Over the past few weeks, we’ve been talking about How to Be the Most Unattractive Version of Yourself Possible. (Okay, yeah, it’s a little sarcastic, but go with it.)
Why are we having this discussion?
Mostly to help all of us recognize any qualities that may have slipped into our lives that are keeping us from being the women we want to be and experiencing the healthy relationships we want to have.
We’re saying, “Perhaps this is the problem” so that we can solve it.
With that in mind, this week we’re going to talk about one of the most unattractive qualities a woman can possess: the tendency to be a bully.
Yes, I know that word is a bit overused today to describe almost anyone who says something with which we don’t completely agree. I’m not talking about that definition. (After all, iron sharpens iron and seeing another person’s point of view is good for us. Proverbs 27:17)
Instead, I’m talking about the character trait I’ve found among far too many women who choose to use their words, their actions, or even threats to get their own way from family, friends, and even strangers.
Allow me to paint a picture:
Let’s say you have a “friend”. You talk on a regular basis, do things together, and even share a few secrets (boy, will you regret that.) Then one day you disagree. You make a choice she doesn’t like or that doesn’t benefit her.
Suddenly, all Hell breaks loose.
She isn’t taking your calls. She’s freezing you out and giving you the silent treatment until you change your mind and go along with her way.
If you don’t give in, she may start talking about you behind your back (one of my favorite forms of this is ‘going to others for prayer’ while they tell their whole version of the story—usually not an accurate portrayal---to whoever will listen).
Other tactics may include having emotional temper tantrums filled with uncontrollable crying and/or angry outbursts to let you know how completely displeased they are.
As a final resort, if you have not yet given in and met their demands, they begin making veiled (or not so veiled) threats including how they could destroy your reputation, tell your secrets, or even speak to authority figures (a boss or pastor) about you.
Within just a few days or weeks, you go from being “friends” to wishing you’d never met each other because she’s a bully. In 43 years of living, I’ve seen this far, far too often. (Oh, the stories I could, but won’t, tell!)
Having encountered enough of these women to last a lifetime, here’s what I’ve learned: there are very few character traits that are more unattractive than being a woman who chooses to navigate life using this form of manipulation. Because while people may initially be charmed by your “get to know you facade”, after they have experienced your bullying tactics, they will run to get away from you as fast and as far as they can.
Honestly, being a bully is beyond unattractive, it is downright repulsive. If you continually follow this pattern you will find yourself in a series of short term friendships and relationships with people constantly leaving you behind in an effort to flee the oppression.
So how do we fix it? What can you do if you are a bully?
First, recognize it and repent.
Admit that you use your words, actions, and even threats to manipulate and control those around you and ask God (and the people around you to forgive you).
Second, get to the root of the problem.
It might even be helpful to take some time with the Holy Spirit and examine your life, making lists of the manipulation tactics you use and why you use them. If you can’t do this by yourself, avail yourself to the benefits of a Bible-believing Spirit-filled counselor who can help you see why you do what you do so that you can stop.
Third, develop a new conflict resolution strategy based on Biblical principles.
Conflict is always going to come. You need to learn how to deal with it properly.
Thankfully, the Bible gives us all of the tools we need to handle conflict appropriately. It’s our job to learn Biblical principles and properly apply them.
Again, you may need the help of a counselor, mentor or coach to help you learn new behavioral patterns and apply them. (They will hold you accountable and keep you from falling into the trap of using Biblical principles as bullying tools.)
I know, it sounds obvious, but it isn’t simple.
The truth is that each and every day you’re going to have to choose to avoid being a bully. When you slip into old behavioral patterns (and there will be times that you do) you’ll need to recognize it, admit it, ask forgiveness, and possibly even make amends to the person you bullied. Trust me when I say that this level of humility will help you change your behavior.
And as your behavior changes, so will other people’s desire to be around you.
Why? Because people want to be in relationships with people who treat them with love and respect, not people who manipulate and control them or the friendship.
If you want people to be want to be around you long term, you’re going to have to lay aside being a bully.
I get it, most people learn to bully others because they have been hurt or mistreated and they don’t want it to happen again. It’s a form of preemptive revenge. Yet, it’s totally against Jesus’ teaching.
Instead, He tells us when conflict occurs that we are to:
“I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst.
When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty.
If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.
In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”
As you follow these verses, lay aside bullying and learn to handle conflict God’s way, you will become a woman that people are drawn toward. You’ll find that the results you tried to gain through control and manipulation actually come from love and respecting others.
Ultimately, you’ll be happier because you’ll know that those who are in a relationship with you actually want to be there---they don’t feel forced, manipulated, or threatened.
Rather than bullying making you unattractive, the light of Jesus will shine through you and cause others to be drawn to you. Isn’t that what we all want?
Unless you want to be the most unattractive version of yourself, then continue manipulating and controlling everyone around you. Be a bully!