Bullies seem to be everywhere.
Some are married. Some are single. They come in all ages and from various economic and ethnic groups. You may work with a bully. You may have one in your family. Even assembling with your church may not be an escape from a bully. A bully can even be a church leader.
So what does a bully do?
- A bully relies on power and control, either physically, emotionally or both.
- A bully convinces another that the only option he or she has is to give in to his demands.
- A bully can be mean, especially if you do not yield to his power.
- A bully can be charming. At any moment, he can turn on the charm or be especially cruel.
- A bully thinks he is more intelligent than you. He thinks he has more to offer than you. He believes he is right.
- A bully is convinced that he is one of the few who really gets it.
- A bully wants to get his way and will use any number of weapons to do so.
- A bully is low on empathy. Yet, he can become teary eyed or enraged, whatever the situation seems to require. Often, this emotion is not due to empathy but rather is being used as a means to get what he wants.
The bully attempts to dominate by intimidation, power, and control. Yet, what confuses some is that the bully can turn on the charm. Yet that charm can quickly turn into emotional venom if another displeases the bully.
Because of this charm, many people think that bullies are actually very nice people. In one church, a person said regarding a particular bully, “Listen, he really has a good heart and is a fine person. He is just a little rough around the edges.” In fact, some Christians might be surprised to learn that there are sometimes bullies in churches. For example:
Bully #1 – – I was in a conversation once with a person who had served as a part of an elder group with several other people. One person in the group was a strong willed man who some referred to as the “head elder” or the “bull elder.” It was understood (without the group ever saying it) that all decisions must meet this particular man’s approval. This man believed that he knew what was best for the church and everyone else in the group just needed to listen to him.
Bully #2 — One particular church member was known as being particularly “strong.” He talked a lot and dominated most any group conversation. A few were disturbed with how curt and abrupt he would be with his wife. She was generally very quiet and reserved when they were together. Yet he was known in his congregation as “one of our key members.”
Bully #3 — This particular man tormented his wife through constant put downs, insults, and passive aggressive behavior. Somehow, he thought no one else noticed. In fact, many did.
A bully is neither manly, strong, or a good example of leadership. Jesus through his Spirit does not form one into a bully. In fact, the bully has become something else other than a Jesus shaped person.
- When a preacher attempts to bully a group of elders through his self-assured, “I know I’m right” attitude, he is not displaying mature, godly behavior.
- When a husband attempts to bully his wife, he is displaying weakness and a heart lacking in the love of God.
- When an elder attempts to bully members of his congregation, he is demonstrating that he doesn’t have the first clue about being a shepherd.
- When a husband tries to bully his wife and children, he is displaying his ignorance, not his intelligence. He is failing before their very eyes.
It is tempting to want to reason with a bully. Some believe that if a bully just had better information, he would do better. Not so. Quite often, in the bully’s mind, he is never wrong.
Some have been bullied for so long they may find it very difficult to begin living again as persons who make their own choices and decisions. After all, a bully often brings shame and contempt into a relationship.
So what does a person do?
- Acknowledge behavior like this. Don’t act as if it is no big deal to be treated this way. To dismiss another’s poor behavior by saying, “He doesn’t affect me” doesn’t really begin to address this problem.
- When you witness a friend being treated this way, don’t make excuses for the bully.
- Know that a person can be smooth, polished, and engaging and still be a bully. Bullies have learned how to destroy another person quietly and secretively so as not to tarnish the bully’s image.
- Be careful with the bully. Some believe that if he just knew how the incident made his spouse, co-worker, or fellow elder feel, he would behave differently. In fact, bullies are often very low on empathy.
- Know that the bully does not have the final word on who you are or what you are worth. Rather, you are highly valued and highly favored by God. No bully removes that reality.