How do you respond to a confrontational situation? When someone says something you don’t agree with, are you responding in a way God would desire of you?
Do you feel like you have to be right all the time? That you have to have control of the situation? If you are young, do you feel that the older generation are “out of touch” and you’re the one who really understands the world? Or, are you of the older generation who views all younger people as “just kids” who will never understand the world like you do?
And if you do feel one of these ways, do you speak to people in this manner? Or do you keep it to yourself? How would Jesus want us to speak and behave around others with different interests than our own?
There are three general ways in our world that a person responds to an uncomfortable situation.
We either act passively, aggressively, or passive-aggressively.
Passive action is “accepting or submitting without objection or resistance; submissive” (reference here). This person hears that there is a promotion opportunity at work and may or may not apply for it, but does nothing else about it.
Aggressive action is “assertive, bold, and energetic” (reference here). The aggressive person confronts the situation head-on. They see that there is a promotion available and immediately starts working on a resume and setting up a schedule to see the boss. The aggressive person may be kind or a bully.
“A Passive-aggressive individual deals with emotional conflict or stressors by indirectly and unassertively expressing aggression toward others. On the surface, there is an appearance of compliance that masks covert resistance, resentment, and hostility.” (Resource: Foundations of Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing by Saunders 5th Edition). This person may or may not apply for the promotion.
If they apply, they may act like it’s not important to them, but if they don’t get it they harbor resentment in their heart toward either the boss who didn’t hire them or the person who did get the position. They harbor hostility in their hearts toward someone else which they indirectly and unassertively express aggression toward. Perhaps they tell “inside jokes” that seem innocent to everyone and a good laugh–but in their heart, are really meant unkindly.
How does this apply to us and those around us?
I personally appreciate most aggressive people. I enjoy people who know what is important and go for it. To me they are easy to talk to because I know what they want and where they are headed. However, when aggressive people will step on others to get what they want, that makes them a bully. There are subtle ways a person may not realize they are being a bully.
For example, if someone makes an offer and you say “no,” the person should respect your decision and stop pushing. When they are aggressive and either continue to repeatedly ask or come up with reasons why you should change your mind, they are being a bully.
How this may apply to you: Look deeply at your actions. Do you push people into making decisions? Even if you mean well, are you pushing your point of view onto them?
Perhaps you are well aware of someone in your life whom you tell “no” and they keep pushing you to change your mind? This person is exhibiting signs of bullying you.
On the other hand, maybe you are passive-aggressive. When you don’t get your way, do you smile at someone while feeling hostile toward them in your heart? If something doesn’t go your way, do you say mean things “in a nice way” to someone else? Or maybe you say more nice things in a nice way because of resent in your heart? Even if that other person is unaware of what your heart is harboring, it is passive-aggressive. And it makes you a bully.
On the other hand, do you have a friend who treats you this way? I recently watched a friend go through a situation I feared would fail. I could see that it was important to her, but no one else. Because she was my friend, I supported her to achieve her goal, but alas it failed. I could see that she was hurt.
When I tried to comfort her however, she began to say very rude things in nice ways to me. This is a repeated reaction toward me when she doesn’t get her way that I have noticed over the years. Having a back-ground in psychology, I recognize the signs every time. My very loving Christian friend was being a bully to me.
Are you being a bully? Or do you have someone bullying you? I think we have all been on both sides of this equation at one point or another. So what do we do about it?
We need to first recognize that it is not okay. God’s word tells us
Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips…so that they may encourage the young women… to be sensible…kind…so that the word of God will not be dishonored. Titus 2:3-5
He is telling older women to be reverent (respectful) in their behavior…so that they may encourage the young women. He tells us it doesn’t matter how old or young we are, he wants us to be respectful in our behaviors.
It is not okay to be a bully. And if someone else is being a bully to you, you don’t have to take it. So what do we do about this?
If you are the bully, you need to stop, admit your sins to the other person, and repent. It’s as simple as that. (If you make a call to someone after reading this and tell them, “So, I read this thing today, and I guess I have to call and apologize or something,” while you are resentful in your heart–you have completely missed the point.)
I have had to do this myself. I understand how hard it is.
If you are being bullied by a friend, you need to bring it to that friend’s attention and let them know it’s not okay. Even if you have thick skin. Friends don’t bully each other. Set some boundaries. This should not be a fight. If you’ve been hurt, you may need to tell them it hurts you. Above all, be ready first to forgive, and second to keep your boundaries.
I have had to do this as well. This one isn’t as hard for me. It has had some big consequences however. When I was younger, I would tell the person, I’m sorry but you can’t treat me this way. Generally the relationship fizzled as I held my ground. And I found new friends who didn’t bully me.
In my slightly more mature days, I have tried to save the relationships. I have told the person, I love you and you’re a great friend. I would like to remain good friends, but you can’t treat me this way. It must stop. Do you think we can work this out?
Friends that are truly repentant and love me deeply I see a change in. But I would be lying to you if I told you that every Christian woman will respond this way once she realizes what she is doing.
I have also had a friend who reluctantly agrees, says she wants to change, but repeats this cycle over and over again making excuses each time. I’m preparing myself to mourn this relationship–because it isn’t healthy for me to be bullied, and it isn’t healthy for her to learn that it’s ok to bully friends. Only time will tell if it turns around.
I suggest trying to save relationships. But both of you deserve better if the boundaries can’t be kept. This is the much longer and more emotional road.
Are you in a tough spot where you are setting or trying to maintain boundaries?