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After much thought and prayer I’ve decided to post a few articles this week about bullying. I’m posting them here as to not offend anyone that might read them on my personal blog. One day I hope to have to courage to post them on my blog. As I’m typing this my hands are shaking and my heart is pounding.
How do you recognize an adult bully at church? Sometimes it can be really hard to tell; their tactics can range from A. In-your-face to B. very subtle. The A. bully is easier to spot. They are the person who seeks you out when you are alone to hammer you about why you didn’t give their child the lead in the drama. They are the person, who gathers the group of others to join in and “gang up” on you. The others will want to come to the defense of A. and have no problem pointing out every mistake, misstep and odd look you have ever given them or their child.
It reminds me of middle school when the only way the bully had courage was to circle the wagon of their friends around you to threaten you if you did or didn’t do something they wanted. Remember those days?
Person A. makes you a target and they loudly try to drag you down. It really doesn’t matter whether you are right or wrong. They are past the point of really wanting forgiveness from you or wanting the lead for their child or whatever it is they didn’t get; they have become hunters and you are their prey. Sometimes it’s not hard to find people to stand with you against this person. Usually, after some time, you will notice more will gather around you on your side to combat against this person and their attitude. Victims eventually step out of their quiet corner as person A. continues to gather more victims; as they will target just about anyone that doesn’t give them what they want or what they perceive they deserve.
Then there is B., this person is quiet, you may never see it coming and when you do, no one will believe you. Ok, if you’re lucky, you may find a couple of people that either agree with you or will stand quietly behind you as you try to come against this person. But, it’s hard to convince anyone that this person could do harm. Their tactics are hushed and happen behind closed doors when you aren’t around. They gather their group in an organized, subtle way. For example, friends that used to speak to you no longer do. You aren’t being asked to participate in things anymore. What in the world did you do to that person? You probably didn’t worship at their feet and fall head over heels for them or an idea that they had. Eventually you feel black-listed.
I think this one hurts so much more than what person A. does. At least with A. you can defend yourself, you know where they stand, you know what the issue is. It’s hard to go against this person; person B. When confronted, this person will deny they ever said anything. “How could you think I could say such a thing?” this person will say. After all, no one else was around when they said it to you, or even if there were witnesses, no one else will go against this person. They may be in leadership, or so popular that they dare not. It doesn’t matter if the others told you to your face that they have the same problem, or that they agree with you and that they heard it also, or that they notice the same things; when push comes to shove, this person has enough clout or power to keep them from telling the truth.
So there you are, defending yourself against the people who are supposed to love you no matter what. These people are often in leadership and looked up to. They can do awesome ministry work and many times this can be why their actions are so overlooked. But it doesn’t make it right and it’s not what God would want in His church.
So what can you do when you wake up one morning after years of dealing with all of the drama? First step, pray. I mean pray honestly. Ask God to let you know if you did do anything to honestly offend this person. (That’s no excuse for the bullying by the way.) If you did do anything that warrants an apology, then apologize. Why would I say to do that? Because it takes it off of you and puts it in their court. Even if nothing changes you can at least say to others or to yourself that you did the adult thing, the Christian thing and apologized. You can now have a clear conscience. If you did nothing wrong, then move on to the next step.
Then the next thing I would do is to bring it to the pastor’s attention and try not to go alone unless you have to. It helps to have a spouse, or a witness to hold your hand. Someone else to help to verify the situation, and to be a mediator, someone who will stick up for you, and someone that can help to replay the meeting back to you later on. Ok, at least I have to have someone there to hold my hand. I despise confrontation so I need the assurance. This is especially important if the offending person happens to be the pastor.
If need be, leave the church. This is not how Christians should behave and sometimes you just have to make a break and get away from it. Unfortunately, they have never matured past middle school. Think of your children, is this how you want them to view Christianity, church, religion? Are these the actions you want them to learn? Is this how you want their view of ministry shaped? Do you want them to grow up to be adult Christian bullies in their church?
I am preaching to myself here. I’ve been through this many times, in many forms over the years of ministry work. Parents who got ticked because their kid didn’t get the lead, adults in leadership miffed because you were chosen over them to head up a ministry, women who scorn you because you dare to fall at the feet of a new pastor’s wife and the list goes on. You do not have to take it. At times I’ve allowed things to go on for far too long and should have spoken up much sooner no matter the consequence.
Christ wanted us to be around other believers so that our faith could be strengthened not our souls torn down. He wanted us to learn to teach our children how to be compassionate and kind to everyone (remember love one another?) even when they totally tick us off (remember the verses about controlling your tongue?). This is a major reason that children do not go to church as adults. It’s one of the reasons teens stop church altogether and it’s a huge reason that adults do not get involved in ministry or leave a church. I do not have to take it and neither do you or your children.
Yes, people will anger us at church. You will not get along with everyone. You will not agree with everyone. And guess what? That’s ok! Find a church that loves you and your family. You may have to try out several, but I believe you will find one. If not have some friends over and meet in your home. Bullying must stop. It must stop everywhere. It should stop at the church first. We are called to be the example and we are failing. It's time to be the Christians we are called to be.