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Bullying, ego and the soul

Bullying scene -- shadow on the wall

He had been labeled. And bullied. So the young man’s mother told me in an email after one of our confirmation services. She thanked me because I talked in my sermon how we all learn to label one another -- usually in junior high school, if not before. And that the labeling leads to discrimination, which can then lead to victimization – often followed by violence. Which is what happened to her son. She thanked me for raising the issue, and for making the claim that Jesus refused to limit people by labeling them. Instead he embraced people with love. Everybody. No exceptions. And I said that Jesus expects us to do the same.

The mother expressed some relief that since they are moving out of the area, her son won’t have to carry the label with him to his new school. He will start anew. She hopes that she doesn’t have to worry about his safety. And she was grateful to be reminded that being a Christian means we don’t have to stoop to the culture’s tendency to label one another.

I was grateful for her comments. But I was also concerned – because the stooping to victimize others is not limited to the headlines that we read and hear. Verbal and physical violence are more prevalent than most of us want to admit.

Our culture is massively devoted to the needs of the ego. Labeling and bullying are the logical by-products of an ego-driven culture. As I see it, most candidates who campaign for election stoop to demonstrating who is the more effective bully – or the more affronted victim. Why? Because the electorate can stand by and watch – and be entertained by the drama. And although there is some dispute over what happened after the initial encounter, I cannot get past the notion that Trayvon Martin was bullied – at least at first. That tragedy has given rise to responses from all over the country. Bullies take advantage of a culture of silence and passivity. The responses to Trayvon Martin’s shooting have hardly been silent. My hope and prayer is that these responses help create an awareness and a cultural shift -- so that bullies have fewer opportunities to be on the prowl.

When Jesus emerged from the tomb on Easter, he was not only demonstrating that death is not the ultimate end, but that new life is possible – for him and for us. He was also announcing that we don’t need to live our lives according to the needs of the ego – which is averse to risk, resistant to change and protective of turf. Yes, we need the ego, because it helps to order our lives and keep us on task. But if our lives are only governed by the ego, we become imprisoned by the prejudices that we have all absorbed along the way.

The empty tomb opens us up to soul – which is where love lives. The soul is open and creative. Whereas the ego teaches us to fear, the soul invites us to trust. Violence emerges from the ego; reconciliation is the work of the soul. To be Easter people means that the protective barriers of the ego have been opened so that the soul can emerge.

The Resurrection makes a powerful statement. It offers an alternative to the labeling and bullying temptation that is close to the surface in all of us. Easter opens us up to the gift and work of the soul – and the need for the soul to follow Jesus’ lead to embrace one another as brothers and sisters in Christ.


Jesus says love every one. Not just you and you and not you. There are so many ways to bully and it seems to come easily to so many people. As a deaf person I see discrimination as another word for bully. What if a deaf youth did not respond to a police man or local "peace keeper with a gun? Easy to just shoot him. Why do so many people say a person with mental illness is "nuts? Why do people continue to say "deaf and dumb"? Why are so many disabled people marginized in our churches? It is easy to bully and discriminate when a person doesn't understand the needs and abilities of other people. God bless those who stand up for the needs of those who are not able.

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