Tag Archives: bullying

There Is No Justification

Judges 15

“They started it.”

How many times did I, as a middle school counselor, hear that excuse for bad behavior? Lots! Now here in Judges we read where Samson – who wasn’t an adolescent at the time, but a grown man – uses the same mistaken logic:

“I only did what they did to me.”

Dear one, retaliation is never acceptable. The score is never evened out. It just isn’t.

What did Jesus say about how we should treat people who aren’t necessarily fair to us?

But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. (Matthew 5:44)

I think we are seeing the result of years of telling children they “shouldn’t” be bullied, or that they have a “right” to be treated fairly. There are way too many young adults on medication for depression these days. Turn on the news and see the number of incidents of violence cause by angry and vengeful people in our world.

Instead of giving them healthy coping skills, we’ve made them life-long victims. Instead of encouraging them to control their own behavior, we tell them they can control the behavior of others if they are just tougher than they are.

But the truth is, we live in a sinful world. And people will fail us. We will fail them. Bad things happen. And people aren’t always treated fairly.

Think of what happened recently when Will Smith “protected” his wife by slapping Chris Rock for saying something stupid. Smith didn’t protect his wife from bodily harm. He retaliated because she got her feelings hurt. It wasn’t self defense. It was assault.

Yet there are people who applaud Smith for his loyalty to his wife, saying Rock deserved it.

Really?

Love your enemies. Pray for those who do you wrong.

What happened at the Oscars is not an isolated incident. You see the same mindset every day in the form of gossip, slander, FaceBook jail, cancel culture, and on the highways with road rage. We see it every day in the news, in gang violence, nasty divorces, and on and on and on.

Would you say that makes for a happy and healthy world?

If we would just live according to the Law of God, we wouldn’t be talking about the likes of Will Smith. We wouldn’t worry that some kid will take a gun to school because people aren’t being nice to him. We wouldn’t read about eight year old kids losing their lives because they got caught in the middle of a drive by shooting.

There just isn’t any justification for any of it. My prayer is that if you, or I, find ourselves wanting to even out a score, to get back at someone for doing something we didn’t like, we will stop and pray. Then figure out a way to show God’s love to that person instead.

Don’t tell me you can’t do that because they don’t deserve it for hurting you. Tell that to God. He’s the one who told you to love and pray for them. And because He’s the one who instructed us to do it, I have to believe that is the best thing for you and the other person.

And probably the best thing for our world.

No Excuse (Joshua 8-9)

It’s devastating to see the lengths to which jealousy can take a person. Abimelech may not have been treated equally to his brothers. His mother was a slave. Maybe the seventy sons of Gideon’s legal wives bullied their half-brother. Maybe Gideon himself showed favoritism toward his legitimate sons. It’s possible Gideon’s seventy sons lived in luxury while Abimelech lived like a slave. We don’t know the details. But after Papa Gideon died, Abimelech showed his true colors.

He convinced the citizens of Shechem to make him ruler. Then his first order of business was to publicly execute his seventy brothers. I wonder if Abimelech felt vindicated after that, or if killing his brothers brought him a sense of peace. Let’s just say, I doubt it.

I wonder if any of us reading this today are harboring ill feelings about the way we were raised, the way we were treated by our middle school classmates, the fact we were overlooked for a promotion at work, or that our neighbor’s kid is captain of the football team, and ours is last chair saxophone in the high school band.

What do we do with those feeling of inequity, or jealousy, or resentment? Do we feed them? Grow them? Use them throughout the day to justify a bad temper or depression?

I’m projecting because the Bible doesn’t tell us Abimelech’s motivation behind the murder of his brothers. But common sense tells us he didn’t act the way he did out of love, or from a place of forgiveness.

There isn’t one of us reading this who hasn’t been mistreated or treated unfairly, who hasn’t been bullied or been made to feel inferior some time in our lives. Yet some of us still feel the anger, resentment, and jealousy years later. Some of us let our past justify our present, which causes even more ill feelings. Which can lead to destructive behavior.

The Apostle Paul knew what it was like to be mistreated. He knew what it was like to be homeless, penniless, hated and physically abused. Maybe in some people’s minds, he had a right to get even, or to feel anger or jealousy toward his abusers. But hear what Paul had to say about it all:

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. (2 Corinthians 8-9)

Paul didn’t have time for a pity party. He didn’t feel the need to get even. In fact, he called his abuse “treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God, and not from us.” (verse 7)

Your past may have been truly awful. Some people imagine childhood abuse, you may have really lived it. People may actually treat you unfairly, actually do mean things to you. But none of that is an excuse for you inflicting harm on anyone else, even those guilty of hurting you.

In fact, none of us has an excuse for hurting others. Not with the words we say or the things we do. And holding on to jealousy or anger or bitterness is only hurting you. You do that to you.

We who know Jesus can, with Paul, look at the inequities of our lives and say confidently that we are not crushed, not in despair, not abandoned, or destroyed. Why? Because we have the Spirit of God living in us, and He is none of those things. In fact, the Spirit brings love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control with Him.

The Bible tells us that “all things work together for good” for those of us who love God. Do you believe that? I believe with all my heart that the good God brings out of our difficult circumstances is Himself. And we as His children have the privilege of revealing His “all-surpassing power” when we love instead of hate, when we do good to those who harm us, when we forgive as we have been forgiven.

Those of us who have the Spirit of God living in us have no excuse to do otherwise.

 

September 27 – Don’t Dance

Nehemiah 6-7

I watched some of the Presidential debate last night. I have to confess I turned it off after about 45 minutes. My blood pressure was going through the roof. I’d had enough of watching that example of how NOT to handle a bully.

And there were three of them on that stage. One hid behind a desk, one hid behind a condescending smile, and the other wore that familiar scowl. But they all acted like bullies, and all of them reacted badly to being bullied by the others. (only my opinion)

Nehemiah is a great example of how to handle bullies. He refused to react, or to sling mud back. He recognized the lies and refused to take the attacks personally. And he never lost focus on the job at hand, on what was really important.

I used to tell the Middle School students I counseled that most of the time bullies do and say mean things so they can watch you dance. Nehemiah didn’t dance.

If you are the recipient of some kind of bullying, I hope you learn from Nehemiah’s example and NOT from the dance we witnessed last night. You’ll never out-bully a true bully, anyway. But you can shut him or her down if you refuse to stoop to their level.

At least that’s what I get from Nehemiah’s example. And I’m thinking if God put it there in His Word, there must be something to it.