Hope for the Bully

18 Jun

Kathryn Hauser’s Reflection for Holy Monday 02 April 2012

Hope for the Bully

Here’s the scene: Jesus and the Twelve were gathered at Martha’s, Mary’s, and Lazarus’ house for a dinner in Jesus’ honor. (Jn 12:2)  Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead. (v 1)  Mary anointed Jesus’ feet with perfumed nard and wiped His feet with her hair. (v 3)  So far, so good.  Then Judas Iscariot jumped on Mary’s case. (v 5)  Poor Mary!  When she sat at Jesus’ feet before, Martha had given her a hard time, complaining to Jesus that that she, herself, was left to do all the serving while Mary sat listening to Him speak. (Lk 10:38-42)  (O, the bane of every hostess!)  Poor, gentle Mary, who just wanted to soak up Jesus’ presence and offer Him what she had, always seemed to get nailed: first by her sister’s hard-work ethic and then by Judas’ spirit of nihilism.  In both cases of Martha and Judas, the spirits had an agenda.  And then add to that, outside the house there was a paparazzi crowd of those who had learned where Jesus was and had tracked Him down, not only because He was there, but also because Lazarus was there.  Having been raised from the dead made Lazarus a novelty item, entertainment, and a “news story.”  It also meant that he was a threat to the Institution and the status quo, so the chief priests wanted to kill Lazarus as well as Jesus. (Jn 12:10)

Q: Since we know that Judas was a thief (v 6) and that he would betray Jesus (v 4), why didn’t Judas betray Lazarus to the chief priests when he turned in Jesus?  Judas could have doubled his fee for betraying both men to the chief priests and gotten a “Two-fer Deal,” two betrayals for the price of one fee.  But Judas did not turn in Lazarus.  Was there no relationship buy-in?  What does that say about the spirit of betrayal?  Do we only betray the ones our hearts are invested in?  Or does it have more to do with the idols in our hearts rather than the people standing in front of our idols?  Did Judas not know Lazarus well enough to have an investment of his heart in him?  Maybe Judas really wasn’t as callous a thief as I had been led to believe.  A thief who truly makes money the idol would do everything to make the buck.  A thief who worships money above all else wouldn’t think twice over a “Two-fer Deal.”  There must have been another dynamic at play for Judas and not just that he was labeled “a thief.”  Was Judas jealous?  Was that the component that made the relational dynamic so much more complicated? 

At that dinner party where the paparazzi gathered outside and the chief priests schemed to kill, anyone who had a sensitive heart would have been able to pick up those vibes.  I propose that Judas had a sensitive heart.  Jesus would not have asked him to be His disciple if Judas’ heart had been closed off.  A spirit of jealousy can do terrible damage to a sensitive heart.  A spirit of jealousy could easily have spread from the chief priests to the paparazzi to Judas and from Judas to others.  Spiritual infections don’t need proximity to spread.  Spirits can communicate from heart to heart without words from long distances away.  Their purposes and intentions are conveyed through actions and attitudes.  They prey on shallow self-esteems. 

Jesus deals with this ambushing spirit by confronting behaviors and misdirected attitudes.  When Judas was acting like a bully to Mary, Jesus confronted the attitude by saying, “Leave her alone.” (v 7)  Psychologists confirm that bullies have self-esteem issues, but not necessarily low self-esteem.  They have immature social skills.[1]  Bullying can take the form of physical aggression or emotional ambush, like the “silent treatment,” rumors, intimidation, humiliation, exclusion, teasing, and manipulation.  Relational aggression is a type of emotional bullying that can be just as harmful as physical aggression. Bullies need someone in authority to intervene and to be the supportive adult or the Alpha figure [a psychological term, which also happens to overlap with spiritual terms!] Both the one being bullied and the bully are then left to face their fears of betrayal and social isolation and to learn how to reclaim their own authentic power without doing so at the cost of others and themselves.  Empowerment can be as simple as saying, “Does it make you feel good to make me feel bad?  Because friends don’t do that to friends.”[2]  Or, one on-line article suggested this tactic:[3]

Help your child figure out the best way to respond to the bully. Start by asking “If you could tell the bully anything, what would you say?” Kids usually respond with things like “Leave me alone!” or “Why are you so mean?”

As far as Judas was concerned, who knows what caused him to become aggressive and bullying.  Was he teased, ignored, or excluded by his peers and this caused him to bully?  What we do know is how Jesus remained the Alpha figure, the relational “Adult,” and addressed the issue—the spirit behind the behavior.  Is this bullying spirit not what we are witnessing in the Church-as-Institution today in her bullying, boorish, cowardly dance of doing “nothing,” as if rescue by rapture would “deliver us from evil”?  Is this bullying spirit also not what we are witnessing world-wide as the Holy Spirit breathes a call to justice, a call to set things right (= righteousness) as we see people in country after country rising up en mass to have a voice in choosing their own leaders, governments, and civil freedoms?  Are they not repeating Jesus’ similar words of “Leave her alone”?  Is that not what we all want?  To be left alone to share our authentic gifts from the core of our being with those we love according to God’s purposes and glorification?  Dan Brook cites Russian historian Leon Aron saying, “Revolutions are brought about by the “quest for dignity.”[4]  The people want to be left alone to offer their own metaphoric gifts of “perfumed nard,” whatever that means to each country.  Each country has been given special gifts to use and share in dignity.  They’re asking for the right to do just that. Countries can feel just like individuals (and Churches): isolated, neglected, teased, ignored, abused, or excluded by their peers.  Some have reacted as bullies and others have risen to say, “ENOUGH!  Leave us alone!”

There IS hope for the bully and the bullied.  God IS fulfilling prophecy and has shown us how to be a light to each other.  (Is 42:6)  The spirits roam.  They just need to be put in their place.  How?  How does one (a person, a church, an institution, or country) go up against spirits like jealousy, greed, coup d’état, nihilism, betrayal, bullying, and emotional or physical aggression?  By doing the following:

  • Bringing the secrets out into the open 
  • Using healthy humor 
  • Not becoming a bully oneself
  • Taking time to nurture the noble, authentic core Self 
  • Hanging out with others who let us be ourselves
  • Holding bullies accountable 
  • If possible, help bullies to see their own gifts which they bring to the table (or lay at Jesus’ feet, as the case may be.) 

Bullies are looking for their core, authentic Selves, too.  The bullies I have known have been very passionate underneath their calloused exteriors.  They needed consistent boundaries drawn to help them choose their own limits.

Prayer: Lord, in this world where it would appear that everything has “run off the rails” and the bullies can make it seem that they have the upper hand, please be our Alpha, our Guide, our Leader to give us guidance and wisdom.  Please heal the spiritual infections caused by pride, injustice, and social imbalance.  Teach us how to anchor in You so that we can leave each other alone and not “vamp” from others out of our own deficiencies.  Please fill our belief in You, so that we may be full of You.  Amen.


Holy Monday                        02 April 2012                                                Gospel: John 12:1-11

Isaiah 42:1-9
42:1 Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations.

42:2 He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street;

42:3 a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice.

42:4 He will not grow faint or be crushed until he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his teaching.

42:5 Thus says God, the LORD, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people upon it and spirit to those who walk in it:

42:6 I am the LORD, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations,

42:7 to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.

42:8 I am the LORD, that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to idols.

42:9 See, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth, I tell you of them.

Psalm 36:5-11
36:5 Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.

36:6 Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your judgments are like the great deep; you save humans and animals alike, O LORD.

36:7 How precious is your steadfast love, O God! All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings.

36:8 They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights.

36:9 For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.

36:10 O continue your steadfast love to those who know you, and your salvation to the upright of heart!

36:11 Do not let the foot of the arrogant tread on me, or the hand of the wicked drive me away.

Hebrews 9:11-15
9:11 But when Christ came as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation),

9:12 he entered once for all into the Holy Place, not with the blood of goats and calves, but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.

9:13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, with the sprinkling of the ashes of a heifer, sanctifies those who have been defiled so that their flesh is purified,

9:14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to worship the living God!

9:15 For this reason he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, because a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions under the first covenant.

John 12:1-11
12:1 Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead.

12:2 There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him.

12:3 Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

12:4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said,

12:5 “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?”

12:6 (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.)

12:7 Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial.

12:8 You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”

12:9 When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead.

12:10 So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well,

12:11 since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.


[1] For further reading, see an informative article written by Jane St. Clair entitled “What Causes Bullies?”  http://www.byparents-forparents.com/causesbullies.html

[2] Ludwig, Trudy, My Secret Bully; (Ashland, OR: River Wood Books; 2004)

[4] Dan Brook, 04 Sept 2011 article entitled, “Modern Revolution.”  http://www.opednews.com/articles/Modern-Revolution-in-2011-by-Dan-Brook-110903-501.html



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