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Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Embrace the bully

Daf Yomi Nedarim 65


John C. was the class bully.  One of my first days in high school, John grabbed my yarmulke off my head, ran it under the tap and then rubbed it in the dirt.   I guess I handled it okay, but sadly, I couldn’t say the same for Steven F.  The only Aboriginal kid in our class, he faced taunts and constant bullying from John.  Eventually, he couldn’t take it anymore and complained to the principal.  John was expelled from the school and we all breathed a sigh of relief.

Years later, I bumped into Steven at university.  We began to reminisce about old times and the talk turned to John’s bullying.  He had actually known John since elementary school and as he told it, John was from a broken home, constantly shuttled between his parents who lived on opposite ends of the city, both in low-income housing.  His mother had a drug problem and his father had all sorts of health issues.   In short, John came from a very troubled background.

Concerning King Zedekiah, the Scriptures declare, “And he also rebelled against king Nebuchadnezzar, who had made him swear by God.”
How did he rebel?  Zedekiah once walked in on Nebuchadnezzar eating raw rabbit (an ancient fertility treatment).
Shocked at being discovered, he said to him, “Swear to me you won’t reveal what you saw and let the word get out!”  Zedekiah duly swore.

But with time, Zedekiah was becoming physically ill over the matter and so he went off and had his vow annulled, subsequently spilling the beans.   It didn’t take long for Nebuchadnezzar to hear that people were ridiculing him. 
He summonsed the Sanhedrin (High Court) and Zedekiah and said, “Did you see what Zedekiah did?  Didn’t he swear by G-d of Heaven not to reveal my secret?”
“He had his vow annulled,” they replied.
“You annul vows?” he asked incredulously.
“Yes,” they responded.
“In the presence of the third party or even in their absence?” asked Nebuchadnezzar.
“In their presence,” they replied.
“So what did you do?” fumed Nebuchadnezzar, “Why didn’t you make that demand of Zedekiah?”  With that, he removed their preferential judicial chairs and relegated them to sit directly on the ground.

Nebuchadnezzar was the most powerful man in the world.  And Zedekiah stumbled upon his weakness.   As strong and commanding as he was in his public life, in the privacy of his own personal life, he was deficient.  One almost wonders whether his public persona was not as aggressive as it was, simply as an overcompensation for his private weakness.

Show me a bully and I’ll show you a person with a major inferiority complex who’s overcompensating to hide their personal issues.  Nebuchadnezzar’s aggression was a result of his private shortcomings.  John C.’s menacing was a result of his personal issues.  Never let a bully take out their personal angst on you.  Always keep in mind that if they feel the need to be aggressive, they’re the ones with the problem, not you.

Do you feel bullied at school?  At work?  At shul? Don’t ever take it personally.  When you feel the need to run away (or, sock them one!), choose instead to reach out to your aggressor and embrace them.  Don’t be afraid – they need your love, not your cowardice.  Sometimes aggression is the only way they know how to interact with others.  Just smile and ask them what is bothering them.  They might not respond immediately, but when you shower them with love and kindness, eventually you will melt their tough, aggressive exterior.


Don’t feel threatened by your local bully.  Don’t let your kids feel threatened by the schoolyard bully.  May you merit to shower them with love and help them deal with whatever personal problems they may have!