The School Bully

Imagine settling into a new school and being accosted by a school bully who demands that you pay him money each week. You survive the meeting and then ask others what the story is with this bully.

You find out that everyone is paying money to the bully. You find that the teachers have no plan to stop the bully’s activities. You also find that the bully isn’t regarded as a bully, but just part of normal life at the school.

It turns out that the “bully”, as you call him, has had his place passed to him through generations of bullies. Payment of the bully levy is a tradition that goes back as far as anyone can remember. School teachers rely on the bully to help them maintain order in the school, even though they know he has self-interest as well. They see the arrangement as both normal and appropriate.

When you decide to stand up to the bully everyone looks at you in horror. You are urged to stop your bizarre behaviour and to just get used to the way things are. The whole social order is built on the status quo. Would-be bullies are competing with each other for the honour of displacing the incumbent. The more offended victims have their support groups. A code of penalties has been defined and each new student is briefed in the mechanisms of the school-yard order.

Most alarming in this whole situation is that anyone who stands up to the perverse system is confronted on all sides. You encounter apathy or antagonism from those who should support you; despisement and oppression from the bully system that seeks to rule you; and abandonment from the authority figures who should have stopped this situation long ago.

Now, that’s just a fanciful scenario. But it is an allegory for situations which occur around the world.

At Sydney University in the early 1970’s, for example, I confronted compulsory Student Union membership. The Student Union engaged in many activities which offended my personal values and which I would never engage in. I saw no reason why I should be forced to pay anything to what seemed like a group of self-indulgent people who used their position to peddle their own ideology and morality. However, that was the system. There was no changing it, so it seemed. Thankfully, in subsequent years compulsory student unionism was abandoned.

The same situation may be seen in workplaces where a strong union presence imposes compulsory union membership on anyone who wants to work there.

Yet again, in some cultures the police force is corrupt and imposes various unwarranted penalties on people. I was once pulled over by a traffic policeman who was not interested in giving me a genuine penalty, but sought some “coffee money” from me.

Totalitarian regimes impose this “school-yard bully” system at a national level. Various limitations are imposed on their constituents, which people are powerless to object to.

I am not saying in all this that forced subscriptions are necessarily evil, or that unions, police forces or governments are suspect. I simply use these examples to illustrate a point. I am drawing your attention to the fact that some situations are actually oppressive and out of order.

Now, the correct way to deal with such situations, if it is possible, is to take the matter to higher and higher authorities, until someone resolves what is out of order, putting it right. In many situations even the judiciary is compromised or intimidated and true justice is denied the citizenry. In those situations the only court in which effective appeal can be made is before the throne of God.

Reading the book of Ecclesiastes recently I noted Solomon’s awareness that God is the true Sovereign in all of life’s situations. While men will oppress others and ply their evil agendas, those who trust in God and are not overcome by the evil of others, have the best outcome.

Being consumed in rage at the system means you have been overcome by evil. Making it your life passion to right the wrong system may also be a sign that you have been overcome by evil. You were not created to be moved by your enraged sensibilities, but to fulfil God’s plan for your life. If He calls you to deal with the system in some way, then you will have to do it. But that won’t be for self-gratification or to get even for wrongs experienced, or any other personal agenda. You will be most effective when you can be dispassionate and focus your affections on Him and His glory, rather than being moved along by personal arousal.

School-yard bullies exist in many contexts. You may be called at some point to do something about it. But if you are, it will be God’s call, not yours. The methods and all that is part of the process will be at God’s behest, not your own direction. If you engage in the process with that kind of spirit you will be a worthy instrument in God’s hands to see His Kingdom come and His will done on earth as it is in Heaven.

Overcome by Evil

Today there was an altercation in the street. Someone had pulled their car over while they answered a mobile phone call. They happened to pull over to a spot where there were parking restrictions. I can only guess that they had nowhere else to pull over and they did not want to miss the call. It is illegal to drive and talk on the phone in this area.

The home owner saw the car and came out to abuse the driver, telling him to move on. The driver refused to move on, as he did not wish to end the phone call. The home owner, who obviously took the parking restriction quite seriously, continued to abuse the driver and even attempted to break the car headlights. The driver got out of his car and punched the man kicking his car. The man hit back and others came to break up the fight.

A sad situation for all involved and one that is repeated frequently each day, in road rage, domestic abuse, work-place fights, pub-brawls, school-yard scuffles and so on. While it can be tricky at times to work out where the blame rests, especially when two people have acted violently, there is a Biblical principle which speaks to this situation. The principle is that of being ‘overcome by evil’. 

Evil presents itself to us frequently and from several sources. A major source of evil is the human heart. Out of the human heart come such things as violence, anger, abuse, lust, greed, and so on. It is perfectly common for people to be overcome by evil that springs from their own heart. They may feel frustrated in some way, such as having someone else innocently get in their way. While no offence was intended the person who is frustrated may react with rage, physical violence, resentment or the like. That happens to us all quite frequently – when we are tempted to react wrongly to a situation.

If our internal response is to be jealous or angry, then we have to make a choice to either resist that response or to go with it. If we yield to it we are ‘overcome by evil’. If we resist it we are able to rule our own spirit and maintain freedom. Cain was told by God to resist the internal response of jealousy which he felt toward his brother Abel. Cain yielded to his internal inclination and became the first murderer.

At times we are the innocent person who inadvertently gets in someone else’s way. We frustrate or irritate people, often quite unwittingly. We may drive into a parking spot which they intended to take. We may buy the last item in the rack, which they were about to buy. We may drive into the traffic and block them from entering the vacant spot that we took. We may be happy when they are feeling unhappy. We may be enjoying a meal, when they are feeling hungry.

At such times that other person may have a wrong reaction, where evil springs from within them. They may want to fight us, argue with us, rebuke or reject us. When we confront such situations we are faced with yet another opportunity to resist evil. The confrontation will provoke us to a new level of reaction. We can buy into the argument, stand up and fight, hurl back abuse, or otherwise join in the evil exchange. When we do we are ‘overcome by evil’. This time we are overcome by someone else’s evil.

The Bible instructs us to not be overcome by evil, but to overcome evil with good. The challenge for both the men who ended up fighting over the parked car was to resist evil and to overcome it with good. Neither did so and both suffered the consequences of an ugly situation.