This is a story that recently "came across my desk." Seemed chock-full of lessons to learn.
There once was an unhappy man - we shall call him Grouchy. Nothing seemed to go right in his life. To that end, he consumed himself with poisonous feelings and thoughts. As the unhappy are wont to do, he looked for an outlet in which he could be superior to others. Grumpy was not the physical specimen, nor really the intellectual specimen. But of the two, he fancied himself more intellectual.
Grouchy decided on religion as his outlet. For in religion, he could learn and later make use of knowledge which contains many things which are not absolute. He set about his learning. He learned much, and even came to a place of authority - leading others in their learning.
But as is the case in life, this too came to an end. Grouchy was certainly not happy about it. Of course, truth be told, Grouchy was rarely happy about anything. So Grouchy set out, looking for another outlet of authority. He enjoyed the authority and power given to him in the teaching element.
What Grouchy did not realize is that he did not have the heart of a teacher - he never taught for the love of the subject matter, nor even for the love of teaching. Time after time he was turned away in his bids to gain authority. Yet still, he learned about his religion. He learned how to argue certain points. He specifically chose points of view contrary to modern logic, but that also had less absoluteness to them. And especially he enjoyed points of view that would make him look more worthy than others.
Grouchy, you see, was a bully. Always had been. And now, as an adult, religion had become his bully pulpit.
Grouchy continued his search for the next group of people over which to exert authority. Of course, this group would have to be cultivated and raised up by another, for Grouchy certainly did not have the wherewithal to draw people to him.
Jovial was an eternally happy soul. He had often in life been called on to lead, but had no ambition of leadership. He had found success in life in things physical as well as intellectual. But he sought out neither of these things.
Jovial had lead a great life, but as with everything, that was not always the case. At one point, Jovial's family life became the source of strife for a time. His life was not immune to the stresses of modern society, and so, for a time, he was in the midst of internal conflict. This left him confused and saddened.
While in the middle of the sorrow, Jovial was also attacked from the outside. The Devourer wanted to kick the man while he was down, and bring his jovial nature to an end.
In the midst of these attacks, the paths of Jovial and Grouchy crossed.
Enter the conflict:
As with all bullies, Grouchy was immediately able to discern the weakness - albeit a temporary one - in Jovial. Since their paths had crossed in such a way that Jovial had been leading a small group which Grouchy had attended (looking for his next attempt to unseat leadership and slip into that role again), Grouchy saw his opportunity.
Experience taught Grouchy to bide his time - he waited, he lurked, he observed.
Grouchy learned what he wanted to learn about Jovial. He learned of the perceived weaknesses. He learned of the fact that Jovial had never sought the position of leadership, and had no aspirations to it. He saw his chance to take this form Jovial, and he knew Jovial in the long run would never miss it.
And then it happened. Jovial was leading a meeting and discussed one of the topics that Grouchy had taken to long ago. A topic that was neither here nor there in importance. A topic that had no absolute truth to it.
Grouchy took the offensive, publicly disagreeing with Jovial. Grouchy took it further, and pressed on with attacks on Jovial in person and indirectly.
Grouchy used projection - he claimed Jovial was guilty of things which were in fact, true of Grouchy.
Grouchy sought attention - a problem clearly exhibited by bullies.
Grouchy acted narcissistic.
Grouchy denied the attacks, of course, and immediately counterattacked with feigned claims of victimhood.
But Grouchy failed in one area.
Normally, a bully will not seek out a healthy, confident individual to attack. Bullies prey on the weak. And while Jovial had certainly been weakened at the point in time of his first contact with Grouchy, the fact was that those problems had passed. The time it took Grouchy to bide and wait and lurk and observe had been used by Jovial to right all of the things in his own life, and regain his confidence.
So when Grouchy attacked, Jovial was no longer weak, but he was strong.
Grouchy's verbal and intellectual attacks were thwarted, one after the other. Grouchy was losing battle after battle. Battles that Jovial did not even want to fight - but was forced to by the constant attacks of Grouchy. Grouchy didn't realize that he had made a mistake in selecting his victim until it was too late - and then he was too far committed to turn back.
In desperate fear of losing a battle he so felt he needed to win, Grouchy threatened to take the matter to the pastorship - which Jovial quickly agreed to.
Jovial had learned that the best reaction to bullying, is to meet the bully head-on, with far more force than the bully expected or wanted to deal with. Jovial also knew all of the possible outcomes of taking the matter before the pastorship, and he was perfectly happy with any eventuality. In a manner of speaking, this was a fight he could not lose.
First, the Mediator was brought in. Mediator had attended this church for quite some time. He was generally respected, and had been a real servant in the ministry for many years. Truth be told, it was his role that Grouchy really would have been after.
It was Grouchy that contacted Mediator, as well as Pastor. It was his side of story that was told first, and most vehemently. It was he that made "all the noise."
Mediator then contacted Jovial, and got his take on the story. Quite a different take, but not entirely surprising to Mediator. In the back of his mind, Mediator started wondering about the validity of any of Grouchy's claims.
Ultimately, the matter went before the Pastor. Though Mediator was the fact-finder, it was neither his place, nor his desire to render judgment in the case. Both Jovial and Grouchy were respectful of the position of the Pastor, and would live with his decision as being final.
Pastor was young. He had replaced a previous leader who had been a man of great standing both in this congregation, as well as the community. Powers-That-Be within the congregation selected Pastor due to his youth and the fact that he was easily manipulated to do their bidding. The former leader had not been easy to manipulate.
In fact, just prior to this event, Pastor had maneuvered to make appointments of other pastoral positions within the church to be at the sole discretion of himself and another pastor. This was in stark contrast to the popular vote requirement for installation of pastorship that the church had used for many years prior. This was done at the direction of the church's "powers-that-be."
** Note below**
This was all fine with Pastor, as he held higher aspirations than simply being the Shepherd to this congregation for more than just a few years. His aspirations were to lead larger flocks, and have all of the notoriety that came with such a role. This congregation was simply a stepping stone.
Pastor is confronted directly by Grouchy. He sent Mediator on a mission to obtain all the facts. He sees this situation as a chance to show his ability. But in so doing, he makes one crucial mistake: he fails to see that despite the teachings of the Bible he holds so "dear," he refuses to believe there can be a right and a wrong in this case.
Pastor decides in advance that both men must have committed some wrong, and both men must also have some validity to their arguments. He decides in advance that this is the best way to broach the meeting. Pastor is not concerned with the facts of the case, but rather how he might show "resolution" that might bring himself more ability, and to do so in a way that would not put him at odds of his real superiors: the Powers-That-Be within the church.
In other words, he preselects a decision that cannot harm him... regardless of the truth in the case.
Jovial and Grouchy are brought before Pastor in meeting. Mediator is present, too. Each side has a chance to make their case. Pastor asks each man for a simple apology, and to admit his own misgivings.
The problem is that there were no misgivings on Jovial's part. And to apologize would be to grant the bullying Grouchy the very thing he sought most - attention in the case. Furthermore, Jovial was completely aware of the fact that the best way to handle a bully is to confront the bullying directly and avoid giving in to the bully's demands.
Of course, Grouchy denied all the claims of bullying. He tried to make it into a contest of scripture - asking for a scriptural resolution for a problem he himself created!
Even poor Mediator was reluctant to chime in with his personal feelings, as he was truly a bystander in the case.
The naive Pastor did not recognize the situation, primarily because he had preselected a desirable outcome, and secondly because he was young and inexperienced - particularly when it came to recognizing the signs of bullying. He could not see that Jovial was simply applying the tried-and-true tactic of standing up for himself.
Nevertheless, the remedy requested was indeed a victory for Jovial. Remember, Jovial was prepared for any outcome, and had no way to lose. Grouchy on the other hand, didn't even realize that if he got everything he wanted, he still could not win.
In the end, Jovial refused to apologize to Grouchy.
Grouchy refused to acknowledge his own wrongdoing in the whole matter.
Mediator saw justice done, even if it wasn't in the plan.
Pastor saw himself not damaged, and thus his aspirations remained in play.
- Learn about bullying. It can save a life.
In this case, Jovial was fully prepared to deal with a bully, but so many people are not!
- Approach things in life with an open mind.
Pastor saw this from completely the wrong angle - but that was only due to his youth and inexperience.
- Age is no measure of wisdom.
- However, wisdom comes from experience
- It rains on the just and the unjust alike.
- There is such a thing as right and wrong in this world.
- People's motives must be understood, to understand why they make the decisions they make.
- Stop looking at motives as "right" or "wrong" when all you need to know is "why?"
People naturally want to assume that others want to do the right thing. This is largely true. But motives can differ. And people are often motivated without determining whether what they are doing is "right" or not. Also:
- People have a way. of rationalizing their actions and motives as "right" regardless of the truth of the matter.
- And last but certainly not least: when a bully has exhausted all his means of bullying to no effect, the last-ditch efforts to try to gain some sort of control wind up being very sad and pathetic.
** Note: Since publication, I have been advised that how pastorship decisions are made within this particular church has not changed. Of course, only time will tell if this is accurate.