We live in an age where bullying and teasing are rampant, and we hear all these stories about physical bullying, psychological online bullying, known as cyberbullying, and other intimidation and manipulative techniques. This can happen anywhere, whether it be at school, at work, or through social media, and anyone can be a victim; but in this Q&A we want to concentrate specifically on young people as victims of bullying. How should they respond? We may have been a victim ourselves or we may have even participated in being the bully or involved with teasing, causing hurt to others, which we shouldn’t do, since we are to be good examples. There are attempts in the workforce or at schools where recommendations are made about whom we need to talk to when trying to deal with these problems, as well as reporting the bully to proper authorities, such as administrators, counselors, human resource departments, psychiatrists, therapists, and so on, but they tend to dismiss the most important One who could truly help us. What about God? How can God actually help US in these situations? And what does GOD say about how we should or should not react?
When it comes to God’s people specifically, we can be bullied or teased strictly on our beliefs and faced with situations where we are put to the test, as many examples in the Bible of God’s people show who had to go through this type of situation. How did they deal with it? They were also confronted with peer pressure, just as we are on a continuous basis, but the important thing is how they handled it and how we should do likewise.
Quoting at length from our free booklet, “Should You Fight in War?“:
“Do we believe in God and rely on Him for our protection, having the faith that it is GOD who is our protecting shield…? Do we think that God is incapable of helping us in certain circumstances? We should, of course, do everything that we can do to avoid getting into dangerous situations. We obviously should not go to places where gangs assemble, and we should not get involved with people who are known to be active in crimes, for instance. In addition, Proverbs 15:1 tells us that a soft answer turns away wrath but that grievous words stir up strife. So then, we need to be peacemakers, and we need to avoid everything that would create strife. Proverbs 18:6 reminds us that a fool’s lips enter into contention and that his mouth calls for violent reactions. We are also told in Proverbs 26:17 that he who passes by and meddles with strife belonging not to him, is like one who takes a dog by the ears. The point is, the battles of this world, which are fought by this world, are not our battles! This Scripture tells us not to be a fool, meddling with strife not belonging to us!…
“The most important of all the things you can do to avoid using violence is to pray to God, on a daily basis: ‘Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil’ (compare Matthew 6:13). We are to plead with God daily to NOT ALLOW a tempting situation that might be too difficult for us to bear, to overtake us. However, we read in the Bible that righteous persons have sometimes found themselves being attacked by others. What did they do, and what should YOU do, if God allows it?
“First, realize that God would NOT allow it if you were not able to bear it, as 1 Corinthians 10:13 tells us. And when God does allow it, He will also provide a way of escape for you. This is sometimes literally the case. Sometimes you need to actually flee, to run away! Christ did so on occasion. We read in John 10:39: ‘Therefore they sought again to seize Him, but He escaped out of their hand.’… When we find ourselves, or others, in a dangerous, challenging, life-threatening situation, we must PRAY to God, with faith, to HELP us out of that situation. To fight our fight for us! To give us the wisdom and the power NOT to do the WRONG thing, however tempting it may be.
“We must realize that no matter what harm we may WANT to do physically in a given situation, we must not seriously injure or kill the attacker… If we carry a gun with us or have one handy, say, next to our bed, we will certainly try to use it, but then may be killed in the process… In any case, to use a gun and shoot the attacker would be against the clear Biblical teaching of prohibiting killing. But what about just trying to injure him? In the heat of the moment, you may not be able to do just that, even if you wanted to. And if the attacker would only be injured, he would still have the chance to kill you or others who are with you. Christ told Peter, when he pulled his sword in defense of Christ and just injured the servant, to put his sword away. Christ’s protection did not depend on human weapons. It depended on God the Father and His angels. So, too, with us. Our real protection comes from the same source….”
The same applies to the use of a knife or other tools which a bullied person could use as weapons. The principle is clear not to use anything for the purpose of seriously injuring or even killing an attacker, including a bully. This could even include our own physical strength or skills which would enable us to seriously injure a bully.
Continuing with the above-mentioned booklet:
“The whole issue really comes down to where we place our trust and confidence for our protection, in EVERY situation… When man places his trust and confidence in God, God will protect man. Ultimately though, no matter the consequences, we must be living a life pleasing to God. We must never fear the ones who can take our physical life from us, but we must fear, or deeply respect, the One who can refuse to give us ETERNAL LIFE…
“We must always have the attitude that Daniel’s three friends had when they were asked to violate God’s laws by worshipping an idol, and in case of refusal, were threatened with being thrown into a fiery furnace. We need to speak and act in the same way when we are being tempted to worship Satan – the god of war – by picking up a gun or a knife or another weapon to injure or even kill another person. We read their answer in Daniel 3:17-18: ‘ … our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.’ We must not serve the wisdom of this world, worshipping the power of the air and the god of destruction and war. Rather, we must always follow the PRINCE OF PEACE.
“Remember what the angels told the shepherds when Christ was born: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests’ (Luke 2, 14, NIV), or, as the NRSV renders it, ‘ … with whom He is pleased.’… When God is pleased with us, when His favor rests on us, THEN He will be our shield and protection in times of impending battles. We must trust in God (compare Psalm 56:3-4, 8-11), AND we must be willing to obey His commandments, no matter what the situation, circumstance or consequence.”
Bullying, even over the internet as cyberbullying, is a form of verbal physical attack, so our comments made herein regarding responding to violent attacks apply clearly to bullying. In any situation that we may be in, we must firmly keep in mind God’s limitless power and His willingness to help His people, who place their trust and confidence in Him. If we are a victim of bullying, we may think about ways of fighting back, including bullying the bully. But that could also have its consequences that we just read about. Again, resorting to violence with the intent to seriously injure or kill another person, including damaging his or her reputation, even for the purpose of self-defense or defending others, is not in conformity with Christ’s teaching. Let us also never forget that God has assigned angels for our protection. Christ also knew that His protection did not depend on man’s strength — including His own — but on God the Father’s.
A true Christian must allow God to fight his battles for him. The Bible contains numerous examples of when God did just that. In our Q&A: “If someone tries to confront us physically, what is an appropriate response for a Christian? Would it be okay to try to subdue him, or should we not give any resistance at all? What if someone physically assaulted a loved one?” we say the following:
“When the ancient Israelites left the slavery of Egypt and were pursued by the Egyptians, God fought their battle for them, by drowning the enemy in the Red Sea. Moses told the Israelites at that time: ‘The LORD shall fight for you, and you shall hold your peace’ (Exodus 14:14).”
This is proven throughout the Bible on many occasions, showing what God accomplished for His people–and what He is willing and capable of doing TODAY for you and me–if we trust in His protection.
Continuing with the above-quoted Q&A:
“He protected Daniel in the lions’ den, and He protected Daniel’s three friends in the fiery furnace. All these things recorded in the Old Testament ‘were written for our admonition [or instruction], upon whom the ends of the ages have come’ (1 Corinthians 10:11). Christ told us that we must not take the sword or resort to violence. God and His mighty angels are always there to help us (compare Psalm 34:7; 91:11). But we must believe and be persuaded that no matter what the circumstances, we have to remain peaceful, while praying to God to fight our battles for us!”
We say this in our Q&A, “Do You Believe in and Teach Self-Defense?”
“God who protected Daniel in the lions’ den is ready and able to protect us today, if we long for His protection. We don’t need to use violence against others for our own protection, when we trust that God is there to help us, whenever we are in need. As we read in Psalm 46:1-3: ‘God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, Even though the earth be removed, And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though the waters roar and be troubled, Though the mountains shake with its swelling.’ And notice this comforting reassurance and promise of God’s presence in our lives, and His protection:
“‘When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you’ (Isaiah 43:2).
“At the same time, we must always look at God’s overall Will for us and our great potential and destiny for our lives, as Christ expressed in Matthew 10:28-31: ‘And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground APART FROM YOUR FATHER’S WILL. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.’”
We also need to consider our thoughts and attitudes toward bullies. It may be easy to think of them as evil people but this is not a godly attitude. Quoting from gotquestions.org on bullying: “At the very least, we should pray that the bully would have a change of heart… Many times, though, bullies act the way they do out of their own hurt. Perhaps they were bullied in the past. Perhaps they feel insecure, and the only way they can feel acceptable to themselves is by belittling others. We can empathize with their hurt and extend God’s compassion, love, and grace to them while also maintaining solid boundaries to address their wrong behavior. Whether bullying is driven by past hurt or simply the sin nature, God is the one who can bring healing, restoration, and change. It is always appropriate to pray for both bullies and their victims. Similarly, when we are the victim of bullying, we can go to God with our hurt and seek His reassurance and healing.”
Romans 12:17–21 says, “Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. 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 [God’s] 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.”
In our Q&A, “What does it mean to bless our enemies and those who curse us?” we say the following:
“When we bless those who curse us, we do this with our mouth–but our words must be coming from the heart. This includes, praying for them. Our prayer could include, asking God to grant them repentance so that their sins may be forgiven. It could include asking God to prevent them from continuing their evil deeds, since their attitudes and conduct harm themselves and others.
“Our prayer might include the plea to God to let our enemies see that what they are doing is wrong. We are not to avenge ourselves because we know that God will avenge us–and if this means that God will allow or bring trials on our enemies to bring them to repentance or a recognition of the evil of their doing, then that, too, would be a blessing for them…
“Blessing would mean not to slander our enemies or to speak evil of them, by inventing facts or ‘adding to’ the truth. It does not mean hiding the facts if there is a need to speak out, but even then, we must be sure that we do not speak or act with hate and with a desire to avenge ourselves (2 Timothy 2:17-18, 20-21; 4:14-15; 1 Timothy 1:18-20).”
This does not mean that we have to be passive victims of bullying and must not do anything in response.
In our Q&A titled, “What Kinds of Sports, Games and Related Activities Are Appropriate and Inappropriate for Christians?” we say:
“In Matthew 5:38-41 and in Luke 6:27-30, where Christ says that we must not resist an evil person; pointing out that when we are being hit, we are to turn the other cheek; when someone tries to take our cloak, we ought to leave him our tunic, and vice versa; and when someone compels us to go one mile, we must go with him two miles–the famous extra mile. Does all of this mean that we have to passively give in to violent conduct and that we can do nothing in our defense?”
We answer these questions in part 6 (pages 49-56) of our free booklet, “Old Testament Laws—Still Valid Today?:
“Jesus… addressed the principle of ‘an eye for an eye.’ He stated, in Matthew 5:38-39:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist [forcefully, by resorting to violence and thereby injuring or killing] an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.” According to the Lamsa Bible, the concept of ‘turning the other cheek’ is another Aramaic idiom, meaning, ‘Do not start a quarrel or a fight…’
“The Old Testament ‘lex talionis’ of an eye for an eye principle was never meant to be applied literally by actually maiming an offender. It was meant to outlaw personal vindictive ‘self-help’ and to allow, instead, a magistrate or a judge to consider the case and render righteous judgment by ordering the offender to pay just compensation to the victim. Jesus Christ addressed a wrong understanding of His listeners who thought they could avenge themselves. He cautioned all of us to be forgiving and kind, and He encouraged us to avoid fights and especially violence, even, if need be, at the price of foregoing our legal rights.”
As we can see, Christ did not mean to imply that we are to be helpless and passive victims and bystanders when confronted with violence. Rather, He told us not to treat violence with violence and revenge.
It is also important when we are victims of bullies, not to pay attention to or get excited about every little comment made about us. Ecclesiastes 7:21-22 admonishes us: “Also do not take to heart everything people say, Lest you hear your servant cursing you. For many times, also, your own heart has known That even you have cursed others.” Proverbs 10:12 adds: “Hatred stirs up strife, But love covers all sins.” And Proverbs 19:11 tells us: “The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger, And his glory is to overlook a transgression.”
If you are a victim of a bully, it might be appropriate, depending on the circumstances, to confront the bully, if known to you, and talk to him or her. But it is important to pray first to God that He will give you a discerning and calm heart and a willingness to help the bully to stop hurting you and others, and to give the bully a discerning and receptive heart to see and appreciate his evil conduct. The principle is laid out in Matthew 18:15. Even though it speaks of spiritual brothers, it could also apply in other situations: “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.” You might also note the admonition in Proverbs 25:8-12:
“Do not go hastily to court; For what will you do in the end, When your neighbor has put you to shame? Debate your case with your neighbor, And do not disclose the secret to another; Lest he who hears it expose your shame, And your reputation be ruined. A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold In settings of silver. Like an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold Is a wise rebuker to an obedient ear.”
Rather than immediately reporting a bully to the teacher or school principal, or to the boss at work, or “discussing” the bully with other friends in an attempt to “get even,” it might be a better idea to speak first to the bully in a private setting, after having prayerfully sought God’s guidance and inspiration as to what to say, and how to say it.
There are ways we can cope with bullying and teasing as mentioned above, especially for God’s people. There is NOTHING impossible for God who can help us in every possible way, as long as we do our part and continue being obedient to Him, obeying His Laws, and BELIEVE and have the FAITH that He will help us. Trust in God and we will have nothing to fear.
Lead Writer: Michael Link