Bullying. The very word creates fear in our day.  It has been around for a long time. For reasons that are foreign to us today, it was seen in the past as something that should be ignored or excused.  That may be some of what has contributed to the issue that we face today.  The more that bullying is seen as accepted or tolerated by society, the more bullies there will be.  For this reason, it is good that this issue has been brought to the forefront of our consciousness.  Bullying itself can be defined as a variety of negative acts carried out repeatedly over time.  We must refuse the impulse to label every bad or negative act as bullying or the word itself will lose meaning.



Bullying includes any behavior, verbal or non-verbal, that is intended to cause physical, emotional, psychological or social harm.  Such behavior is intended to isolate an individual seen as unacceptable due to physical, intellectual or even social differences.  Acceptance is a very powerful motivator, and, as a result, others who see such actions rarely stand up to the bully because of the fear that they might be the recipient of the bullying actions next.  The result is that those who suffer bullying are isolated from their peers, and they experience a severe sense of rejection and damage to their sense of worth as an individual.  This can lead to them harming themselves or others in severe cases.


The word in the Bible that best describes bullying is persecution.  There are many examples in the Bible that are very clearly incidents of bullying, including the treatment of Jesus Christ and all of the apostles.  An example of bullying that I believe we can learn a great amount from takes place in the Old Testament with David before he became the king of Israel.  The incident takes place when Saul was king, and David was one of his leaders.  The Bible tells us in 1 Samuel 18 that Saul became very envious of David because of the popularity that David had with the people.  In verse 8-9 of that chapter it says, “And Saul was very wroth, and the saying displeased him; and he said, They have ascribed unto David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed but thousands: and what can he have more but the kingdom?  And Saul eyed David from that day and forward.”

Soon after this, Saul began looking for ways to hurt David.  Several times Saul even threw a spear at David, trying to kill him.  He tried to hurt him emotionally by driving a wedge between David and his friends, and even forcing David to run away and leading his former friends to hunt him and try to kill him.  This is obviously a very severe form of bullying, going far beyond what most people would experience.  Studying David’s response can provide so much help because there are several things that we can see in his response that are important.

First, the initial response to bullying is not something that you might want to hear, but it is important for your immediate safety.  David got away from Saul when the bullying started.  I know that we want to say stand up and fight, and there is a time for that, as we will learn later, but it is not the first thing we should do.  The first thing that should be done is to get out of harm’s way.  Bullying is usually a repeated action.  It could be that the first incident is just an isolated situation from which there can be restoration.  Everyone has a bad day or responds wrong sometimes.  I am not excusing bad behavior, but one incident is not necessarily bullying.

Secondly, we must learn not to overreact to incidents.  If we are not careful, we become too reactionary to the point that every cross look is an occasion for retaliation.  The Bible says in 1 Samuel 18:14-16, “And David behaved himself wisely in all his ways; and the LORD was with him.  Wherefore when Saul saw that he behaved himself very wisely, he was afraid of him.”  This wise behavior is something that parents should teach their children about how to react when someone does a wrong to you.  Preparing your children to know how to respond in a wise fashion will not only help the immediate problem, but it may also ward off future problems.  The wise way in which David conducted himself caused Saul to be afraid to mess with him.  Often a bully is simply looking for a reaction.  Once they receive the desired reaction, they know that they can push the same button over and over to hurt you.  Behaving wisely includes not reacting in such a way that causes them to believe that you are vulnerable.


The third thing to understand in responding properly to bullying is that a person’s worth does not come from the approval of others.  The bully seeks to isolate his target, making that individual feel alone and worthless.  Aproperly developed sense of worth is not based upon what people think of you, but upon the fact that you have value with God.  Do you realize that God loves and accepts you just as you are?  The Bible teaches that God’s acceptance is not based upon our popularity or our actions, but upon the fact that He created us and desires to have a relationship with us.  He loves you so much that He gave Himself to pay the penalty for all the things you have done wrong.  He receives you based upon His desire to receive you, not your ability to be perfect.  David said in Psalm 73:24, “Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.”  In the New Testament, Paul says in Ephesians 1:6, “To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.”  To be made acceptable to God, one only need accept God’s gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ.  Having a full sense of the worth in God is important to effectively dealing with the rejection of others.

A fourth thing that must be done if the issue continues is that the person must be reported to the proper authorities.  In David’s case Saul was the king, so who would you report the king to?  In his case, that would be the one who anointed the king.  It says in 1 Samuel 19:18, “So David fled, and escaped, and came to Samuel to Ramah, and told him all that Saul had done to him. And he and Samuel went and dwelt in Naioth.”  Samuel didn’t have the authority to remove Saul from being king, but this started a process of God removing Saul’s authority, and led the point that Samuel told Saul that God had rejected him from being the king and had chosen to place David over the kingdom.

In your situation, it is not likely that the bully is a king, but it may be that they have some authority over you.  If a young person is dealing with a bully, the first person that they should go to is their parents.  With help from their parents, they should decide the best course of action that should be taken.  It may be early in the process and learning to behave wisely is a lesson that can be learned to solve the problem.  If it is further down the road, then going to authorities where the bullying is taking place would be in order.  If the authorities will not properly deal with the situation, then the parent might give the child the permission to retaliate up to a certain point.  As a rule, this should be avoided as retaliation often tends to go too far.  If the authority has set a boundary and the young person doesn’t cross it, that may be an acceptable answer.  Again, this should be a last-case scenario.  There can be a case made from scripture that if you are acting under the rule of authority, defending yourself is not wrong.  In the Bible, if someone was home at night and a burglar broke in, the homeowner had the legal right to defend themselves in any way necessary.  In both the Old and New Testament, God also gives authority of self-defense when appropriate, and after a sufficient attempt to resolve the issue.  To be sure, it is generally the one that retaliates that gets caught.


That thought brings us to the fifth thing that must be done: refuse to lower yourself to act like the bully.  In the Bible, David had two occasions to retaliate against Saul.  Both times, he let Saul know what he could have done, but choose to show grace to Saul even though he didn’t deserve it.  In 1 Samuel 24:4-5, it says, “And the men of David said unto him, Behold the day of which the LORD said unto thee, Behold, I will deliver thine enemy into thine hand, that thou mayest do to him as it shall seem good unto thee. Then David arose, and cut off the skirt of Saul’s robe privily.  And it came to pass afterward, that David’s heart smote him, because he had cut off Saul’s skirt.”  In some ways, it is good that David felt bad about what he did here even though he was not wrong to do it.  The last thing you want to do is become as callous and mean as those who are hurting you.  Often, if we are not careful, that is what retaliation can do in our hearts: we become uncaring about the pain that we cause others.  Even those who bully should be shown kindness and forgiveness because without that, we are no different.

For that reason, Jesus says in Matthew 5:44, “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;”  God so wants us to have a heart of kindness toward one another that He tells us to do good to people who hurt us and pray for those who persecute us.  This goes against what we want to do; we want to retaliate and get revenge, but again, the Bible says in Romans 12:19, “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.”  Prayer should be offered for both the victim and the bully, that there would be healing and change.  If you are the one that was bullied, then praying for the offender will help to heal the emotional wounds that are in your heart because of it.  Vengeance doesn’t satisfy like we think it will, but forgiveness heals the hurts that anger never will.


Finally, those who have been bullied should learn that others are in the same situation and need someone to stand up for them.  David learned that lesson in 1 Samuel 22:1-2, “David therefore departed thence, and escaped to the cave Adullam: and when his brethren and all his father’s house heard it, they went down thither to him.  And every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented, gathered themselves unto him; and he became a captain over them: and there were with him about four hundred men.”

David became a defender of the persecuted.  He became a helper to others who had been bullied.  Helping others in this way will help heal your own emotional pain from bullying.  Someone may need you to step up and be on their side.  They may need you to be their voice when they are too scared to speak or to be their shield from danger when they are weak.  Surviving the bullying yourself, you know what they are going through and you can help them to learn and grow in spite of the pain they have encountered.  This also helps them to realize that they are not alone like the bully is trying to imply, it helps them see that there are others that are on their side and will give them inner strength to avoid the pain of bullying that some have had to endure when no one would stand up for them.

I hope you consider these things, and even start a Bible study to learn more about the answers that the Word of God hold.

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