bully called me last month yelling, pushing and shoving his way through our phone conversation. The bully was an lawyer representing a woman whose rear bumper recently encountered my front bumper.
The woman was claiming injuries – this despite the fact that she left the scene assuring me that she would be OK. The evidence seemed to support her optimism. The 3 mph collision left a fist size dent in her bumper, while my SUV was too stubborn to give.
I did my best to direct the lawyer through my USAA insurance agent, but he seemed determined to blaze a path directly though the peaceful afternoon I was spending with my family at the ice cream parlor. So, all I could do was rattle off my agent’s number and wish him a pleasant day.
I then called my agent and discovered that she had been bullied by the same lawyer who said several disparaging things about her expertise. Like most bullies, he seemed more willing to demand, than he was to give. I hung up from my phone calls in much the same way the bully intended – a bit shaken – a bit fearful.
But, what was this fear really about? Like the bully on the playground threatening to take away lunch money, this bully was threatening to take away what I possessed. It’s amazing how much we can possess; yet when someone threatens to sue us for our stuff or our money, we learn how possessed we are by our possessions.
It’s as if the bully we are facing is not the bully himself – but the bully really becomes the thing he is threatening to take away. The bullying was more about how much had possessed me than it was about my money.
How does one face down a bully?
That feels like a question I’ve asked all my life – from the days when Bobby McGhee lay in wait for me outside my fourth grade class — through my college days when I was constantly needled by a workmate. It’s a question that has followed me from my days in my first newspaper job at the Marin Independent Journal when Jeannette tried to get me “saved” in her Church of Christ style through my days serving in Baptist churches facing some crusty deacons.
My guess is that this multiple choice question might have more than one answer. Scriptures tend to suggest various approaches, from turning the other cheek, to taking an eye for an eye — to accepting things as being all for the glory of God.
But in this case, I was able to recall some unusual parenting advice given to me by my dad about facing bullies who are looking for fights.
One day I mentioned to my dad how a friend got in trouble for fighting a bully. I asked him if he’d punish me for fighting, and he said, “Sometimes you have to face down the bullies.
If that means fighting, you need to start the fight with a prayer. Then he added, “Sometimes God sends people to fight for you,” he admonished ”
So, following his advice, I said a prayer and made another call to my agent. “Do I need to hire a lawyer? Is my coverage sufficient?”
“Don’t worry Mr. Burkes. If you need a lawyer, we’ll hire one for you. And your coverage, well” she said, “It’s more than sufficient.
Her word “sufficient” reminded me of Paul’s word to the church at Corinth, that God’s “grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” *
So, if this bully wants to fight, I guess he should be prepared – I’ve started this fight with a prayer.
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