February 17, 2004, all hell broke loose against me at my workplace. Tension had been building for several weeks, but that Tuesday brutal behavior erupted. By evening, I arrived home feeling like I’d been dragged behind a Mack truck.
Sadly, the truck kept going – and dragging me behind it – for nearly 15 months. The abuse stopped only when I left the abusive situation. Sadder still, I worked for a Christian organization.
Four years later, I learned the name for what I’d experienced. It’s called mobbing, and also, workplace bullying. I learned how prevalent this type of abuse is and how devastating to the target. With deep gratitude, I saw how superabundantly God had poured out his grace on me. He had taken what could have been catastrophic to my life and health and, instead, produced the reverse: He delivered me and is now restoring me into a more abundant life.
This month, Counseling Today published an article by Lynne Shallcross titled, “Grown-up Bullying.” In the article, Jessi Eden Brown, a counselor I’ve never met, described what I experienced – and the damage such experiences can produce.
Brown, a coach with the Workplace Bullying Institute, referenced WBI’s definition of workplace bullying*: “repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons (the targets) by one or more perpetrators that takes one or more of the following forms:
- verbal abuse;
- offensive conduct/behaviors (including nonverbal) which are threatening, humiliating, or intimidating;
- work interference – sabotage – which prevents work from getting done.”
Yep, that nails it. So do these excerpts from “Grown-up Bullying”:
“Although popular media frequently portray the workplace bully as a volatile, verbally abusive boss, in actuality, the behaviors tend to be more subtle, insidious and persistent,” Brown says. “Examples include stealing credit for others’ work, assigning undue blame, using highly public and humiliating criticism, threatening job loss or punishment, denying access to critical resources, applying unrealistic workloads or deadlines, engaging in rumors and gossip, endeavoring to turn others against a person and deliberate attempts to sabotage someone’s work or professional reputation.” …
“There is a significant body of research linking workplace bullying to physical, mental, social and economic health harm for the bullied target,” Brown says. Studies have linked repeated exposure to stressful events such as bullying to severe physical ailments, including cardiovascular disease, gastrointestinal problems and increased levels of cortisol, among other things, Brown says. The psychological harm from bullying can be just as devastating. “Panic disorder, general anxiety disorder, major depression, substance abuse and dependence, acute stress disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder are but a few of the diagnoses encountered when working with targets of workplace bullying,” Brown says.
“The stress and exhaustion that targets endure is often isolating and paralyzing. After all, it is generally the bully’s goal to disempower the target. Even when they do speak up, targets of workplace bullying tell us their employers, family and friends do not often believe them nor understand how it could be so distressing …
“In most cases, the target has done nothing to deserve the treatment [he or she is] receiving,” she says. “The bully chooses the target, timing and tactics. Also, the target may have very little control or influence over these factors. The responsibility to stop the abusive behavior rests with the employer … [However,] 72 percent of bullies are bosses, and standing up to the boss can easily be misinterpreted as insubordination.”
It’s agonizing to be a target of bullying. The agony multiplies exponentially when the people engaging in this form of abuse are trusted Christian leaders. The pain of such a betrayal cannot be overstated. Often, the target succumbs to bitterness against the perpetrators, deep self-rejection and anger with God. The results are devastating – to the person and to the name of the Lord.
If you’ve experienced bullying in a Christian setting, know this: You did not deserve what has been done to you, and it does not reflect who God is. He will deal with those who’ve wronged you. Further, he will use all that you’ve suffered to purify you and restore you, if you will put your hand in his and allow him to lead you through the healing process. Indeed, he promises that he will restore more than what you’ve lost.
If you have not experienced bullying in a Christian setting, know this: It is so common as to be epidemic. What’s more, it’s often well-hidden by the godly appearance of the perpetrators and the whisper campaigns used to discredit and isolate the target. Before I experienced bullying personally, two people came to me and told me how badly they had been mistreated by the person later responsible for the mobbing done to me. I didn’t believe them. I still thought the abusive leader godly. Bullying in a “Christian” setting may well have devastated someone you know.
If you’ve participated in bullying in a Christian setting – or if you saw it happening and looked the other way – know this: Bullying exposes cowardice and control issues. It exposes misplaced loyalties and divided hearts. What you did, or failed to do, reveals a hidden idol in your heart – something you’re so eager to protect that you colluded in hurting someone deeply and in dragging God’s name through the mud. I urge you to repent.
Target, you can survive and, in time, forgive. Indeed, your life depends on it. Perpetrator, you can be forgiven. Indeed, your life depends on it. Thanks to the God of all grace, you both can be restored.
* Definition of workplace bullying – http://www.workplacebullying.org/individuals/problem/definition/