How to handle a bully


“Pastor, my son was attacked on his way home from school by a bully. What should I do?” a mother asked a popular radio program host (I’ll call him Donald).

“How old is your son?” Donald asked.

“He’s 10, almost 11,” the mother explained.

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“Are there weapons involved or just fisticuffs?” the pastor inquired further.

“No, just fists, and kicking, but my son may one day get hurt,” the mother lamented with obvious helplessness in her voice.

“Is this the first time, or has this happened before?” asked Donald, wanting to get a clearer picture of the situation before he gave advice.

“It’s been going on for some eight weeks now, and I’ve told my son, ‘Never hit back!’ If he strikes the bully he’d be a bad witness for Jesus,” she replied. “But the attacks just keep coming. I think my son is losing confidence in me and his emerging faith.”

Almost before those words came out her mouth, you could sense a change in the host’s demeanor

“Madam,” he said as politely as he could without bursting an artery, “you need to tell your son to smack this bully as hard as he can the next time this happens. Bullies listen to only one language. It usually takes just one good blow, but he may need a few. Bullies pick on easy prey that doesn’t fight back. Your son is now easy prey.”

There was dead silence on the other end of the line.

“Madam, did you hear me?” Donald inquired.

“Yes, I heard but I don’t understand?” she said. “Help me get it?”

“Your concern for your son’s witness is commendable,” he patiently answered. “But the advice you gave is damaging to him and the bully. This bully has learned from your son’s actions that Christians are unthinking, cowardly fools, not to be respected. And you have taught your son that Christians must submit to unwarranted mistreatment and abuse to be counted as faithful. Neither of which is true.

“I don’t want your son to become a professional fighter, or to nurture a heart to hurt this bully seriously. Christians will suffer for the cross, but this isn’t suffering for the cross; this is suffering for the sake of enabling a bully’s dysfunction. The best witness to this bully is to teach him that bullying doesn’t pay. Does that help?”

You could tell the mother was confused but listening. I don’t know the end of the story. But Donald’s advice was solid.

There’s much confusion today about how to handle bullies. “Zero tolerance” policies, rules, and regulations directed at this evil are commendable. But all the paper in the world won’t do as much good as a left jab, properly placed, done not to harm but to instill the proper respect and message.

I hope this mother and other mothers and fathers will heed Donald’s advice.

Bill Newton
Bill Newton

Bill is a pastor based in Asheville, N.C. He also serves as a member of God's World Publications' board of directors.


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