Emily Timbol

Judging – The “Righteous” Way to Bully


After about a month of dating, my now-husband Ryan and I found something incredible. We had a significant person from our childhood in common.

Our bully.

The boy who bullied me all throughout elementary and some of middle school, left for the sports program at a private institution after 6th grade. The school he went to was Ryan’s.

In elementary school Matt decided that my nickname would be, “dog” (he wasn’t the most creative.) He, and the boys he encouraged to join him, would bark at me in the halls and makeMushroom head cracks about my “dog food” at lunch. Why he didn’t just call me fat I have no idea. “Dog” eventually became “mushroom head”, which I admit is pretty funny, after I got my first and only regrettably short pixie cut. I really did look like a mushroom head, so points for accuracy.

At Ryan’s school, Matt maintained the athletic fame that he had in mine. On the baseball team he soon became a star, and Ryan, who was not as gifted, became a target of his taunting. I won’t repeat what he called Ryan, but let’s just say that in the few short years from elementary to middle, Matt’s vocabulary grew to add some choice vulgarity. Maybe his family got cable.

The summer after 6th grade I traded my round purple framed glasses for contacts, and my braces were taken off. I felt like the “after” in every cheesy makeover fairy tale. In reality, I was just as chubby and nerdy, but I gained something I wouldn’t lose for a long time — confidence. Confidence changed everything for me, and is likely what helped me sail through high school with almost no bullying.

My confidence didn’t just have to do with my exterior though. It also had to do with what was happening inside of my heart, and mind. That same summer my braces came off I started attending the church that would become my home for almost a decade. The church I got baptized at, where my father became an elder, and whose pastor would later officiate my wedding.

Walking through the halls of middle school in 7th grade, I didn’t just feel like I looked better, I felt like I was better than those other kids around me — the ones who weren’t quickly becoming the “Bible stars” of their youth groups.

It didn’t take long for me to start pushing my beliefs on my classmates. I tried as hard as I could to “witness” at all opportunities. Every essay about a historical hero was written about Jesus. Every discussion on morality I steered towards religion. And anyone who didn’t agree with me was either shunned, or lectured.

Because I was a self-centered kid, when I read the gospel I didn’t see a story about how Jesus’ death showed my incredible need for Him — I saw a story about how incredible I was and how much Jesus needed me. In my warped little mind, Jesus didn’t die so that I could follow Him in love and humility. He died because of all the kids around me, who didn’t believe in Him.

Thankfully, like most things I had a lot of interest in at the age of 12, my stint as mini-Jerry Falwell didn’t last long. I stopped lecturing my classmates about the Bible not long after I started. And years later, after discovering a third way in college, I found myself much more concerned with the Gospel message of loving others, instead of judging.

It wasn’t until immersing myself in the mountains and mountains of reading I’m slogging through for the upcoming Reformation Project, that I started to see a connection between the bullying I endured, and the judgement I dished out to my peers.

The bullying that came from Matt had little to do with me, and everything to do with a person who needed to put down others because of some insecurity, or fear of unpopularity. The judgmental thoughts and lectures spewed out of my mouth had little to do with the people I directed them towards, and everything to do with me — the little girl who wanted to cling to something that made me “special.”

See the connection?

Bullying and Judging others are one in the same. They both are not about the other person at all, but the one who’s pointing the finger.

Judging is just the “righteous” way to bully.

It’s a way to attack others behind the veil of “Biblical authority.” A wrapping up a wolf’s message of hate in the sheep’s clothing of love. And it’s wrong. Just as wrong as it was for a jerky 5th grade boy to bark at me everyday until I cried.

A lot of what I’ve been reading lately from traditional, conservative Biblical theologians, sounds like barking. It’s got that same loud, distinctive tone as a bark, meant to elicit fear in the recipient. A warning. Like the dog behind the fence telling the other to “stay off my property. You don’t belong.”

The message that so many traditional, conservative theologians are sending today is that the LGBT community needs to stay off their property, because they don’t belong.

They don’t belong in church (or at least not church leadership.)

They don’t belong in organizations like the Boy Scouts, where they can work with children.

They don’t belong in the institution of marriage, that carries with it all of the federal, legal, and familial benefits enjoyed by their straight friends.

And ultimately, the message is that they don’t belong in America, a country based not on a belief of freedom from religious tyranny, but one “right” religion’s freedom from the tyranny of anyone who disagrees with them.

Just when I start to think that maybe it’s really not that bad, something else comes up in the news to remind me that no, I’m not exaggerating. There are still thousands, if not millions of Christians who either hold these beliefs themselves, or happily follow those who do.

What I’m trying to remember, through the rage-filled hot tears that spring to my eyes every-time I read another story about a pastor who wants to “ban” the gays, is that what he (or she) is saying is not about the LGBT people at all. It’s about them. It has little to do with these people I love and care about, and everything to do with the scared, angry, and misguided individual behind the pulpit, who thinks that by advocating for the putting down of others, they themselves can be lifted up.

I also find comfort in the fact that the ultimate Judge, the one who one day we will all stand before, has made it clear what side He falls on. The side of the hungry, the thirsty, and the weak.

My hope is that on that day, I’m on the right side.

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