Watch your words, they become actions.
Watch your actions, they become habits.
Watch your habits, they become your character.
Watch your character, it becomes your destiny. -Anonymous
Sometimes there is a confluence of events that that makes current issues so vivid and obvious that it is hard to deny divine intervention.
The new film “Bully” just happens to overlap with yet another controversy in response to crude comments from Rush Limbaugh aimed at those who he disagrees with, and cannot defend themselves (usually women) and another pointless massacre in Afghanistan.
A working definition of bullying might be the ability to force your will on someone else with little or no accountability.
Bullying could conceivably be defined as a primary organizing theme of human history. We certainly see it across our culture, from school yard, to workplace to national and international politics, where unrestrained force working its will in the world.
Unrestrained willfulness wreaks havoc everywhere it goes. We see the lack of impulse control of the legendary “terrible twos”, across our airwaves and our own attitudes.
Bullying across our public spectrum does not emerge from nothing. Bullying takes years of nurturing and accommodation. Bullying, like every human activity, does not occur in a vacuum.
Every act, every attitude, every habit of bullying takes years, and the help, or silence, of many to come into being.
There is such a thing as “bully logic” with two basic premises; “Because I can” and “Who is going to stop me?”
You don’t have to look very closely to see how far we have drifted – or fallen – from basic human decency and common compassion in almost any school, work or public arena.
If there is anything I learned in junior high, it is that bullies are cowards and they cultivate a culture of lying, self-justification and blaming. Parents, teachers and school administrators get caught up in defending or justifying their own inadequacy as they defend or deny the acts of a bully.
Cowardice and brutality dominate human history. Those who are complicit with, who justify or excuse bullying are at least as culpable as any bully.
Confronting a bully, on the other hand, at least at first, is a solitary venture, and by any definition, is an act of courage.
A classic Bible story, a favorite of many, is the story of David and Goliath.
David, as we all know, was a kid, some say a teen-ager.
He is too small for the standard armor of a soldier, and the weapons of a warrior are too large and cumbersome for him.
As you read this story, you can almost sense the gasp of despair as the kid with the handmade weapon steps out to face the giant, the bully of the Philistines.
And bully he is as he taunts the people of Israel. He knows, in fact he literally is living proof, that no one can stop him.
This bully, like every bully, is unprepared for the obvious; every bully, however menacing, is mortal.
Determination and skill, even of one, is enough to take down a bully.
Bullying has its limits, whether physical, political or financial.
There is something ugly and empty about bullying. Bullying is one of the few things that is purely evil; there is no justification, no rationalization that will stand. It, like perhaps no other human act, is the Fall in action.
We have the choice, as perhaps in every moral dilemma, to act on the side of complicity and cowardice – or on the side of courage.
Complicity and cowardice are far easier, and, for better or worse, you have more people around you, probably nodding in numb approval, but usually sharing a look of mutual shame and perhaps a sense of relief that, this time at least, we are not the direct victim of the bully.
But we are the indirect victim, this time.
If we stand up to the bully, we will almost certainly stand alone – and could easily become yet another victim.
The stain of bullying affects many, but it need not infect us all.
True strength does not show itself by disempowering or victimizing others; quite the opposite in fact.
Jesus made it clear when he acknowledged the brutality and corruption of the religious and political leaders of His time (Matthew 20:25-28) and said that his followers would be quite different – they would in fact, be the servants of all.
Turning the other cheek is only the beginning. Courage is never easy, but we are empty without it. Love always costs. Love costs the giver, bullying costs everyone else.
Courage restores us all, and reminds us who we are.
Sitting Bull, the Lakota Sioux put it this way –
“Warriors are not what you think of as warriors. The warrior is not someone who fights….The warrior is one who sacrifices himself for the good of others. His task is to take care of the elderly, the defenseless, those who cannot provide for themselves, and above all, the children, the future of humanity.”
I have a one year old grandchild. When she sees me, she runs to me and as I lift her up to my chest, I can feel her collapse. She rarely hugs me, at least at first. Her arms are usually spread out, she knows at a gut level that she doesn’t need to hold on to me. I have her solidly. She has found, however temporarily, what we all need; a place of ultimate refuge and welcome.
This is what bullies attempt to steal from us, and what God holds in trust for each one of us.
Morf Morford considers himself a free-range Christian who is convinced that God expects far more of us than we can ever imagine, but somehow thinks God knows more than we do. To pay his bills, he’s been a teacher for adults (including those in his local county jail) in a variety of setting including Tribal colleges, vocational schools and at the university level in the People’s Republic of China. Within an academic context, he also writes an irreverent ESL blog and for the Burnside Writers Collective. As he’s getting older, he finds himself less tolerant of pettiness and dairy products.