get an oxgoad and take out a bully?  I am not saying that.

What I am saying is that I appreciate his passion to do something about the attacks. I appreciate that he didn't stand idly by while others were hurt.

I Illustrate-
My oldest son, Benjamin, saw a classmate of his assaulting another student. The student who was being assaulted is picked on very often.  Benjamin decided to stand up to the bully and defend the one who was being attacked.
When I was in Middle School, there was a classmate, named Tim, who was constantly picked on by other kids.  Now I am not very big (average), but one day, there was a big kid picking on Tim in the hallway, right outside my Science class.  Needless to say, a fire began to brew up within me.  A righteous, holy fire.  A fire to come to the defense of Tim.  So I ran out of the classroom, grabbed the bully with two hands, twisting his shirt, picking him up, and firmly placing him against a locker.  Then I told him in a firm, firey voice, "Leave him alone."  The bully acquiesced to my request.
I could go on with stories.

Notice how The Lord said that Shamgar saved Israel.  He didn't say, "Bad Shamgar, the Philistines are people too. And what gave you the right as a farmer to do something?  You are not a cop are you?"

I am afraid that God's people have twisted the words of Jesus, which we will discuss below, and have become so twisted that we actually run to the aid of bullies...leaving the victim to suck it up and love their enemies.

If someone is being bullied, you who are spiritual, come to their defense. Protect those who are being bullied. Even if it means you get hurt in the process.

Now this can be done on multiple levels.  You can give money to stop world bullies like Joseph Kony.  You can get involved in stopping human trafficking.  But, for this discussion, my primary purpose is to inspire you as you go to your office, school, or local Martin's Supermarket.

Doesn't Jesus teach us to love our enemies? Yes, yes he does.  Read Matthew 5:38-48 (NIV)-
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. 

Yes, be willing to be taken advantage of.  Also, "eye for eye" was for Israel's legal system.  Jesus is clarifying that we are not to take personal revenge. 

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

What does this look like in life? The Mosaic Law gives us a great example in Exodus 23:4-
4 “If you come across your enemy’s ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to return it."

The Law teaches love for enemies.  
We love our enemies by doing good to them and by praying for them. 

In the Middle East, Bedouin have great hospitality.  If even their enemy comes to their tent for help, they will help them.  Now they may kill them when they see their enemy walking around the wilderness, but if that enemy comes to them for help, they will certainly not cast that person out! 

Yes, treat enemies with dignity.  But BUT, this is not teaching that we just love abusive people who are attacking and destroying others!  

How to mix the proper amount of love + justice to make something beautiful, out of an ugly situation...a story-

When I was in high school, there was a bully named Dave.  The year of our confrontation, I weighed 152 (wrestlers will appreciate this) and Dave weighed 325....325 pounds!  More than twice my size.
Anyhow, for years he overwhelmed me.  Pinning me in a corner & demanding things.  Hitting me and trying to generally terrorize well as others.  Well, one day, I had that burning again.  I got sick of him bullying others and I got sick of being pinned in.  So, one day, in the gym locker room, he cornered me again & popped me in the face.  I returned with a strong haymaker which landed square on his right cheekbone (I am a lefty). He was speechless.  I told him, "Dave, if you keep treating people like this you will never have friends and you will never get married." He just stood there, looking slightly rejected.

From then on, he sat with me at my lunch table and no longer bullied me, nor did I see him abuse anyone else.  Praise God! Notice what I did:

1. I defended myself from an attack (had to)
2. I felt love for Dave & as a result gave him some life giving words
3. I gladly accepted his friendship (turn the other cheek)

Now that was some quick and effective counseling, probably from the Lord.  I could've probably gotten a ten day suspension for this, but love is greater than fearing some suspension.  

Let me bring this to verbal assault.  I think the same 3 steps can apply to that too.

Last, are you being bullied?  Don't stand for it.  You are to love your enemies, so don't let them get away with it.  Otherwise they will not only destroy others, they will destroy themselves as well.  Love your enemies enough to confront them.  Love others enough to defend them.

Are you watching someone get bullied?  Stand up for victims.  Fly to their side, even if it means you get hurt in the process.  Don't allow people to be ruined by the sin of others.