I loved your answer so much about dealing with negativity that I thought I'd pose another one. I know a gifted young woman who isn't going into ministry because she doesn't ever want to have to deal with:
The Biblical Bully.
You know who I mean... the person who squirms through life (usually with a lot of messed-up relationships behind them) but insists that the simplest reading of every quote they know by heart is the only reading God condones. If you've got some good advice up your sleeve that I can pass on, you might just make ministry sound like a possibility for another great woman.
Just the thought of the Biblical Bully makes me put my hand to my head and sigh. At a recent wedding, attendees were blasted by the preacher's repeated exhortations for the wife to SUBMIT TO HER HUSBAND!!! We felt bullied; well, one young lady got the giggles and couldn't stop laughing.
But anyways, I suspect many of us know someone who fits the bully bill. Singing Owl sure does. "Biblical Bully? I know him! In fact, I have known dozens. They probably abound in some denominations more than others." Her tendency (good pastor that she is) is try to fix everyone, figuring that "with enough reason the point will be obvious. That, of course, is wishful thinking! I used to give B.B. more room than I should have, hoping to win the person over."
But over time, she's decided if it hasn't worked to now, it won't. "As time has passed, I’ve given up on reason gaining the victory with a bully. A bully hardly ever responds to either arguments or cajoling. Placating a bully never works! It is like the kid who steals your lunch money. Giving him more money just makes him worse. Sooner or later, the behavior must be confronted."
No more Mrs. Nice Gal, well, not as much anyway
She continues: "So, now I take a deep breath, and I remind myself that God loves this person, and I pray for God’s love to flow in me, since I know that if it were just me I might just want to smack him or her, or at least roll my eyes in disdain." Yay for grace!
On to the practical: B.B's tend to be drama queens—people who thrive on other people's conflict. It's a kind of what some call emotional vampirism: These folks stir it up because they enjoy seeing other people angry. One of the best things you can do is not escalate it. "Any kind of bully must be confronted with calm firmness," says Singing Owl. "I’m not suggesting that reason be discarded, but after stating why I do not agree, I tend to leave it at that. Biblical Bully loves to argue, but don’t get caught in that trap."
You can respect their opinion while not agreeing with it. (Heck, I have to do this with DFH from time to time.) And you can gently suggest that they move on, if need be. "In one case, though it hurt to do it, the leadership of the church had to ask the person to go," says Singing Owl. "Nowadays, I refuse to spend lots of time stewing over it, something I used to do, asking myself over and over how it could have ended differently. Life is too short, and there are too many wonderful people who will welcome the ministry of a loving pastor. If we focus on the bully, he has won. Let B. B. know he or she is loved, but then focus elsewhere and be about the work of the Kingdom!"
Laughter is the best flak jacket
Jan suggests that the best way to deal with a B.B. is with a sense of humor. " Maybe all you need is to start collecting snappy retorts to silly comments," she says, offering the following scenarios:
Biblical Bully on bus who notices Bible in your lap (to you): I see you've got
You: Yes, I'm a seminarian.
Bib Bully: What? My Bible says that women can't speak in church!
You: Interesting. My Bible says "The one who calls you is faithful; he will do this."
Biblical Bully on sidewalk comments on your cross necklace and says:
BB: I see you're wearing a cross. Is Jesus Christ your Lord and Savior?
You: Uh, yes.
BB: I go to the local Bible Church. Where do you worship?
You: Actually I go to a Bible Church too. It's called First Presbyterian.
For your friend, Jan offers this advice. "Sister—have confidence. You need to be more afraid of God than of any bully out there. If God is calling you, it's important to listen." And while I've never been keen on the "fear God" model, I agree with Jan. My denomination has quite a few bullies (regardless of what point of view I actually hold). But I'm always pleased to see the leadership continuing to listen.
How about you? Ever deal with a Biblical Bully? Share your amusing anecdotes and how you dealt with this common problem in the comments!