Dealing with a bully isn’t anything new. At one time or another, we’ve all had to deal with the passive-aggressive boss or the mean kid on the playground. For many years I was involved in politics, including jobs on campaigns, nonprofit groups, and high-dollar fundraising.
Politics presents an interesting version of the schoolyard bully. Whereas in school a bully may be someone looking to exact physical force, in politics the majority of bullies are those with low self-esteem who look to use their usually undeserved “authority” to intimidate others. They’re usually without social skills, social graces or much professionalism.
One bully who stands out is a man with whom I worked on a political campaign. Ironically, interacting with him was edifying to me because it reinforced that as a Christian, I always need to be an example for those around me. We’re told that others will see our good works and glorify God through them (Matthew 5:16) and I have no doubt that’s true.
Power Goes to a Bully’s Head
For this example, let’s just call him “Bully.” Bully was the kind of guy who didn’t know how to deal with people and had never learned how to respect them. He had some personal connections, so he was thrust into a quasi-management role, giving him a small bit of power to oversee other employees. It was something he abused right away, and everything became a barking order instead of a conversation. Bully couldn’t comprehend that those around him wanted to be treated like people.
During one of our campaign tours, we stopped for lunch. Bully ordered a buffalo chicken salad, hold the ranch dressing. (Strange how I remember the exact meal, clear as day.) Ten minutes later, the waitress brought out the salad, topped with ranch dressing. She returned a minute later realizing her mistake and offered to bring out a brand new salad without the dressing and at no additional charge.
Bully brushed her off. “No, that’s fine,” he said.
Five minutes went by, 10 minutes, and Bully had not eaten a bite. The waitress came back. “Are you sure you don’t want another salad or something else?” He said, “No,” as he seethed, huffed and crossed his arms for the next half hour, complaining about his incompetent waitress.
Upon leaving the restaurant, he continued his bad mood, as he did for the remainder of the day, snapping at staff, arguing for no reason and complaining how hungry he was. At one point he exclaimed he would still work despite not getting a decent meal, because he was a “real professional.”
You May Be the Only Bible Someone Ever Reads
In short, that’s the kind of guy Bully was: someone who would rather go hungry out of spite just so he could make the waitress feel bad and prove some type of point to the staff he mistreated. One of my female co-workers said to me later, “Bully is probably the most insecure person I know. He has the self-esteem of a child worried about showing up at school with glasses and braces and old hand-me-down clothes with rips in them. He’s completely insecure about himself, his looks, his work and pretty much everything. That’s not the mark of a real professional and certainly not the mark of a real man.”
Zing! I asked this girl out soon afterward, because any girl willing to step up and call out a man for not being one (she was a Christian as well), just might be worth taking the time to get to know.
I have no idea of Bully’s personal faith or religious beliefs, but oddly enough it was because of him that I was able to witness to others. People who knew I was a Christian saw the way I treated them compared to how he did. More than once, it led to discussions on how I kept my cool and how my faith played a role in my job. Any time I ever thought about losing my temper, I remembered it was up to me to serve as the example for Jesus Christ. “Quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” were the words I lived by (James 1:19).
Be better than the bullies. Remember that you’re a continual example of Christ as He tells us to think, speak and act. If you’re in a job where Bully is one of your bosses, keep acting like you know you’re supposed to act. And if you’re in a position of authority, realize that even if it doesn’t seem like it, many of your co-workers are looking up to you. They may not make it known, but the example you set may be the example they follow when they move on and become supervisors. Remember the mark of a real professional and a real man (or woman) are often not that far apart.
Have you found yourself dealing with a bully in your school, work or church? How have you handled it? Do you think you could handle it better?