There is an old American Indian Legend about a frozen snake. I have heard several variations, but the story goes something like this…
You find a frozen snake in the yard and take it in. You warm it, feed it, and love it and it bites you and crawls back into the cold snow. The snake freezes and you take it back in and warm it, feed it, love it and it bites you and crawls back into the cold snow. Once more you take the snake in…it bites you…at some point it is your own fault that you continue to be bitten. The snake has made it clear who he is and his actions are quite predictable.
Bullying and hateful treatment is rampant in our society, and it is not only with children and teens. I see many adults speak rudely, in hate, and even abusively to others on social media and in person. Sadly, it happens at schools, work, churches and even in families. Respect is gained through treating others with consistent love and support. Respect is not gained through judgment, belittling and demeaning communication, begrudging the blessings of others, or a title of any kind. Take a child for example…You can get respect from a child through two methods: You can scare them into respecting you or love them consistently and gain true lasting respect. Bullying is happening among youth because it is happening with adults.
One method of handling a bully is to “kill them with kindness”. Sometimes this works in a relationship, or at least a decent ability to communicate and share space, is reached. Sometimes this becomes enabling. Catering to the demands of an abuser, or to continue to placate to their emotions only enables the behavior to continue. People may try and tell you it is you that needs to change if you feel pain from a bully. It is normal to hurt when someone is physcally or emotionally abusive. This pain is a sign of warning that it is an unhealthy situation that you should stay away from. Certainly, if someone is willing to listen, communicate, and understandings can be reached, then that is the best case scenario. When you have tried to communicate, and tried kindness, and none of it works then it is healthy to draw boundaries. Playing nice is what everyone wants…it is much more comfortable for everyone to give the bully their way and have the other parties involved stay silent….but is it okay to encourage someone to suffer silently? No. At some point you must draw boundaries and not allow the treatment any longer.
The truth is that I have compassion for people who need to demand respect and love rather than letting it happen naturally. It is sad, and for that I am very sorry for these people. I also think it is Biblical to pray for them, but good to move on from them. Jesus said in Matthew 10 ESV –
“12 As you enter the house, greet it. 13 And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. 14 And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. 15 Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.”
When Jesus talks of forgiveness He isn’t telling us to forgive and allow mistreatment continually. He expects repentance and change and wants no less for us. We can love others through prayer, but have healthy boundaries and refuse to placate and cater to their behavior. We can move on from them.
I love the words of the wise and beautiful poet, Maya Angelou…
“When someone shows you who they are believe them.”
“I don’t trust people who don’t love themselves and tell me, ‘I love you.’ … There is an African saying which is: Be careful when a naked person offers you a shirt.”
― Maya Angelou
― Maya Angelou