I grew up in a Christian family and always tried to do the “right” thing, but these two Bible verses diametrically oppose each other. The two verses cause a bit of a dilemma as to what one should do when faced with a difficult situation such as bullying.
Leviticus 24:19-20 (NIV)
Anyone who injures their neighbor is to be injured in the same manner: fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. The one who has inflicted the injury must suffer the same injury.
Matthew 5:38-39 (NIV)
You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.
This is a true story of a bullying experience I had in my youth. In your opinion, which Bible verse is appropriate to follow in the bullying example presented in this article? Did I do the right thing? Did I overreact? Would you have handled it differently? I invite you to share your thoughts.
Bullying is not a new activity; it has been around for eons. The difference between bullying during my childhood and that of today seems to be about numbers—bullies tend to operate in “packs” today as opposed to the lone-wolf bullies during my youth. Add to that the “you can’t discipline a child” attitude that exists in today’s world and you have an environment that actually promotes bully behavior.
When I was a young boy, my father was never shy about the discipline thing; I’m grateful he wasn’t. I was also fortunate to have a father who drew a line in the sand between good and bad behavior. I always knew which side I was supposed to walk on. Unfortunately, many kids today don’t have a father figure to draw the line for them. Heck, many kids don’t even know who their father is.
Dad taught me to treat others respectfully, especially girls. He told me there would be times when others would not do the same to me. His advice to me was, “Son, never pick a fight, but never run from one either. Try to be the bigger man and walk away when possible. However, if it’s not practical to walk away, stand your ground and protect your friends and yourself.”
Well, there was a time in life when I was in the eighth grade. I was shy, soft-spoken, and pretty much a loner. The few friends I had were more like acquaintances rather than bosom-buddies. There was a guy (let’s call him Bob) in my class that had been held back a few years, so he was about two-years older. He was the class bully and made life miserable for many of my classmates. Everyone feared him.
I was walking down the stairs to my next class one day, as were many other students. Bob was on his way up. When he got beside me, he shoved me against the wall sending my books flying all over the place. The other students backed away fearing he’d do the same to them. I gave him the “Tatum” evil eye, but proceeded to pick up my books. He approached me and did it again. I told him he had better not do it again or he would regret it. The “turn the other cheek” thing was boiling within me, but the “eye for eye” thing started dancing in my mind. However, I contained myself.
Bob laughed and mocked me. “What ya gonna do little boy?” as he proceeded to do it again. That’s when the “eye for eye” of Leviticus took control. Without saying another word, I pushed him against the wall. He lost his balance and rolled down a few steps. My reaction enraged him because no one had ever stood up to him before, at least not in front of a group of fellow students. He jumped up quickly and charged at me again. That’s when I placed him in a headlock and landed two quick punches to his midsection. He fell to his knees gasping for air. I shouted, “I told you not to do it again!”
I calmly gathered my books and headed to my next class as if nothing had happened. The other students started cheering as I walked away, but they didn’t hang around very long—fear of what Bob would do to them returned, so they scattered quickly.
Was I pleased with what I did? No! Did I do the right thing? You tell me?!? I tried to walk away as Dad told me to do, but Bob persisted—he was an obnoxious bully. I did not pick the fight, but again, I did as Dad told me to do—I stood my ground and protected myself.
The interesting thing that came out of this was Bob never bullied me or any other student after that day. He ceased his bullying antics and blended in with the rest of us. I guess Bob just needed someone to stand up to him—someone to show him the light. For that, I’m proud. I even picked up a couple new friends after the incident. However, the question remains—did I do the Christian thing?
I never talked to Bob after our encounter, nor do I know what happened to him as he moved on with his life. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear he became a minister and started serving the Lord. That comes from Dad telling me I should always look for the good in others, but in Bob’s case, the preacher thing may be taking it a bit too far.
Bullying annoys me and I even devoted a chapter to “pack” bullying in my novel On Green Diamonds: Pursuing a Dream. It involves the bullying of a young, fatherless boy. Please check it out and let me know what you think about that situation also.
Be blessed, respect others, don’t pick fights, but stand your ground when necessary. One more thing—always remember to help your friends in bully situations too. You might even help tame a bully by doing so.
Did someone bully you when you were a child? Do you know someone who has or is currently being bullied? Have you ever been a bully? What is the best way to handle bullying?
Simply comment on this post or send a private email to email@example.com if you prefer. Either way, I’d like to hear about your personal experiences.
Tom Tatum – Author – 2015
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