I like to look for ways to incorporate testimony – usually my own – into my articles here. The way I do this is to look around at what articles have been gripping me recently and how they have impacted my interpretation of my life and how Jesus has influenced it.
In the last few days I’ve been flooded by emails about bullying. My personal Facebook page and private email address (not just the one connected to this site) have gone nuts and not a single repeat link among them on the subject of bullies.
Bullying has played a big part of my life. It was the subject of the very first article I ever had published over 20 years ago, parts of which are – at least in sentiment – included in this entry.
I have been both victim and bully in my life. This is something that I’ve found rings true in most of the people I’ve spoken to about the subject.
In my experience, bullies tend to be victims of bullying looking for self-esteem to be restored for the most part. Then there are the “silver-spoon” bullies who can’t see that they are bullies. Their actions are prejudiced against groups rather than individuals whom they see as a threat to their sense of entitlement. The most obvious example in the last century is Adolf Hitler. Silver-spoon bullies don’t have to come from wealthy backgrounds, they just need to feel something is their “right” and a particular group will take that away.
This will be a touchy subject as it upset me the first time I wrote about it and realised I was as guilty as I was a victim of the behaviours of bullying. I’m a lot older now, and I can take any comments – in fact I would welcome them publicly on this thread – it’s a subject we need to bring into the light so it can be destroyed in the Church.
Satan is a bully. Perhaps the ultimate bully. Any time he’s mentioned in scripture he’s trying to usurp God’s place in the life of the people he’s afflicting – including God Himself. But he’s (usually) subtle in person. He bullied Eve in the garden by questioning God’s intentions when He had told Adam not to eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. An important point in this story is that she has not been told what Adam was told. Either she exaggerated or Adam did – in either case it gave an inroad for the tactic. God said “don’t eat it”. Eve says the command was not even to touch the fruit as that will cause death. The serpent easily demonstrates the lie in the exaggeration by touching the fruit and not dying on the spot. The exaggeration allows doubt in and then he’s got her. She’s deceived and essentially bullied into eating the fruit. She then has the leverage to persuade Adam to eat it as well, bullying him into disobeying God.
Bullies have one thing in common, irrespective of the type. Incidentally, there are other backgrounds but I’m going to focus primarily on the two I’ve touched on for causes of bullying in this article.
Bullies are driven to bullying by one single thing.
I never met a bully of any background who wasn’t afraid to the very centre of their being about whatever the reason they bullied someone was.
I was a dancer at school from the age of 3 until the age of 19 I danced at a school that taught Ballet, Modern Dance and Tap Dance to it’s students. There were maybe 1500 students on the role, and five of us were boys. For a while I was not alone in some of my classes as there was another boy, Joseph, in my class. He stopped coming when we were about 14 after we’d been friends for a couple of years. I don’t remember ever seeing him outside of class as we went to different schools for academic education, but it was nice to have the company.
My academic education from the age of 11 was at a boys school, and even before I went into this testosterone-driven environment I was ridiculed for being a dancer. I was accused of being gay – ironically by a boy who later turned out to be gay himself – and he would assault me physically from time to time, until he realised I never lost one of these altercations.
When that ceased to be a source of primary amusement for the bullies they found something else that made me stand out. My brother had been killed in a road accident. I blamed myself for not being with him at the time to protect him which led to guilt on my part as he died doing something he’d learned from me, he was just too young to realise the danger on that particular road.
Adolescent males can be cruel. I was bullied because I didn’t have a girlfriend, then I was bullied because of who my girlfriend was.
I was accused of trying to behave in a less than gentlemanly manner with a girl when I was 15ish, something that drove me to the edge of depression and suicide. I was told at one point that she had started the rumour, something I can’t corroborate, but made the pain much worse at the time – particularly since I’d held a candle for this girl since primary school at the age of 6…
My pain drove me to try to build myself in my own eyes. I was young in my faith, only 13 when I became a Christian and very under-discipled in the way I grew in my early years. It wasn’t until I left home and away from the pain that I found older Christians who could help me heal in those areas.
I did what others had done to me. I found people I perceived as weaker than me and attacked them – usually mentally – to make myself feel better. I thought my own fear would be assuaged by this sense of strength. When it wasn’t I became more angry and more hostile. Had it not been for a few well placed Godly men getting around me in my early 20’s I might have been a very different man today.
I look about and I see much bullying in the world. Some is obvious. Anyone who can make a statement that they understand hardship because they had to start out with a loan of $1m from their father as Donald Trump has been reported as saying clearly has no clue what real hardship is. His fear is obvious – he’s afraid of anyone who might be put in a position where they can take away his idol – money. So he bullies for any reason he can find, and I have yet to see a report of a good reason. A muslim woman standing silently in a hijab. Hilary Clinton needing to use the bathroom. The concept that a man who didn’t find a way to dodge the draft in Vietnam and spent time as a POW because after being shot down he couldn’t run away with broken legs is somehow a “loser”. His statements are horribly reminiscent of the rhetoric of Hitler in the 1930s. They play on fear and the concept of national entitlement endangered by a specific group of people. Guaranteed if he gets his way, that group will expand to include anyone not a member of his own “master-race” just as the Nazis expanded from Jews to gypsies to Catholics to Protestants and anyone who dissented.
Stalin was no different. And the McCarthy era witch-hunts seeking out communists were diabolical.
Bullies leading the way in every case.
Herod was a bully. He slaughtered children because he was afraid of losing power. His successors were no better. They may not have committed genocide the way he did, but the Herod who murdered John the Baptist and demanded Jesus perform a miracle for him had the same mindset.
Pilate was afraid of the crowd and became a bully by allowing Jesus’s execution instead of releasing Him.
Fear drives bullies. Personal, political, religious or whatever perceived threat, bullies are driven by their own fear and cowardice. And they use persuasion and sometimes force to puff themselves up. But under the rhetoric is pure fear. And as Yoda says, fear is a path to the dark side. In the real world, not to the dark side of the “Force”, but to a dark place of the heart. It’s a place where Love and Compassion have no position.
That’s the power of Jesus. He actually did have power. He could have called down fire to consume Herod. He could have used the power to eliminate the entire Roman Empire.
He chose to give it to us instead so we could fight against the real enemy. An enemy who attacks with ideas not fists. The hardest thing to overcome in this world when we look at reaching the unsaved is their ideology. The thought processes and paradigms that form their beliefs are entrenched deeply whether they are Daesh murderers in the Middle-East or Presidential hopefuls in the USA who honestly believe being American makes them Christian (look up Donald Trump’s statements about Christianity, women, international relations with Muslim countries – actually I don’t want this to be such a long article so just consider his strategies as he’s the best bad example in the media. But the others are just as bad from what we see here in South Africa from their silence in response to his rhetoric. That silence is essentially condoning his hate and fear-mongering.
These words and actions are those of a bully. A coward who talks big but has no clue what a struggle really is, but is constantly demonstrating in his speeches and behaviour how terrified he actually is of being in a position where he may face those struggles.
I’ve used my physical size (although now in South Africa I’m not such an imposing figure) to coerce people. I’ve used the strength of my personality to subdue those I perceived as weak.
I’ve also been on the receiving end.
I look to the Grace of God manifest in Jesus to forgive my past actions and strengthen my future.
We must not become an inquisition or a tenth-century style crusade for Christ. Those are bullying in it’s most evil form, crushing people into submission, and never produce true Faith leading to Salvation.
We must flee from such tactics and Love our enemy whether he has a sword or a microphone, demonstrating the Love Christ extends to us.
We can control only one thing in this battle: whether we will fight as Jesus fought in His power and see the enemy destroyed before us as we go, or whether we will fight to force our faith (and democracy for that matter) onto a culture that actually was where Christianity originally began.
The choice is in our hands.