The Solution for Bullies.

Some weeks ago (March 2010), the TV show "Sunday Night" had a segment on their  program about "bullies".  A number of guests coming from different aspects of the problem had been gathered together in the studio, and they were encouraged to comment on their side of the story.  Most had been victims, or parents of victims, but some admitted to having been the bully earlier in their lives. Usually  when they were children or in their teens.

While there were some excellent points raised, and different points of view given, I felt the real solution was overlooked.

However, before we can talk about solutions, it helps if we can see why the problem exists.

Understanding man.

As I understand it, when God created mankind, He first started with the animal parts of man.  Just like all other mammals, man has a skeleton of bones overlaid with muscles, sinews, flesh and skin. Inside our bodies are organs that carry out specific functions, such as the brain controlling bodily functions, and the heart pumping blood through the arteries and veins. God also put within this "animalistic" part of a human, certain survival instincts, and a drive to procreate the species.

When a man or woman is operating at this "animal level", then how they will react to certain situations is highly predictable by watching how other animals behave.

Then, in order to lift mankind above the level of animals, God also gave mankind the "spirit of man".

Job 32:8 NET.  But it is a spirit in people,
    the breath of the Almighty,
    that makes them understand.

You might also want to look at Job 32:8, 38:36, 1 Kings 4:29, Prov 2:6, 1 Cor 2:11.

This "spirit of man" allows mankind's brain to rise above the level of other animals, and they can think,  make plans, design and create things, express emotion, and so on. They can use their wisdom to understand the end result of certain actions, and then take steps to do things differently when needed.

We also believe that it is this spirit that retains our memory bank when we die, and all the other details (like DNA)  that will be used for our resurrection.

We need to keep in mind that, while the spirit of man allows us to operate on a higher plane to that of  the animals, we still retain all our "animal" characteristics.  This means that if we choose to ignore the advantages of the "spirit of man", we are left  using only our animal instincts. For simplicity, I will call this the "animal level", but do not take that to mean that we somehow can lose the "spirit of man".  It is always with us, but mankind can chose to not use the benefits it can bring.

To make the point a little clearer, it might pay to look at two extremes of mankind's behavior.  At the lowest level, men can become like "cave men", who live by the rule of "survival of the fittest", and their main driving force is to find enough food to live for the day. When there is enough food, then their next need is some form of "entertainment".  In modern day terms, the "cave" can be an apartment, the "forest" can be a city, the "tribe" can be a gang, and their "entertainment" is to win and control a section of the turf.

At the other extreme are men and women who have taken the time to educate themselves, and have gone on to produce great works of art, music, literature, and so on. Some have designed and built things that make life richer for millions of others. Others use their acquired skills and knowledge to help others - such as doctors, dentists, nurses, and so on.

It was never God's intention for mankind to stay at the "spirit of man" level. God wants all men and women to rise up to a third level, where they operate with the Holy Spirit - or the Spirit of God.  In other words, prepare themselves for a place in the family of God as resurrected (changed) spirit beings.

 Eph 2:19 NLT  "...  You are members of God's family."

Moving from the "spirit of man" level to the "Spirit of God" level, is the story of salvation, and is covered in other articles.

What level are people operating on?

When you have to interact with another human, you need to understand what level they are operating on. Are they trying to make the most of what the "spirit of man" will allow them to do, or are they just living on instincts?

Those living close to the animal level.
People who have allowed themselves (in their mind, so you can not always go on looks) to sink down towards the animal level, are called "dead" in Bible terminology, and because they have rejected all help from God, automatically come under the influence of Satan the Devil - the one who can spread His influence through the air like radio waves.

The Bible has this to say about people operating at this "animal" level.  Eph 2:1-3 NET.  "And although you were dead [or at the "animal level"] in your transgressions and sins,  (2)  in which you formerly lived according to this world's present path, according to the ruler of the kingdom of the air [Satan], the ruler of the spirit that is now energizing the sons of disobedience,  (3)  among whom all of us also formerly lived out our lives in the cravings of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath even as the rest…"

Notice that Satan "energizes" or encourages disobedience.  This means that people who are actively being a bully, may have a strange sensation that it is "the right thing to do", because they are mixed up about the thought processes that are coming from Satan, and the correct thought processes that should be coming form God's instructions.

In the world today, what type of people are living their lives controlled by "cravings of their flesh"?

Obviously people who are addicted to drugs, alcohol, tobacco, sex, gambling, and so on.

What types of people are living their lives by "indulging the desires of the flesh and mind"?

Again, the list is long, but it includes bullies (since we are talking about them) certain sex practices, pornography, those dishonest in business, those taking bribes, all kinds of abusers, and the list goes on.

Basically those humans operating down at the "animal level" will usually not listen to another human. To put it another way, it is almost useless to just tell a drug addict to stop taking drugs, or an abuser to stop abusing.  There is little use being made of the "spirit in man" in their lives, so it becomes almost impossible to reason or argue logic with them. They are "driven" by their animal instincts, and their sole purpose in life is to satisfy the "self", or in many cases escape from their reality.

To get them to change - to stop the animal type behavior - can be difficult. Two options are:-

Deu 25:2 NET.  "Then, if the guilty person is sentenced to a beating, the judge shall force him to lie down and be beaten in his presence with the number of blows his wicked behavior deserves".

The right fear of punishment will often help people stay away from bad situations. However, since most of society does not condone corporal punishment these days, this is not really an option. Another fear that might help, is rejection by their peers, but again, if their friends condone such behavior, it will not happen. About the only other fear, is a right fear of the police and judicial system. Unfortunately, in today's world, this too is being diluted.

The other, as Dr Phil often indicates, is the removal of the person from the source of contamination. The addict goes into rehab. The abuser moves out of the house. The bully is expelled from school, that sort of thing.

Those using the "spirit of man", and are at a higher level.
People who are holding their "animal" instincts in check, and are using their God given human reason, are usually people who you can influence by giving them solid facts and a logical argument.  They can see the wisdom in what you are saying, and if their character is strong enough, they will endeavour to do the right thing. You also need to keep in mind that no human is perfect, and all of us can make a mistake at any time. So a few slip ups does not mean that they have thrown away the benefits of the "spirit of man".

Another factor to keep in mind, is that when Adam and Eve ate of the fruit of "the knowledge of good and evil", they brought that good and bad knowledge - along with sin -  on all their descendants. Any man, woman or child is capable of doing either good or bad at any time. Thus "good" men can do evil, and "evil" men can do good. Just doing a good deed sometimes - while better than none - does not solve the problem of our fickle human nature.  We need a heart that is set to do God's will all the time (Mat 7:21).

Those at the highest level, and are using the Spirit of God.    
People who are trying to operate with the Spirit of God are people who are trying to live by  the Ten Commandments, as summarized by Christ in Mat 22:37-40 NET.  "Jesus said to him, " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.'  (38)  This is the first and greatest commandment.  (39)  The second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'  (40)  All the law and the prophets depend on these two commandments."

While these type of people will still make mistakes, and sin from time to time, very likely they will recognize it, repent, and correct it themselves, or will do so with a minimum amount of instruction.

Summary of options.

How do you get people to change their bad behavior?

For those operating towards the animal level, you have to create a situation that they fear more than the "thrill" they get by throwing away all restraint, and satisfying their fleshly motivations.  Or you will need to physically remove them from the source of their "cravings" or "desires".

For those trying to live at the higher end of the spirit of man level, counsel and education will usually get results.

Some friendly advice is usually sufficient for those who are trying to rise to the Spirit of God level. However, they too, may also need more education on certain points.

What makes people become bullies.

I can only talk from personal experience on this point, and will mention just two points. No doubt others can expand on that.

If we look at the animal kingdom, we can see a common thread that the weak are culled out.  Lions and other large cats attack the weak and stragglers. If a chicken gets damaged or sick, the others will peck out its eyes and leave it to die of thirst.  In drought conditions, ewes (and other animals) will walk away from their new born lambs because there is not enough feed to keep both of them alive.  And the examples keep going.

Usually a bully will pick on someone who is weak or "different".  In other words, they are allowing their animal nature to control his or her actions.

The other reason people become abusers - which is what bullies are - is that they get a certain "satisfaction feeling" from exercising their power over other people. By putting others down, they feel "lifted up". I have also read where rape is also more about forcing someone to "submit", rather than a need for sex.  Vanity, ego, a lack of Christian education, and low self-esteem are all factors in abuse situations, it would seem.

God's position.

Lest, at this point, someone tries to blame God because He gave us our "animal" nature, yet us review some statements from God Himself.  I have not counted them all as yet, but I would imagine there are over 100 Scriptures where God instructs us to look after the weak and "different" people of our society.  He often uses the description of the "fatherless and widows" as a general title for those in need of help.

Zec 7:9-10 NET.  "The LORD who rules over all said, 'Exercise true judgment and show brotherhood and compassion to each other.  (10)  You must not oppress the widow, the orphan, the foreigner, or the poor, nor should anyone secretly plot evil against his fellow human being.'"

Deu 10:17-19 NET.  For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, mighty, and awesome God who is unbiased and takes no bribe,  (18)  who justly treats the orphan and widow, and who loves resident foreigners, giving them food and clothing.  (19)  So you must love the resident foreigner because you were foreigners in the land of Egypt.

Isa 1:17 NET.  Learn to do what is right!
    Promote justice!
    Give the oppressed reason to celebrate!
    Take up the cause of the orphan!
    Defend the rights of the widow!

Obviously God does not condone "bullying" those who are "different" or weak.

We were given animal instincts to protect the species and to survive in the worst case scenario, but we were never intended to follow those instincts as a way of life.

What I see as the solution to the bully problem.

 From what we have seen so far, it seems obvious to me that the more we operate in the Spirit of God zone, then the greater chance we have of getting it right - that is, not using our human strength to abuse another person. When we are fully using the benefits of the "spirit of man", then again it is unlikely that we would resort to bullying someone else to make ourselves feel "better". However, once we start living life with our "animal zone" instincts, then the chances of a human resorting to abuse and becoming a bully are high.

So what we need to do, is to start training our children in the ways of God at a very early age - certainly before going to pre-school or school. They should especially be taught how to analyze situations and resolve them by the Second Great Commandment - "Do unto others as you would have them do to you". Another way of putting it is "Treat others as though they were yourself".

In life, there are many situations each day that parents can use to explain the principle involved, and how the child is to resolve the situation.  They should be taught by words and examples, to go out of their way to help the weak and disadvantaged. Even the simple action of cutting a cake, and then letting someone else select the first piece, is a learning situation.   Getting children to respect (do not touch without permission) the possessions of others, is a huge step forward.  If they can learn to respect physical things, then it is a small step to get them to also respect the humans around them.

When children are taught and learn that others have "rights", and those "rights" are to be respected because you want your own "rights" respected, then their interaction will not get down to the "animal" level of forcing their basic instincts on others. Children need to understand that just because someone is "different", it does not stop God from making their life useful in the long run. We are to protect the weak and "different" people, and give them a chance to grow.

One more thing is required.

I have already mentioned in passing that fear can be a motivating force for humans. As I see it, having something greater than yourself to fear, is a necessary part of living a healthy Christian life.  We need to teach our children that there will be a time of judgment about what we have done in life. 2Co 5:10 NET. " For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be paid back according to what he has done while in the body, whether good or evil".

At the same time, we need to be careful not to make children afraid of God Himself - just His ability to correct us for our wrong actions. To help bring some balance to the fear of punishment, we also need to instruct our children in how God will reward for good behavior.

It is a repeated theme throughout the Bible, that God and Christ will reward the good, and punish the bad.  I believe that our children should be carefully instructed about this simple formula early in life. Mat 16:27 NET.  "For the Son of Man will come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done".

Unfortunately, in the past, some religious men have picked up the healthy fear and punishment aspect of the Bible, and then taken it to an extreme.  They have done a lot of damage. The Bible does not support the idea of people burning in hell for eternity, or any other form of on going punishment.

However, it certainly does support the concept of those who do not rise above the "animal level", being burnt up in an instant in the lake of fire.

Rev 21:8 NET.  "But to the cowards, unbelievers, detestable persons [which includes bullies], murderers, the sexually immoral, and those who practice magic spells, idol worshipers, and all those who lie, their place will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur. That is the second death."

Rev 22:12 NET.  "... I am coming soon,  and my reward is with me to pay each one according to what he has done!"

I believe that parents should emphasize the rewards for doing good more than the negative, but children do need to understand that God will ultimately  punish bad behavior. Another important factor, is that God will forgive us if we get it wrong, after repentance and change. Just saying sorry is not enough - there must be evidence of change to back up the "sorry" statement. Mat 3:8 NET.  "Therefore produce fruit that proves your repentance".

It is a theme of the Bible that God will be there for people who are trying to live their life with the help of the Spirit of God.  They will still have troubles and difficulties, but God will be there to help them through those times, and no doubt, they will learn something from the experience.

It is also a theme of the Bible, that if we ignore God, He will become our enemy - and if there is no repentance and change, ultimately He will destroy us.


Bullying is a form of abuse.

As I understand it, bullies exist when people allow their "animal instincts" to control their actions. A contributing condition is that they are unable to feel love or compassion for their victims.

We also need to understand that, if a bully is being bullied or abused by others (especially at home), they will often turn around and bully others. In other words, they mimic what they see.

To stop a child growing up into a bully, they must be taught early about God's plan for all humanity, and how to live life by the Second Great Commandment - to treat others the way they would like to be treated if they were in their position. This needs to start in the home from the time they are born, as children learn more from what they see than from what they are told.

Children need to be kept away from abuse because of the principle - "Monkey see, monkey do".

Children (and all people) need to understand about the three levels of living life.

Animal level.

When people are living at the animal level, they are only concerned with self.
The only type of love they know about involves getting people to do things for them - "Come through for me" type of thing.
Since they are totally selfish, any thing that promotes the "self" over others - even if for only a few seconds - feels good.

Human level.

Using the spirit of man, humans at this level can think and reason, and plan around problems.
There can be a higher level of love involved, and they are willing to sacrifice their will (and animal pulls) in order to build a relationship with others.
There can be give as well as take in their life.
They can see the negatives of mistreating others, so are capable of taking steps to avoid it.
However, we also need to know that hurtful actions of people around them - such as an insult or a car cutting in front - can cause enough anger to drop them back to the animal level in seconds.
Some drugs and alcohol can also do the same thing.

Holy Spirit level.

When humans ask for the help of the Holy Spirit, they also try to live life according to God's laws. (No obedience - no Holy Spirit Acts 5:32).
The Ten Commandments are an umbrella over all of God's laws, and were summarized by Jesus in Mat 22:34-40.
People who keep the Ten Commandments - Christians - can love, and share love, with family and friends, but then go on to more.
With the help of the Holy Spirit people can love - not for what they get in return - but because it is the right thing to do.
Thus they can love their enemies and those who are "different", without first building a relationship with them, because God tells us that is the right thing to do.

Where are we headed?

Because - as I see it - people are not being taught to live according to God's laws, bullies and other random attacks of violence will increase. Without something/someone greater than themselves to fear, and without the knowledge that all humans are required to rise above their animal instincts, humans can quickly sink to their "cave man" status, and become "tribal".

If we do not get back to making God and His laws first and foremost in our life, then God says that He will take away the blessings He has given us - good land, freedom from enemies, resources, and so on (Deut 28:1-13).

The increase in bullying (mental, emotional, verbal or physical abuse), random acts of violence, alcohol fueled violence, gang wars, and other society destroying behavour, is a warning to the nation that God is about to take us into captivity, and destroy all that we have taken for granted (Deut 32:35-43, Deut 28:14-62).

We need to reverse the situation and start teaching our children about God and His way of life, or be prepared to accept the consequences (Mal 4:6).

Bob Orchard April 2014

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