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I was bullied for a few years in my early teens. I was never physically roughed up, but I was the non-stop target of verbal abuse from my peers. This lasted until I got cute, after which the bullying stopped, and the same people who’d bullied me then started to ask me out.
Needless to say, none of them got lucky.
I don’t regret having been bullied. It taught me some ground truths about the fickleness of people. It also toughened me up. It was good training for being a born-again believer.
Jesus tells us to be offended in nothing. No matter what people say to us or about us, we’re to take nothing to heart. We’re to be offended in nothing. God will deal with those people in his time and in his way. We don’t have to say anything or do anything; God will deal with it. Our job is to be like a duck and let the offences roll off us like water.
It’s sometimes easier said than done, not to be offended. When the devil works through people, he knows exactly what to get them to say. He knows exactly what will push your buttons and yank your chains. He knows exactly what will set you off. So your job is not to play into his hands. Your job is simply to remember what Jesus told us: Be offended in nothing.
It’s a shame that bullying now has such a negative connotation. There are times when bullying is warranted, and it does teach some important life lessons, including how to ignore stupidity and be patient with people. Is it pleasant to be bullied? Absolutely not. I spent countless nights in tears as a young teen, sitting alone in my room plotting my revenge. But I was still a child, and an atheist one at that. I responded to emotional pain by wanting to inflict emotional pain. A tit for a tat.
I’m no longer a child or an atheist. I take my cue from Jesus on how to respond to provocations. I don’t cave to my emotions, at least not as a default response. It’s not my plan to cave, though sometimes my emotions do momentarily get the better of me.
When that happens, I don’t beat myself up afterwards. God gave us emotions for a reason, and the main one is to let off steam. That’s not to say you should use steam-letting as an excuse to fly off the handle at the slightest provocation. No. When Jesus tells us to be offended in nothing, he expects us to follow that guidance to the best of our ability.
I strive to, but occasionally I miss the mark. I let an f-bomb fly. I return a tat with a tit. I engage in the provocation rather than let it go. I mumble something unpublishable under my breath. I forget to love my enemy and curse him instead, before hastily retracting it. In other words, I initially react as someone in the world rather than someone in the Kingdom.
What does God have to say when this happens? Well, he’s not shocked. And he’s got some pretty good industrial-strength ear plugs, so anything untoward that might spill out of my mouth doesn’t necessarily have to reach his ears. Thanks to Jesus’ guidance and the constant presence of God’s Holy Spirit, caving to my emotions is rare enough not to be a thing with me, but it still happens. Jesus also lost it on occasion, so I guess I’m in good company in that regard.
How about you? Are you a cave woman or cave man on occasion? When that happens, do you beat yourself up afterwards? Do you learn from it? Do you pinpoint what triggered you and try your best not to be triggered next time?
The moral of this story is that every now and then we’re going to lose it. That’s pretty much a given, as long as we’re still in a human body buffeted by emotions. We’re going to cave to those emotions and let slip some words and sentiments we may even have forgotten we knew. This, too, is a temptation. But like all temptations, we need to see it for what it is, label it as such, and move on. No point in belabouring our failures, if we do fail. God doesn’t want us wallowing. He wants us learning, both from our victories and our failures.
Bullying has its purposes. It toughened me up and showed me the nature of people. I don’t think I could walk away from offenses as easily as I do now if I hadn’t been bullied as a teen. I thank God for Jesus’ scriptural guidance in this regard, and I also thank God for those hardcore lessons in human nature all those years ago. God can take anything – including bullying – and ultimately turn it around to our benefit.