After I became a Christian in the eighth grade, I shared my newfound faith with everyone. I hoped my relationship with Jesus would be contagious. After a few months of sharing, multiple friends called and asked if they could come to church with me. I was so excited! Some came and responded to the gospel like I had. But others decided that the Christian faith wasn’t for them. These “friends” who’d rejected the message began to reject me as well.
On several occasions, I was physically or verbally threatened because of my beliefs. I was ridiculed and ostracized by my “friends.” Being bullied became a constant pattern in my life.
One semester, a group of tough guys began intimidating me. They’d sneak up on me and whisper, “Do you want to fight? You’d better watch yourself after school. We’re gonna kick your butt!” They were relentless. The bullies stared and laughed at me in class, followed me down the halls every day, and prevented me from getting into my locker. I was scared to death and felt like no one could help me.
I didn’t know how to fight back. I was a scrawny, five-foot-two kid who weighed eighty pounds soaking wet. The bullies seemed like they were ten feet tall. Their intimidation became overbearing, so I went to see the school counselor. After hearing my story, he began escorting me to the bike rack after school for the next month. I’d unlock my bike, hop on, and ride like the wind, hoping to get home before the bullies caught me.
One time, I was home alone, and the doorbell rang. Two bullies were at the door. They tried to pull me outside and beat me up—in a nice, middle-class neighborhood, no less! I forced the door shut. They looked for another way into the house, calling me names as I hid inside. I tried to call my neighbors for help. No one was home. I was so scared that the bullies would find a way into my house that I called the police. The bullies left.
My dad came home, and I told him what happened. Trying to help me, he called the bullies’ parents and had stern conversations with them. Well, you can imagine how the bullies reacted. During P. E. the next day, the bullies told me I’d pay for my dad’s calls. Their threats, intimidation, and pressure grew worse.
Somehow, through all that, I kept my faith and prayed for God’s protection. I trusted God’s promise in Isaiah 41:10: “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (ESV). I surrounded myself with other believers and found support. I was never physically harmed, but I was mentally scarred.
Admittedly, I’ve struggled with resentment toward those bullies over the years and wanted to get revenge. It took a long time for me to forgive them and overcome my fear and anger. Being bullied was humiliating and embarrassing. These traumatic episodes molded me at a very early age that had a lasting impact. On one side, they taught me to trust God and persevere. On the other side, I learned how to hide my faith from others as a form of self-protection.
Eventually, I grew out of the five-foot-two frame into a six-foot-one frame. I matured physically, emotionally, and spiritually. My confidence grew much stronger and I’m no longer intimidated by bullies. I stick up for myself. But when I sense someone is trying to threaten me or someone else, I have a visceral reaction (i.e. hair standing up on the back of my neck) that motivates me to fight back – stand up for myself and others. This isn’t always good. At times, I can become the aggressor. I’m still a work in progress. God continues shaping me – healing the wounds from long ago, building my faith in him and moderating my reaction to bullies. He’s not done with me yet, but I know that he’ll finish what he started.
Statistics show that 20% of children ages 12 to 18 years old experience some type of bullying – unwanted aggressive behavior meant to hurt. Bullying comes in several forms (verbal, social, and physical) and typically occurs in a few locations (school or online).
How do you prevent bullying? It can be complex. But based on my experience, I recommend the following seven ways:
- Keep the faith – I ran to God and sought his help in my time of need. He heard my cries and protected me. My faith in him grew deeper because of my experience and he continues to mend me today.
- Speak up – If you’re the one being bullied, tell a trusted adult or authority. Don’t be embarrassed. Ask for help. It took me a long time to muster the courage to admit I was being bullied. Ultimately, I told my parents and teachers. My experience may not have lasted as long or been as acute if I’d confided in someone earlier.
- Surround yourself – seek support, safety and solace with your friends and family. I leaned into my church youth group and will always remember their encouragement.
- Stick up for yourself – Sometimes you need to dig deep inside and find the courage to overcome your fear. Let the bully know you’re not gonna take it anymore. I’m not condoning violence. I am condoning a deep resolve that prevents anyone from unwanted aggressive behavior. Tell the bully to stop.
- Be someone’s hero – Don’t stand on the sidelines if you see someone being bullied. Intervene, stick up for the person being bullied, if you see something say something. I wished I had more heroes that were willing to stand up for me. Now, I try to be that hero in someone’s life that I didn’t have.
- Build awareness and a culture of safety – Teachers, administrators, parents and students can all play a role in bully prevention. Educate everyone on what bullying is and what it isn’t. Teach respect, dignity and what to do if bullying is occurring. Learn to listen. Be empathetic. Protect others.
- Forgive and forget – It took a long time for me to resolve my feelings of anger and resentment. I learned that it’s not good to hang on to grudges. If you do, you’ll become bitter. The path to becoming better is through forgiveness and forgetting the circumstances – move on.
To learn more about bullying, its effects and how to prevent it, visit: https://www.stopbullying.gov
Lastly, October is National Bullying Prevention Month. Support prevention awareness through participating in the weekly campaigns. Visit: https://www.stompoutbullying.org/national-bullying-prevention-awareness-month
Have you ever been bullied? What was your experience? Send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org to connect and continue the conversation.
Our manager, Kevin suddenly charged into the room and sat down at the conference table.
“Okay, let’s see what you’ve got!” he exclaimed.
“Hi, Kevin. How are you today?” I said with a smile trying to lighten his mood and begin our meeting on a positive note.
Kevin replied, “I don’t have time today for small talk. Let’s go through your presentation and determine next steps.”
Over the next 15 minutes, Peter, my teammate, and I presented three different promotional displays to Kevin. We discussed the construction, benefits and potential cost of each display. Kevin seemed to like the options and asked how we could gain national customer team feedback.
The conversation came up once before, and I recommended that we use an internet survey. Kevin turned it down the first time. During this discussion, I thought I’d revisit the survey option. After I mentioned it, Kevin shook his head and said, “Nope, already rejected.”
I gently pushed back and asked him to reconsider. I began my response with, “I don’t mean to challenge you but….”
Not good. As soon as the words left my mouth, Kevin’s face turned red, he slammed his computer shut and shouted: “But you are challenging me, and I don’t appreciate it!” Throwing a tantrum, he got up and began to walk out of the room. Wanting to solve the issue, I followed him out the door. I asked Kevin to wait a moment and told him that I was just trying to make a suggestion. I told him I didn’t appreciate being treated that way, especially in front of a team member.
Kevin said, “Are you going to confront me in the hallway right now?”
“No,” I said staring at the floor. He told me we’d talk later and walked away. I went home deflated.
The next morning, Kevin called me into his office. When I arrived, he asked me to sit down. Then he said, “I am going to tell you some things, and you cannot respond.”
I looked at him inquisitively and thought, “I’m in for it; this can’t be good.” He was about to give me feedback. He told me that he wanted me to think about it and then we’d talk again. So, I sat in silence ready to listen.
“Preston, I was relatively easy on you yesterday. Other executives would have torn you to shreds.”
“Really?” I thought to myself.
“You’re not helping me, you’re not being a team player and you don’t listen well. You’ve got to change or you’ll be out of a job.” I held my tongue honoring his request and thanked him for the feedback.
I walked away from the conversation madder than a hornet. I was highly offended. I’d worked very hard, accomplished so much but Kevin always marginalized me. Kevin retaliated by implying my job was in jeopardy. A molehill was made into a mountain, and I resented Kevin for it. As a matter of fact, I resented Kevin and his management style for the two years I worked on his team. My constant feelings of bitterness were taking their toll. What was I going to do?
All leaders experience resentment from time to time. What is resentment? It’s an emotion that wells up inside when you feel like you’ve been mistreated or offended. Hard feelings, frustration or anger, can come from any number of sources including not gaining someone’s respect, not receiving appreciation for a job well done, not being assigned to a special project, being passed over for a promotion, an unspoken apology or rejection. Resentment is the most toxic of all emotions because it can lead to anger, hate, discord, divorce, aggressive driving, alcoholism, depression, anxiety, bankruptcy, and even violence.
If you hold a grudge against someone, the bitterness will fester inside and eventually destroy you. It begins as an emotional trigger and if harbored will become a mood impacting behavior. Resentment is a heavy burden you carry affecting your relationships and health. As the adage goes, “Bitterness is the poison one swallows as he or she hopes the other person dies.”
If resentment is so dangerous, what is the antidote? Forgiveness. If you forgive someone, you stop blaming him or her for the offense. You let go and move on. The Bible says, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:31-32 NIV)
How do you forgive someone? Employ the four steps to forgiveness:
- Acknowledge your anger, then drop it and move on – It’s okay to be angry but don’t allow it to last. Let go of the anger when offended or wronged by someone. Don’t harbor it. Anger can lead to hate and violence. Resentment will break you unless you break it first. Put down the poison and move on
- Stand in their shoes – Realize that everyone is perfectly imperfect. The Christian leader remembers God forgave him or her and that same mercy should be shown to others
- Respond with good not revenge – Forgiveness is a decision, not a feeling. Ask God to change your heart and enable you to return the offense with a positive reaction. Practice the Golden Rule – do to others as you’d have them do to you. Remember, love is patient, kind and doesn’t seek its own way
- Pray – Ask God to forgive you and enable you to forgive the one who offended you
Admittedly, I’ve struggled with resentment for years. I often dwell on circumstances and people when I feel disenfranchised, demoralized or undignified. In the above story, I let my manager get the best of me. I should have taken responsibility for my words and actions. I didn’t need to challenge Kevin after he’d made a decision or chase him into the hallway to confront him. I needed to exercise more self-control and give him space. It would have been better if I’d approached him later, apologized and asked how I could help; personal leadership lessons learned that I applied to future situations.
The good news is that I recognized the impact bitterness was having on me and those around me. I discovered that the best antidote to resentment is forgiveness. I let go of my grudge, and my well-being improved tremendously; I no longer felt the weight of bitterness. I found that my mental outlook improved, relationships healed and I felt much better.
How about you? Do you resent someone? Are you holding a grudge? If so, how is it impacting you? What will happen if you continue holding on to the resentment? Are you willing to forgive the individual? Why not forgive that someone today? If you do, your well-being will improve, your relationships will heal, and you’ll be a more successful leader.> Read More
I’m a disciple of Christ and an executive at a Fortune 500 Company. In my blog, The Discipled Leader, I draw on my diverse business experience to help Christians connect their secular and spiritual lives at work.
As a certified coach, speaker, and trainer with the John Maxwell Team, I help others grow their relationship with Christ, develop their leadership skills, and understand how they can make a positive difference in today’s chaotic world.
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