This blog is the third entry in a series exploring the behaviors of bullies. I offer these thoughts with the possibility that together we can minister to people who use force to influence the rest of us. Today’s observations are about groups of bullies.
Bullies may start with what they believe to be worthwhile goals, and so they characterize themselves as having positive attributes. That’s not necessarily a *Potemkin maneuver; they may believe that they’re aiming at critical outcomes that others have overlooked. They may even think of their viewpoints as spiritually guided.
How do individual bullies come together to form angry, violent groups? A possible first step: Individuals prone to full-fledged bullying become attracted to leaders who—by their words and actions—harass, intimidate or coerce those that these bully-leaders perceive as wrong or weak. Eventually their ends come to justify their means, no matter any illegality or harmfulness to society.
Perhaps bullies are looking for significance or worth, and are affirmed when they find purpose-seekers similar to themselves. Some individuals who see force as an ultimate good can feel at home in groups that legitimate violence. Folks who want to regain their emotional moorings encounter viewpoints and attitudes that feel like anchors. Gatherings of bullies satisfy the need of anger-addicts to vent and hone their rage. Individual bullies discover that their admittedly less-positive qualities can be valuable in the service of an imagined greater good. Group membership can diminish loneliness, confer real or imagined power and motivate satisfying actions..
For whatever reasons, there seems to be a ready supply of individuals to join groups who see bullying as their life work or mission. Trying to understand these groups doesn’t mean that we should be tolerant of them, though. We can never condone those who justify their coercive violence in the name of a seemingly righteous cause.
These thoughts raise hard questions for those of us who form the Jesus-following groups we call congregations: How could we be part of God’s rescue of bullies?
Without pretense, how can we genuinely love them…?
*An adjective perhaps unfairly derived from the reported behaviors of Russian soldier and statesman, Grigori Aleksandrovich (1739-91), who attempted to impress Empress Catherine II about the grand successes of Russia’s recent takeover of Crimea. His supposed tactic: Erecting the facades of non-existent villages populated with troops dressed as imagined villagers. Potemkin thus came to mean fraudulent or counterfeit. Phony and manipulative also come to mind.
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