There is so much awareness these days about bullying. Bullies used to have the run of things on the playground. Remember back when you were a child? Fortunately now, it seems that teachers and educators are really cracking down by seeing the need to watch closely for bullying and to punish those who bully others.
What about adults who are bullied? Sadly, child bullies are likely to grow up to be adults who bully. And what about Christians who are bullied? The Bible teaches us to "turn the other cheek" and we, as Christians, certainly need to live a life of forgiveness. But is there ever a time when you stop metaphorically giving your cheek to be repeatedly slapped? Especially if you are being slapped over and over by the same person--an adult bully?
I say there is.
Definition of Emotional Bullying
My Step-Son Was Bullied
When my step-son was in Junior High school, we moved him to a new school and he was being picked on (physically) by other kids. This went on for what seemed like an eternity. Being a Christian, he wanted to do the right thing and forgive them. He kept "turning the other cheek" wanting to show them Jesus loved them and so should he. But, he was being repeatedly punched and poked and challenged by other boys. I finally sat him down and gave him some balanced wisdom.
There's A Time and Season for Everything.
I told him, that there comes a time to quit turning the other cheek. His idea of being a Christian was that you should always let yourself be "slapped" without ever defending yourself. So, I explained to him that there comes a time to metaphorically "slap back." With bullies, many times that's the only language they understand. I was in no way condoning a lifestyle of fighting--especially not fighting at school. But, it was no longer time to be nice; it was time to take up for himself. Being a black belt in Taekwondo, I knew he could. If he got in trouble for defending himself at school, I certainly wasn't going to be upset with him. There's a time and a place for everything, and it was time that these bullies know not to mess with him anymore. Mere words were not going to stop them. At this point, only my step son's confident defending of himself would do.
Sure enough, he came home the next day and told me that he didn't turn the other cheek this time--when he was "slapped" that day, he immediately defended himself--he "slapped back." The kids who observed were shocked. The bullies were stunned. He was never used as a punching bag again.
My Husband and I Also had to stand up to an adult bully.
And there wasn't a one-time remedy as in the above example. It was one of the hardest things I've ever had to go through in my entire life.
Remember the definition of emotional bullying written at the beginning of this article?
"Emotional bullying is when someone tries to gain control by making others feel angry or afraid. It is characterized by verbal abuse such as name-calling, sarcasm, incessant teasing, threatening, mocking, putting down, belittling, ignoring, and lying. Also known as adult and workplace bullying, emotional bullying also includes such abuse as exclusion from a group, tormenting, ganging up on others, or humiliation."
My family and I had years of emotional bullying from the same person who almost perfectly personified "bully." Using the above mentioned definition, this bully tried to "gain control by making [us] feel angry or afraid" many, many times over the last 6+ years.
We went through many different stages of wondering what was the "Christian" thing to do. At first, we tried our best to ignore the defamation, threats, humiliation, mocking, incessant teasing, back-to-back phone calls and lying in the hopes it would stop.
Yet, the harassment and public humiliation increasingly became more boldly demonstrative, involving the bully going to our church on two different occasions, holding up huge poster board signs with slanderous remarks written on them along with my name, while church members exited the church property.
There were threats to do the same--"picketing" with huge signs just outside our children's school grounds while people drove their children to and from school. My husband's youngest son was so nervous to even go to school the next several days and begged to us to keep him home. His stomach was in knots and he got physically sick, being so afraid to be humiliated in front of his peers. Thank God, the bully never made good on those threats.
Another time, we came home and there was blue shoe polish all over the windows of our home, with words written that I won't type and pictures I cannot explain on this forum. I never knew what the next psychotic event would be.
"Emotional bullying is when someone tries to gain control by making others feel angry or afraid [...]"
Bully Induced Fear
Not only were my children and step-son afraid, I was at the point of being afraid to go anywhere, afraid to be home alone, afraid to answer the phone (there had been so many threatening calls and messages), basically living in a prolonged state of anxiety and fear. Right now, I feel nervous just remembering back. It was such a scary and confusing time. People looking in from the outside might say how they would handle such situations, but really, unless you're been through anything like this, you just have no idea.
In everything, my husband and I still wanted to do what was "right" and please God with our words, thoughts, and actions. It seemed, though, that everything we did (or didn't do) only exacerbated the problem and encouraged more bullying. We were at our wit's end trying to do what was right.
After another incident of being followed to church and profanities being yelled at me and my son in our church parking lot (as usual, I never answered back, not even one word or one gesture), I tried to collect myself as best as I could and went inside my church to speak with the pastor's wife, desperate for some answers. I was told by our pastor's wife that we were being too nice and that by doing so, we were enabling the bully to keep acting that way. I was told it was time to quit "turning the other cheek" and time to defend ourselves--time to "slap back." I was commended for never yelling insults back and encouraged to continue holding my tongue and that our "slapping back" should consist of calling the police with every incident and filing charges each time, in the hopes that setting strong boundaries AND allowing the police and the courts to enforce them would cause the bully to stop.
After our talk, I called the police, and an officer came to our church; I filed my first harassment report. It helped hearing from a Christian leader that it was okay--even right--for us to defend ourselves. (Our previous ideas of what a Christian should be were so out of balance.)
Soon after, I had been out running errands and came home with the bully parked in my driveway. As in every other threatening event, my body was immediately in a state of alarm. While everything within me was jumping and shaking, I parked in the neighbor's driveway, called the police, and nervously waited for them to escort me into my own home. While waiting for the police officer those 20 minutes or so, I kept my car window rolled up, avoiding eye contact with the bully, still trying to do what a Christian "should do," not defending myself, not saying anything, while the bully was yelling threats and calling me names. Then, the bully walked to the front of my car (since I had been looking strait ahead) yelling at me to get out and talk. I lowered my head in bewilderment and asked God why this was happening.
A police officer came and I filed my second police report.
I felt crushed and broken...and had moments of paranoia, remembering the death threat made against me and wondering each day if that day would be the day it came to fruition. My husband decided to move us away to a gated community so that there would be no more unexpected and uninvited trespassing on our property. This also brought an element of peace and somewhat calmed my paranoia. We also began attending a different church, one the bully had no knowledge of.
After a year and a half of dealing with this bully, the courts granted us a No Contact Order which caused the bullying to momentarily end. Our home began to have increments of peace. At least the direct phone calls along with their threats had ended. None of us were scared to answer the phone any more. After that, it seemed the bully found every gray area in the law in order to indirectly harass us.
For instance, I had a child abuse hotline called on me and a report was made by the bully that I was abusing our children. A police officer showed up at my door one morning during my children's spring break to make sure our children weren't being abused. Yes, the police officer asked our children if I was abusing them. I couldn't believe it. Of course they said no. Once we showed the officer our No Contact Order and files full of the bully's harassments--photos, letters, cards, taped phone threats, police records--the police officer was satisfied that this was merely another form of the bully's harassment.
There were many other gray areas found over the years to harass like cards placed in our mail box (inside our gated community) with no postage. On one of the cards was only written what I assume to be a threat, "game over," a Dr. Phil representative calling with a request from the bully to do a show on TV, indirect contact through other people, ...I wondered when or if it would ever end.
In 2008, false harassment charges were filed against me and I was arrested for the first time in my life in 2009. I was finger-printed and mug shots were taken. The police officer told me that I was lucky I didn't have to have "a cavity search like the last woman." When was it going to stop? I just wanted to be left alone. Charges were eventually dropped by the State since the bully couldn't prove the allegations. Yet, I was still arrested as if I'd committed a crime.
So each year, after each No Contact Order expired, we would have to bring the new evidence to court to obtain another No Contact Order. We never sued for slander, for money, for anything other than, we just didn't want to bully to contact us. We never sued offensively--only defensively. It was always such a huge ordeal to get another No Contact Order, yet, we knew from experience that ignoring each incident would only encourage more bullying.
We never knew what would happen at court each year. From repeated continuances, to pictures being taken of us in the court room, to profanities being yelled by the bully's family as we were escorted out of the courthouse, to more back-to-back phone calls from the bully's friends and family. The emotional toll it took on us would last weeks before and weeks after each episode.
"[God] doesn't expect us to be a punching bag for mean, controlling people who resort to acting like the playground bully when they don't get their way."
What Did I Learn in Order to Help Others?
There were so many lessons we all learned from those experiences. Even though there was still somewhat of a lingering argument in each of our minds about our theology of God, showing Christian love, and turning the other cheek when wronged, we learned that sometimes being "too nice" can be more harmful than good.
In dealing with a bully, your own argument may be playing in your mind as well. "Doesn't Jesus teach us to love and forgive others???" Emphatically, YES! God IS LOVE. God is forgiveness. God is mercy. But, He doesn't expect us to be a metaphorical punching bag for controlling people who resort to acting like "the playground bully" when they don't get their way. He doesn't expect us to keep being harrassed and terrorized and defamed and manipulated by bullies, without ever standing up for ourselves.
We learned to be "peace-makers instead of peace-keepers [...]"
Isn't God a God of Peace?
Another struggle we had within ourselves during those long and oppressive years..."Isn't God a God of peace?"
We learned that sometimes in order to have peace, we have to be peace-makers, instead of peace-keepers; there is a difference. A peace-keeper is some one who is habitually too nice--like we were. Someone who is afraid to say anything to rock the boat or upset others, to the point that it's no longer healthy. Peace-keepers many times become enablers.
Peace-makers can still be nice to others, yet when things get out of balance, peace-makers aren't afraid to stand up for what is right, thereby, momentarily upsetting the circumstance, yet the end result is peace.
"There comes a time when having mercy and forgiveness are no longer even the issue."
Shouldn't We Forgive?
A religious mindset doesn't always understand this side of Christianiy--the side of justice, the side of courage, the side of being a confident peace-maker. Maybe sometimes justice is delayed to give the bully the space to change. And maybe justice is delayed to work on us, to see if we are willing to forgive. BUT, there comes a time when having mercy and forgiveness are no longer even the issue. After every attempt is made to get along with a bully, and that bully refuses to reciprocate and continues in his abuse, a Christian is not in the wrong to stop turning the other cheek. In taking a stand, he or she is actually making peace, refusing to enable the bully to continue bullying.
By taking a stand, I am in no means saying to do anything illegal; I am in no means saying to physically slap anyone--I'm only using "turning the other cheek" and "slapping back" as a metaphor. If you are being harassed, "slap back!" --use the law to protect yourself. The bully may try to make you feel guilty, as if you're doing something wrong by filing a complaint. As with my case, the bully may try to make you feel as if you are doing something that is anti-Christian, or not Christlike, by calling the police or taking the bully to court. Do not believe it. I'm here to say you are doing the right thing by using the law to protect yourself and your family--that's why harassment laws have been created...to protect!
If you've tried every means to get along with a bully, tried to ignore, tried to be nice, tried to be non-confrontational, yet the bully insists to keep on bullying, like me and my family, you may have to quit being so nice and enabling. You may have to get law enforcement involved and take your bully to court.
Dr. Phil Talks About Bullies and Bullying
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