Have you ever been a victim to bullying? Bullies are not just children. You can experience bullying at any age. Perhaps the bully is your boss, your co-worker, the person sitting across from you at lunch, the hurried person at the store or someone at school. As our nation becomes less Christian and more humanistic, the problem will only get worse. We have to learn how to respond to these people. We live in a lost and hurting world. It is up to believers to stop the cycle of hate.
As I researched this topic on the internet, I was surprised to find that research is showing some changes in the types of people who are bullying. In the 70’s and 80’s, bullies were characterized as having low self-esteem and living in troubled homes. Now research shows that bullies are actually popular and are ego-centric. They are motivated by watching their victims squirm.
If you are a parent of a bullying victim, I know you are struggling with how to comfort and train your child in how to handle these difficult situations. If you are an adult being bullied, you might be struggling with unforgiveness. Rather than look to psychology and the world to solve your problem, the Bible has the best answers for bullying. You won’t find the term “bully” in your Bible. Instead the Bible uses the word “enemy”.
How does the Bible say to treat your enemies?
If you are the victim of a bully,the first question to ask is, “Did I do anything to provoke the bully?” Perhaps you said something rude to the bully or the bully has accused you of doing something rude. You might need to go to the bully and apologize. Now if the bully has threatened your life or to harm you, then you might not be able to go to them. Use your best judgment. If this is the case, then pray for the Lord to open the door for you to be obedient. The Bible says:
“Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” Matthew 5:23-24 (NKJV) .
According to this verse, you need to go to the person and try to reconcile. You might be surprised at what reconciliation can do for a relationship. This might resolve the situation. If not, then you have been obedient to God. When we are obedient to the Lord, we know he hears our prayers (Psalm 66:18). We can pray the Lord will change the heart of the bully.
When reconciliation does not work, then how should we respond to the bully?
I am going to answer this question with a list of Bible verses.
“But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise. But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful” Luke 6:27-36 (NKJV).
“Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing” 1 Peter 3:8-9 (NKJV).
“If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” Romans 12:18-21 (NKJV).
“Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you” Ephesians 4:31-32 (NKJV).
“A soft answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger” Proverbs 15:1 (NKJV).
“Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil” Ephesians 4:26-27 (NKJV).
“If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey going astray, you shall surely bring it back to him again. If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying under its burden, and you would refrain from helping it, you shall surely help him with it” Exodus 23:4-5 (NKJV).
“Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, And do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles” Proverbs 24:17 (NKJV).
If you respond to the bully in a negative way such as sarcasm, name calling or revenge, then you are no better than the bully. When Jesus Christ stood before the Sanhedrin at his trial, he did not defend himself. When Jesus was arrested, he healed the soldiers ear which Peter cut off. Jesus never responded to his enemies with evil. In reality, bullying is a type of persecution. The Bible promises that Christians will be persecuted. It also says that persecution will get worse, as we can see in our world today.
“Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” 2 Timothy 3:12-15 (NKJV).
Remember that the person who is bullying you is probably not saved. The only way for them to truly change and become more loving is to become a Christian. If Christians respond in anger to bullies, then they will think that Christians are no different than anyone else. Perhaps by showing the love of Christ, they will feel ashamed of their behavior and quit harassing.
“But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled. But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil” 1 Peter 3:14-17 (NKJV).
The Bible also reminds us that Satan is behind the bullying. So remember that the battle is not actually with the individual, but with Satan and his demons. When a believer is verbally attacked, Satan is behind the attack. He is just using the bully as his pawn to get to you. Putting on the full armor of God will help you to stand firm when persecution arises. This does not mean that you stand firm against the attacker, but you will be able to withstand the persecution. If you are strong in your faith, you will see the attack for what it is, rather than an attack on your character. These attacks should not cause low self-esteem in the victim. Our esteem comes from our relationship in Jesus Christ, not from our relationship with the world.
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm” Ephesians 6:12-13 (NASB).
If you follow these Biblical principles, you might not win an actual fight against a bully. Hopefully, these Biblical principles will diffuse the situation so that a fight does not begin. Just remember to forgive you enemies (Matt. 6:14-15), don’t hold a grudge (Eph. 4:26-27) and you will be rewarded by the Lord for you good behavior. You might also heap coals of fire on your enemies head (Rom. 12:18-21).
“Blessed are you when men hate you, And when they exclude you, And revile you, and cast out your name as evil, For the Son of Man’s sake. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy! For indeed your reward is great in heaven, For in like manner their fathers did to the prophets” Luke 6:22-23 (NKJV).
So the way to respond to a bully is with love. If the bully says something rude to you, then respond with a complement. Complement his/her outfit, hair or shoes. Try to do something nice for the bully. If the bully is your boss, them give them a gift certificate to Chick-fil-a. Then pray for him or her. By obeying the Word of God, you will heap coals of fire on their head. Perhaps you will one day be able to lead them to Christ.