There have always been bully’s in the world. When the Bible tells the story of the giant Goliath going out each morning to taunt the army of Israel it is a tremendous illustration of a bully. He didn’t stop the bullying until David took his sling and five smooth stones and went out to meet him in battle. I suspect that just about all of us have at times been a bully and at times have been the one bullied. When a parent reacts to a child’s mess up by screaming, shouting or threats it seems to me that it is a form of bullying. When teachers try to act like they are king or queen of their classroom and that everyone must submit to everything they say or do it is a case of bullying. Probably most of us have been bullied at one time or another by a policeman. Now I certainly don’t believe that is the attitude of most police. But it certainly has been the spirit of many in that position. What do you do when you face a bully?
Things have changed a whole bunch in the thinking of people since I was a young person. The common advise in my youth was when faced with a bully to strike first, strike fast, and strike often. Many a bully has ceased his bullying right after the one who was being bullied reached their limit and fought back. In that era if two boys got into a fight on the playground the common thinking was, even among the teachers, to let them alone and allow them to fight it out. Especially when that practice was carried out in elementary school it usually meant the fight ended pretty quickly and most of the time the boys that fought would be good friends again by the end of the day.
But things have changed. Today if the same advise was followed it would likely result in a child being punished for their behavior and maybe expelled from school for a time. The common thought now is to react by telling the teacher when you are being bullied but never to fight back. To be honest, I don’t see how that mentality will ever work. What concerns me more is that all the discussion about bullying may cause our children to think that every time they are questioned, challenged or kidded about anything that they will think they are being bullied and run to the teacher. Are we trying to produce a society that always cowers when challenged? If we bring up children with that attitude I wonder if they will carry it into adulthood and even into their thinking about how the nation should act.
But, I can almost hear someone reacting to this by pointing to Jesus statements in the Sermon on the Mount. He said if one strikes you on the right cheek turn to him the other also. He said not to resist an evil person. Paul would later write in Romans twelve that we should not avenge ourselves but give place to wrath. We were to allow God to take care of any revenge. He pictured God as saying, “Vengeance is mine. I will repay says the Lord.” He continued the thought into chapter thirteen by saying that God set up civil authorities as his ministers to punish evildoers. He said they were to execute wrath on the world and they did not carry the sword for nothing. How do these instructions fit the whole study of bullying? First, I don’t think Jesus or Paul were thinking about children. They were making the point that instead of handling everything by taking the law into our own hands wasn’t right. Jesus seemed primarily to be thinking of the attacks that came through Roman soldiers as they compelled the people to carry their load or to submit to their rule. Neither Jesus nor Paul ever seemed to be ones who just allowed people to run over them and bully them into submission.
Consider Jesus dealing the the religious leaders of the time, who tried to bully him into submitting to their ideas and traditions and who would bring about his execution later. In Matthew 23 he called the whole bunch hypocrites and said they were only interested in the outside, the appearance of things rather than the inside. If you read this whole chapter it just doesn’t sound like one who just gives in to their bullying. Nor do the times when Jesus cleansed the temple by driving out the animals and money changers with a whip. Paul was no less ready to stand firm and uphold the truth of the Lord. When the high priest had Paul in trial he ordered someone to strike Paul and his response was, “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall.” When the sorcerer tried to keep Sergius Paulus from hearing the gospel message, Paul referred to him as a child of the devil and struck him blind for his actions.
Times have changed but I’m not certain it is all for the better. I think I still subscribe to the philosophy of Mrs. Woods a teacher I had in the ninth grade. She said that every boy needs to have at least two fights in his life, one that he wins to let him know he can win and one that he loses to let him know that he won’t always win. Most of the time I think we learn more when we lose than when we win. Consider what happens later in a boys life if he has been taught to always give in and report to authorities instead of fighting back. When he is at home with a family and someone attacks his family or even a neighbor. Will he take a stand to protect his family or his neighbor or will he just make the call to the police and wait for them to arrive? I would guess that if one waits they would see either family or neighbors severely injured while waiting for the police to get there. I think I would still recommend the advise when bullied to strike first, strike fast and strike often.