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5 Biblical Tips for Dealing with a Bully

  • Dr. David B. Hawkins The Marriage Recovery Center
  • 2016 2 Feb
5 Biblical Tips for Dealing with a Bully

We’ve all had the experience at one time or another in our lives. Someone bigger, stronger, tougher or perhaps simply having more “guts” than ourselves uses force to overwhelm us. 

These people are bullies, and they are no less formidable as adults than they were when we were younger. By sheer force they can make our will bend to their demands. 

Bullies come in all sizes and shapes. They may be physically oppressive. They may be mentally obstinate and demanding. They may use verbal assaults and tirades to get us to back down and cater to their wishes. 

Whatever your relationship to the bully, the result is discouraging. We lose our will, our wishes and at times even our voice. We are stymied and silenced by their oppressive nature. 

Helen called asking for advice on how to deal with her bullying husband. 

“It’s not that he is always a bully,” she explained. “It’s when he doesn’t get his way. He pushes and pushes until I cave. He is relentless.” 

Helen went on to explain how she had been married to her husband, Mark for many years. She noted that he had many good traits and that she loved him. However, she was distraught that over the years she had lost more and more of herself to his demands. 

“He just forces his will on me,” she said plaintively. “I can’t argue with him. He will always win. I give up more often than I want to admit.” 

As she discussed her marriage, I could see all the signs of the bully. Mark used his verbal skills to manipulate and overwhelm his wife. It was unlikely that he even viewed himself as a bully, but that is what he was doing to her. 

“I’m even thinking about leaving him,” she went on to say. “I can’t live like this and I sure can’t seem to make him see what he is doing to me.” 

As I listened to Helen tell her story, it was clear there would need to be some significant action taken to bring awareness to her husband of his horrific behavior. Only with some kind of intervention would he soften and help his wife regain her voice and self-esteem. 

I offered Helen the following advice and offer it to you as well if you are struggling against a bully in your life. 

First, there will always be bullies. Since the beginning of time, there have been bullies who feed off negative emotions. Feeling insecure, they seek relief by overpowering others. Note Joseph’s brothers, clearly threatened and insecure, who bullied him and his brother Reuben. (Genesis 37) Another example of an atrocious, insecure bully was Haman, a royal official under King Xerxes, who had a diabolical plan to destroy all the Queen Esther’s people, the Jews. Here was a man set to have his own evil ways;  

Second, bullies succeed by overwhelming us. Like Joseph’s brothers and Haman, bullies use their power to hurt others. They may have the ability to hurt by way of their inherent power, by their ability to use force or ongoing emotional abuse. Suddenly or gradually over time they are able to cause us to freeze or cater to their wishes; 

Third, know your rights! In the story of Queen Esther and Haman we see a man, Mordecai, who knew Haman was acting wrongfully. Mordecai believed God would protect not only him, but the Jewish people. As is often the case, “right makes might,” and he stood for it. He knew it was not Godly to be overpowered, and certainly no fault of his own. You too deserve to be treated with dignity and respect; 

Fourth, stand up to bullies. We dare not let bullies have their way with us. If we give in to them even a little bit, they will thrive on their power and abuse their power and us, even more. Stand up to the bully in your life and enlist help if you need it. Bullies cannot be allowed to beat us up. Much like the schoolyard bully cannot be allowed to overpower us, we can’t let adult beat us down with their power. This is a time when you must assert yourself. This abuse of power harms us and indirectly them; 

Finally, hold onto your boundaries. Once we regain our dignity and respect, we must guard it. This is called ‘boundary management’ and is an ongoing task. We have a responsibility to care for ourselves as we are God’s children, His workmanship and must act accordingly. 

Practice the above strategies and let me know how they work for you. Please send responses to me at [email protected] and also read more about The Marriage Recovery Center on our website. You’ll find videos and podcasts on sexual addiction, emotionally destructive marriages, codependency and affair-proofing your marriage. 


Publication date: February 2, 2016