How to Deal with a Bully
Glynnis Whitwer

"Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong." 1 Corinthians 16:13 (NLT)

As another year of school begins, stories of bullies will surface. The most shocking ones make the news, but those are a small percentage of the actual bullying that takes place. Sadly, victims of bullies often keep silent due to shame, intimidation and a silent unspoken code.

But the schoolyard isn’t the only place we’ll find bullies this month. Bullies are everywhere. They are in offices, committees, homes and community meetings. They are found anywhere they can dominate through force of will. And I believe they have intimidated a generation of people long enough.

Sadly, many well-meaning Christians have "turned the other cheek" (Matthew 5:39) when bullied. However, a closer examination of that passage reveals something vitally important. Turning the other cheek involves us willingly ignoring an offense to us, even though we could defend ourselves. We don’t turn away because we are afraid.

Jesus could have called down 1,000 angels to protect Him from being crucified, but He willingly laid down His life. Jesus states this in His own words, "The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father" (John 10:17-18, NIV).

Jesus saw a greater good in submitting to those who would take His life. He did it for us. In an instance such as that, turning the other check is the best response.

Although Jesus calls us to a life of forgiveness and compassion, even He didn’t tolerate those who dishonored God’s holy temple. With righteous indignation, Jesus turned over tables, and drove out money changers and those who were selling doves within the walls of the temple, accusing them of turning His father’s house into "a den of robbers" (Mark 11:17). Jesus also trained His disciples to put themselves in the path of danger for the sake of others.

As Christians, I believe we are called to play an unusual role in dealing with bullies. It is not a role the world plays—filled with anger and vengeance. It is not a role of passivity. It is not a role of hate. We can’t gratify our flesh and play tit-for-tat games. In other words, it’s not easy.

We are called to love our enemies, to pray for them, but to stand firm against unrighteousness and injustice. We are called to draw a line in the sand about our beliefs. We aren’t aggressive, but we are assertive. We aren’t boastful, but we are confident about our God’s wishes for His people. Most importantly, we can’t ignore the problem.

Ignoring a true bully doesn’t make the bullying stop. It just fuels his or her need for power. So what does help? First, pray for God’s wisdom in the situation. Understand that God loves you, and all His people, and wants not one of His children to be victimized in any way. Then, if there are physical threats or violence, get to somewhere safe and tell someone in authority. If the bullying is of an emotional nature, determine to respectfully take a stand on what you believe God is calling you to do. If it’s important enough, then be strong.

While that’s not a guarantee a bully will back down, it’s a start to developing a bully-proof life. Really, it’s a start to building moral courage in your heart. And bullies can’t stand that.

I believe God calls us to a life of passion for His people, and sometimes that takes moral courage. In fact, it’s going to take a lot of moral courage to address the injustices in this world. And it’s going to take a righteous indignation like Jesus had about the temple money changers. And it just might start with facing the bully in your life.

Dear Lord, I praise You for Your holiness and righteousness. Your ways are perfect. Help me to know the right thing to do when facing the bullies in my life. Help me know when to stand firm and when to turn away. I trust You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
For ways to help your child deal with bullies and other everyday problems, Glynnis has written When Your Child is Hurting

Visit Glynnis’ blog where she shares tips from her book about how to bully-proof your child this school year.

The Power of One (t-shirt)

Poverty is a brutal bully. Prayerfully consider standing up to it on behalf of those suffering by sponsoring a child through Compassion International

You are My Hiding Place, Lord: Finding Peace in God's Presence by Emilie Barnes
When you purchase resources through Proverbs 31 Ministries, you touch eternity because your purchase supports the many areas of hope-giving ministry we provide at no cost. We wish we could, but we simply can’t compete with prices offered by huge online warehouses. Therefore, we are extremely grateful for each and every purchase you make with us. Thank you!

Application Steps:
If you are facing a bully in an area of your life, identify if you are responding in fear or confidence. If you have fear, then it’s time to do something about it. Gather one or two wise friends and pray for God’s guidance on what to do.

Consider a time when you faced a bully and backed down. What were your fears?

What are some practices you can put in your life now to prepare for the next time someone tries to bully you?

Power Verses:
1 Samuel 17:37a, "The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine." (NIV)

Micah 6:8, "He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." (NIV)

© 2010 by Glynnis Whitwer. All rights reserved.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your devotion was thoughtful if we lived in a society that was thoughtful. In America, everything is over the top--including most bullies. Go to a few sports events and see how some of the rogue parents act a their childrens's sports games.

You must emphasize that emotional bullying is as bad as physical bullying. I personally felt that your devotion, though having a lot of merit, was weak that it promoted that emotional bullying did not require action to go to a safe place or to go to a place of authority. There are anti bullying laws in schools which include emotional and verbal abuse. My child was verbally abused by a subsitute teacher. Yes, I prayed BUT I filed an official complaint, talked to BOE members, other parents and community members only to find out that this man had a history of tantrums in the school system for over five years and was protected by a relative in the school system. In honesty, one must PUSH back. David did to the giant. In this case, I did to a 30 year old obese man who used threats, his weight and his position to curse, bully and emotionally abuse students. Christians can beat the giants. Turning the other cheek can also mean finding your courage when you turn and to take action and promtote social justice. Let us be very careful in promoting inaction as we may cause someone harm in doing so. Prayer is action but God may call some of us to action. If I had not filed a formal complaint, that bully would still be in the school system. While other parents comaplained, I was the only one to formally put such in writing. Even many parents were afraid to complain in writing or just complain about this bully. Some of us can be a David to face the bully. That is ok.

Blogger Glynnis Whitwer said...

Amen, sister! I completely agree with your comment. It is time to stand up against bullies. But not just those being bullied - it's going to take bystanders getting involved. We have to stand together and risk getting involved.

I wish I could have printed the entire chapter of my book on dealing with bullies. You would have gotten the entire pictre.

Good for you to stand up against emotional bullying. God bless you sister!

Blogger Toyin O. said...

Amen. keep standing for your right.

Anonymous Lori said...

When my son with autism was in middle school, his youth group leader wanted everyone to talk about their enemy, or someone they didn't like. My son said he liked everyone....I pushed and reminded him about some of his classmates who had been so cruel and bullied him. He thought about this and said "Well, guess they are my rivals, but I'm not suppose to hate I don't"......It made the rest of us wonder who really has the handicap...

Blogger Mocha said...

Thank you for the devotion on bullying. We all have experienced some sort of bullying in our lives. Although my son's experience with bullies has gotten better, he still deals with it from time to time and your devotion has helped me explain to him how to deal with bullies in a different way. Thank you for always backing up with scripture - the truth!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for your thoughtful follow-up to my initial comments (the mom who complained about the subsitute teacher).

You are a great teacher, mom and leader.

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