Bully Hangouts

By DR. ANN HOLLINGSWORTH,

When educators are asked “What is one of the biggest problems for students today?”- the answer is often bullying. For a student, bullying takes place on the bus, in the bathrooms, in the cafeteria, and on social media. However, bullying is not confined to students and school. Bullying happens all around us for adults as well.  Often the adult bullying comes under the label of pressure, threats, or blackmail.   Adult bullying happens in families, work settings, neighborhoods, and even in churches.

There are many definitions of bullying but the Merriam Webster one is “ abuse and mistreatment of someone vulnerable by someone stronger, more powerful, etc.”  This abuse or mistreatment can come physically, but most often comes verbally.

Probably the most concerning adult bullying is that taking place in “church.”  If we follow the example and teachings of Jesus, we speak truth and we do confront wrong – in a way of kindness.  We also support others and show equitable treatment to others – not partiality based on some contrived factor.  Sometimes this is not the way it happens in church.

One example of bullying is “putting down” others in the church, such as criticism of the way someone dresses or acts. Church bullying often is carried out through gossip disguised as “prayer requests.”  In church as well as other settings, bullying may be pressure of one group on another group to do something in the church a certain way.  Threats do happen at church just as with other places.

When we read in the book of Acts about the first church after the resurrection of Jesus, there was unity and kindness of support for each other.  Will we ever get back to that in our churches or will we continue to diminish in size – due in part to some mean-spirited bullying within the church body?