Thoughts on Bullying

[This is the full version of the brief synopsis I gave today. We had a very powerful time together to explore bullying and how it has impacted one of the young women in our congregation. Check out the video Joella did in church today. The link is above.]

Thoughts on Bullying

May 28, 2016

Steve Hammond

I googled the Bible and bullying to see what I came up with because there aren’t a whole lot of stories from the Bible that came immediately to mind. The best google could do was David and Goliath. It didn’t seem to quite fit to me. But, I did finally realize that much of the Bible is about bullying.

Bullying is just another manifestation of our drive to divide ourselves from each other in this world. Bullying is about the other, the person who is not one of your own kind, who is less than we are, who does not deserve to be retreated with respect. Bullying is just another symptom of our unwillingness to recognize the presence of God in each other. Kids learn that from adults.

Bullying is not some mostly adolescent behavior that kids will finally either stop doing or stop experiencing once they get older. It’s another manifestation of the kinds of violence we use against each other. And we haven’t seemed to outgrow our trust that violence will solve our interpersonal, intrapersonal, national, or global conflicts. Bullying is a part of that same tapestry. As much as we find people speaking out against bullying, the fact is that bullying behaviors are essential to the web of violence that covers our globe and our souls. And the Bible has lots to say about this.

As long as we are so enthralled by the possibilities of violence and all it can do for us, including masking our low sense of self-worth, bullying will remain with us. But since it is all a part of that same cloth of violence, challenging it is a way of challenging all forms of violence. But, that means it’s all forms of violence that must be challenged. Are we willing to do that?

You can’t separate bullying from patriarchy. For one of the premises of bullying is that there is a hierarchy in this world and bullying helps sort that out. And patriarchy still applies, even if its girls who are doing the bullying. But, as has already been mentioned this morning bullying is not uncommon in dating relationships. And maybe some of you have heard someone comment about some long married couple, “he’s such a bully.” We have patriarchy to thank for that.

Like most of you, I am stunned at how bullying has taken front and center in the current Presidential campaign. An unapologetic bully has won his party’s  nomination for the Presidency with his bullying being regarded by his supporters as one of his assets. When attacking the vulnerable and threatening the outsider are now seen as personal and national character strengths, something we want our leaders to model, aren’t our kids going to come to the conclusion that bullying is a good thing?

You may have heard me mention before Challenge Day, an organization I have had some experience with in the past. They go around to schools, civic groups, prisons, companies and corporations with the simple message that most people in this world have hard things they are dealing with. The challenge they present is to live in ways that are more supportive of each other. Maybe we can make the struggles others are having a little better, maybe we can’t. But, at least, we can make sure we aren’t making things worse by the ways we treat each other. It’s as simple as cutting each other some slack. Being nice offers lots of people lots of things. And it’s a good model to live out for our kids.

That is an easy link to what Jesus said about treating each other the way we want to be treated. The Bible also points out to the bullied and bully alike that we are loved by God and love is as the Apostle Paul put it, the more excellent way.