How should I respond to a bully? What do I do if someone bullies me or a friend?
Even though the Bible doesn't have the word "bully" or "bullying" in its pages, there are plenty of stories about people who are definitely bullies. One word that is used to describe these people is "brutish", which refers to the brutal violence and anger of thieves, assassins, or savage beasts (Psalm 49:10; Proverbs 12:1; Isaiah 19:11). Guess what the Hebrew and Greek words translated from "brute" or "brutish" mean? Stupid. Foolish. Irrational. In fact, they are words that are used to describe cattle. Ha! Take that, bullies.
According to this definition, bullies or brutes act like beasts who are incapable of having a rational thought. All silliness aside, it is a sad reality that fallen people are sometimes going to act like this—even in the church, both guys and girls, throughout every stage of life.
Unfortunately, brutish bullies will bully anyone without discrimination. Actually, that's not totally accurate. They usually have a target in mind. In fact, Christians are often more likely to be victims, especially if they are trying to live their lives according to Jesus' command to "turn the other cheek" (Matthew 5:39).
If I turn the other cheek, how can I defend myself?
The command to "turn the other cheek" is actually a reference to honor. We shouldn't care what other people say to us because the only opinion that matters is God's. Insults sting, I know they do. But in the end, what does it matter what some jerk thinks of you? When it comes to violent physical abuse, however, you do not need to just roll over and let yourself be abused. As Christians, we can pray that God would defend us or our friends from bullies. He may send someone to help; that person may very well be you being called to defend a friend. This command from Jesus doesn't mean that we are totally denied the option of self-defense.
Ephesians 5:21-6:9 says that husbands are required to defend their wives, children, families, homes, businesses, and their nations. Where the bullying of children is involved, it is the parents' godly responsibility to protect them and remove them from danger.
Jesus cared for His followers and laid down His life to demonstrate His love for them (1 Peter 5:7). He most assuredly comforts, vindicates, and heals them (John 10:11-15).
This is important: If there is physical abuse involved, get away and get help. You may feel like nobody cares, but there are people who do. Talk to a parent or guardian, aunt, unclue, youth pastor, trusted friends, neighbors, teachers, the police—anyone who can get you some help.
What can I do to a bully?
"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." —Matthew 22:36-40
The Bible says believers are to love God with everything in them and produce good behaviors in our lives (Galatians 5:22-23). Hard as it is sometimes, that also means that we must be kind and patient with everyone—even our enemies. In the story about the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), Jesus talks about how the heart of a true friend is one that shows mercy and love to everyone.
I know it's hard to love some people, especially if they are hurting you or your friend. It's especially hard to have compassion for someone who seems like they don't deserve one iota of kindness. The thing to remember about bullies is that they're fallen people too. Even though it's hard to imagine, they are hurting just as much as you. It is an absolute fact that bullies bully because, deep down, they don't feel good about themselves. Terrorizing others is their way of making themselves feel better.
So what can we do in the moment?
Jesus says to turn the other cheek. He says to love your enemies. Defeat them with kindness. If physical abuse is a factor, get away and get help. Don't repay pain for pain. Physically defend yourself enough to get out of the situation, then seek help right away. There's no shame in running away from a bully; your life is worth more than your pride.
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