Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Intimidation v. Bullies: A Case For A Better Church

When I was in eighth grade, a girl that I did not know picked a fight with me. After half a dozen attempts to get away from her and avoid the fight, she managed to finally provoke me. We were leaving the gymnasium in school, and she continually kicked the back of my legs. I warned her sternly, but she didn't listen. I turned around to walk away and she kicked me again. I lost control of my temper, and I turned and shoved her - hard. The parade of kids from the gym surrounded me, and I lost sight of her. I trudged into the locker room trying to ignore the constant questions. "What is going on?" "Who is she?" "Why won't she leave you alone?" "What are you going to do?" "Do you even know her?"

I entered the locker room, and I walked to my gym locker. As I was spinning the dial of the padlock, I heard a loud noise as something hit the back of my head. My face pounded into the locker door, and I was absolutely shocked.

Apparently, after I had responded by shoving her she was embarrassed. She walked back toward the gym, picked up a metal folding chair, and with all of her might struck me in the back of the head with it. I'm going to leave the story here because the rest is really unimportant, but needless to say we both ended up in the office of the Assistant Principal, punishment was awarded, and I wasn't in any trouble.

What I learned from my parents interaction with the school and the local police was that this girl had apparently attacked me because she had assumed that I was "bigger and badder" than the other girls our age. She had been expelled from numerous schools for doing the exact same thing. She thought that by "beating up" - or at least trying to beat up - someone strong that it would in turn make her strong.

My Mom said that I was intimidating. I have always been tall. I have broad shoulders. My personality and attitude can come across as intimidating. She said that I should try to be softer to avoid things like this. My Dad on the other hand told me that her weakness was hers and hers alone, and that if being strong brought out another person's weakness then that is exactly what it is - their weakness.

Despite my best efforts to be softer, it just wasn't working for me. She had been asked to leave our school, and since no one else had felt the need to attack me, I sort of figured that being me was an OK thing. I didn't really have any more trouble of this sort - but all good things must come to an end. Right?!

In my adult years, I began attending a church that I absolutely loved. GOD was really working in my life, and I was fortunate enough to be a part of several of the ministries. I was truly blessed, and I loved every second of it. A new family began to attend our church. They had come in the past and created a lot of problems, but supposedly while they were gone they had grown a lot. It didn't take long before her jealousy took over and she began to spread nasty rumors about me. Anything that I could do, she could do better.

My husband led worship, and I was on the praise team. She didn't like that. So she began to attack my character. I was the secretary of the church - a position that she felt entitled to. So she got her friends to boycott anything that I was involved in. The ball kept rolling. I did my best to be kind and to extend the hand of friendship to her. Her daughter spent the night at our home. They came to our home for birthday parties and we really wanted to befriend them, to stop the madness, to show them that we were doing what God had called us to do and to reaffirm that she had her own unique calling.

It got to the point, that I would enter our church, walk to my usual seat, participate in service, and speak only to people who had spoken to me. Her spirit of jealousy, her bitterness at what she perceived as my success, and her unwillingness to make any true attempt at letting go made it impossible for me to even breathe around her. I could smile and sweetly tell her, "Good morning" and she would either completely ignore me or spread a rumor that I had said something nasty.

Eventually, it got to the point that my husband and I stepped down from leadership and transferred elsewhere. We felt that in order for the church to grow that we would have to move on. As heart breaking as it was, we are certain that we did the right thing.

My point in all of this is two fold. First, where JESUS resides, these things should not exist. High school drama, angry children who attack others, and hurtful gossip have no place in the church. In a meeting with a very wise woman of God I was recently told, "We believe what the Bible says. God says that the most important thing is love, and when other people can't even talk to you because they have formed their own belief about whether or not you're saved - Jesus isn't in that."

If you're struggling with jealousy and bitterness toward someone else, I urge you to go to them and truly make it right. Things may never be the same, but as long as you harbor those feelings of hatred it will consume you. Being a bully has no place in life - especially not in church life. This next sentence is harsh, but that doesn't make it untrue. No matter how many reputations you ruin, how many backs you stab, or how many people you attack, it will not get you closer to heaven or make you more holy than the people that you believe you walk on. PLAY NICE!

To those of you who are being bullied and hurt by others, don't give up.  Once again, I had intimidated someone, and let me make this one thing clear. The Jesus in you will ALWAYS intimidate the hell in someone else. Fight the good fight. Don't give up when the going gets tough. Remember that He created you, even your "not so perfect" features.

If you're stubborn-be stubborn for Him.

If you're a little too bold and unreserved - live a zealous life of love for Him.

If you're uneducated or you have a dirty past - read your Bible. Some pretty mighty men and women of God have those same things going on.

Oh, and if you're intimidating - remember my Daddy's words and let other people deal with their own weakness. Lift them up. Love them. Pray for them, and then move on.