When I was a girl, there was a boy in my school who had made himself locally famous for being a bully. Looking back, he reminded me of Biff from Back to the Future. Do you remember him, always tormenting the McFlys? There is nothing quite so infuriating as mean kids who try to build themselves up by pushing others down.
Sometimes, mean kids grow up to be mean adults, and in a gross abuse of power, they make the people around them feel small through passive-aggressive remarks, coercion, and victimization. Sadly, some of you know what I’m talking about.
“It is much safer to be feared than loved,” Machiavelli wrote long ago. Machiavelli’s words were an endorsement for manipulation as a means to power. He was arguing, in a sense, that the way to greatness is to make others feel small.
But that’s not true at all, of course. No one has ever become truly great by making others feel small.
No truly great boy mocks the underdog.
No truly great woman gossips about her neighbor.
No truly great girl decides who’s “in” and who’s “out.”
No truly great boss publicly embarrasses his employee.
No truly great man slugs his wife.
No truly great leader lies to get ahead.
No truly great father rules by intimidation and name-calling.
No truly great person makes others feel small.
Do you remember Zacchaeus? He’s a guy who perhaps felt small, because, in fact, he was. Zacchaeus was so small he had to climb up a tree to see Jesus. I wonder how much he overcompensated for his height by cheating and lying to people — operating out of fear instead of love. In his chase for greatness, he treated others small.
But then, along comes Jesus, the One who — in His own greatness — did not make Zacchaeus feel small at all. He made him feel loved. Jesus didn’t give Zacchaeus a public upbraiding; Jesus gave him an invitation to dinner.
Where are you today, friend? Do you feel small? Has someone made you shrink under their words, actions, or passive-aggressive behavior?
Maybe you’ve been treated small by some power-hungry Zacchaeus in your life. Don’t let the bullies tell you what you’re worth. The greatest leader of all time says you’re worth more than gold. In fact, God says you are worth a Son!
For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son. (John 3:16)
Maybe, in this moment, you feel the gentle conviction of the Holy Spirit. Maybe you’ve been a Zacchaeus, and recognize how you’ve made mistakes by misusing your power. If that’s you, this isn’t the end of your story either. Today is a new day, and Jesus is inviting you into true greatness, a paradoxical place of great humility — where love reigns and fear is overcome.
YOUR TURN: What makes a truly great person? Share about the people in your life who make others feel like treasured somebodies, the way Jesus does for us.
By Jennifer Dukes Lee, author of The Happiness Dare.Leave a Comment
Michele Morin says
The people who have invested in me and made me feel worthwhile have been those who have listened to me and celebrated my successes, mourned my losses, and given me the impression that they delight in the things that delight me. Re-reading that sentence, I guess I’d call that empathy, but I know for sure that I want to be that person for those I love.
I wonder what Jesus and Zacchaeus talked about over dinner?? I’d be willing to bet that it wasn’t Jesus’ disappointments and hopes.
I believe when Jesus invited Zechariah to dinner, Jesus taught and Zechariah listen. I believe Jesus was so kind with his teachings that what ever Zechariah was doing that wasn’t in line of Jesus’ teachings Zechariah felt miserable and made a decision to turn away from sin. Jesus made Zechariah feel good about himself . Jesus’ gentle way of correcting us is in love. Sometimes the consequences of our choices hurt, but the teachings are for our good. It to hold us accountable for self. Great reading!
Jennifer Dukes Lee says
Mary – “Jesus’ gentle way of correcting us is in love.” Yes! The sign of true greatness.
So true what you wrote….the ones who listen to me make me feel worthwhile and now I’m learning to listen better to those who need to be heard.
Sorry this was for Michele Moran
Jennifer Dukes Lee says
Totally agree, Anne.
Jennifer Dukes Lee says
So grateful for your contributions to the conversation, Michele.
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
The really great people in my life have been the ones who love me “just for being me” – how God created me. They are willing to overlook the flaws and celebrate the good. When you talk about bullies…the biggest bully I can think of is the enemy, Satan. I call him “the creep”. He bullies our souls with his lies: you’re not good enough; you’re a failure; you’ll never succeed; no one loves you. One of my greatest accomplishments is getting better (with God’s enabling) at recognizing the voice and manipulation of the creep. If that voice you’re hearing makes you feel anxious, less than, not enough, is condemning, and when held up against what God says about you in scripture, it doesn’t measure up – then it’s the enemy’s lies and we (I) need to slam the door on that bully and kick him to the curb. No bully human or spiritual should be allowed to condemn or put down the beautiful workmanship (YOU) that God has made. Wonderful post, Jennifer!
Very well said Bev!
Tina Storms says
First, thank you for your written words that have encouraged and blessed me this morning. There’s nothing quite like sensing the Holy Spirit loving on me through another saint’s encouragement. It’s a miracle how that works. It’s wonderful!
Second, the handful of people who came to my mind are four family members and a former co-worker: my husband, of course, since he chose to marry me and love me like Christ loves the church, and my son who’s a kind-spirited gift from God and my dear mom who loves me unconditionally as Christ does, accepting my bad with my good and always on my side to remind me I’m of my value and worth. Then my older sister, a generous and thoughtful soul who puts others first daily–she humbles me–as she lays down her life for others. And the last, a gentlemen I worked with who encouraged me as I worked along side him years ago. He challenged me to grow and helped me see how less than ideal circumstances can be turned into something positive. I am fortunate for these truly great people in my life and praise God, there are others too numerous to mention.
You’ve got it Bev! A friend and I were just talking about how we wish Satan’s voice in our heads “sounded” creepy and how much easier it would be to quickly identify that it was him!
Cynthia McGarity says
Yes Bev! Beautifully put! (And it cracks me up that you call him “the creep.” May adopt this as my own. 🙂 )
Jennifer Dukes Lee says
Preach, girl! Thank you for your wise words, Bev.
I had two math instructors in college that made me believe I could achieve anything.
When I wake in the morning and I call out Jesus’ name, I feel his strength and confidence to do great that day.
Jennifer Dukes Lee says
With this great attitude, I’m sure you have been a blessing to many who cross your path. Thanks for your input.
Kim B Smith says
It can be tough out there in today’s world with all of the “communication avenues” we have at our fingertips. So many words with so little love. It is so important to have faith, hope, and grace with God and a beautiful connected community surrounding us so we don’t sell out to others. The four agreements, agreement number 2, don’t take anything personally. That can be the hardest thing for me when someone is verbally bullying you. Daily practice.
Jennifer Dukes Lee says
I printed out those four agreements once upon a time. I think I need to find those again! So helpful, Kim.
Kim B Smith says
A truly great person and leader tries to invest in others – even if it means not getting what they want. I try to emulate this in my work when I have interns, but what I find where I am is that bullying comes in subtle forms. A small action here, a continual unwillingness to let someone’s voice come through in their work, constant correction and attempts to make everything the way THEY would say or write even if different doesn’t equal wrong or inferior…it hurts most coming from fellow Christians too. It’s difficult not to take it personally, but even when that is separated, sometimes bullying becomes subtly unprofessional.
I am also taking a leadership course and have learned that, in the Social Change Model, the most effective teams come from effective leaders who empower rather than micromanage and nitpick. It’s fascinating to see how even secular leadership models thay produce the best results follow Biblical principles – even when Christians don’t follow them.
I was bullied this week to make me feel small. Satan put negative thoughts in my head but I took it to God the one who is bigger. I have been blessed with a wonderful church family and women who make me feel loved and accepted.
Melissa Henderson says
I have a wonderful friend and mentor named Barbara. She is very compassionate and loving. When she speaks with someone, she looks them right in the eyes and truly listens. I appreciate her caring ways. 🙂 She is a true friend. Barbara makes everyone feel special.
Linda Shukri says
Thank you for sharing this, Jennifer. I, too, was bullied when I was very young – in grade school. I’m 62 now and still remember being kicked at the bus stop waiting for the school bus, and this boy also spit in my face in the bus. I never did anything to encourage this. No one came to my aid. I was a very shy and quiet girl. That boy and his siblings and mother (except for the father and oldest son) were all nasty. This same boy wasn’t in my class, for which I can be thankful. We were glad this family moved away later.
I’m am planning on writing a post on my blog about friendship and love at some point. Will be making special necklaces to sell on my Etsy shop to go along with the subject.
I appreciate all the daily posts from incourage! It’s great! Thanks!
“What makes a truly great person” to me, is humility. — Good word this morning, Jennifer. Thank you. 🙂
Pearl Allard says
The truly great persons I know prioritize people over productivity – they’ll drop an urgent project to meet another’s need. Ironically, these same persons are some of the most productive people I know!
A truly great person loves and encourages the bully not just supports the victim. Bullies are bullies because of their own pain and inability or lack of knowledge in how to increase their situation or better themselves. Under that anger and meanness is sadness, fear, and confusion. A truly great person can view the bully through the eyes of God and be filled with love and empathy for the person. A difficult task indeed.
Thank-you, I really appreciate what you have shared in your post this morning.
Never should it be okay to make one feel less than ourselves. I therefore am extremely (grate)ful for the kindness of those who don’t treat me that way.
Have a blessed day all,
There are many in my life but one, in particular, stands out. I was a senior in college majoring in Computer Science because everyone said I should but not necessarily because it was my heart’s desire. I’d always done well in math but college was making me rethink everything. I was in an advanced CSc class and I’ll never forget the day the professor looked at me after reviewing something I did and said, “You are really smart!” It mattered so much to me right then. I think without knowing it, because she did that for me I’ve always tried to do the same for others.
It is much safer to be feared than loved:
Isn’t that the most true statement ever!? It is safer to be feared, to bully…its’ no risk to your heart at all. I understand that’s probably not how he meant it, but as I am recovering from so many life blows in this season of my life. I want so bad to lash out at people to show them how I have been hurt, but that’s not God’s way or will. We are to Love and sometimes that means a broken heart. Great article, thank you!
The truly great ones in my life came alongside me in my deepest pain and carried me with their hope and belief.
Diane Bailey says
The first person I think of who makes others feel like somebody ( second only to Christ) is you Jennifer.
I’ve seen you look eye to eye at someone who had nothing to offer you but a “hello”. And you give them a sense of importance to you. You are an example of someone who is blessed by the Lord and gives to others as she is blessed.
Another is my daughter who, will give anything she has to help someone.
The world needs more people like the two of you.
“It is much safer to be feared than loved,” Machiavelli wrote long ago. What if those words were written from sadness after suffering betrayal by a loved one, rather than a suggestion one should seek power through manipulation, lies, and cheating?
Just a thought.
Jen Sandbulte says
Can’t wait to share this with Emma. It gives words to some things she has been wrestling with. Thanks friend.
Nancy Ruegg says
The world celebrates treasure hunters who resurrect gold and gems from the sea floor. How much more should the encouragers be celebrated, who do much to bring out the treasure within others.
Rebecca L Jones says
The truly great people that I know or would like to know, have learned to control themselves in the face of all kinds of situations, and to hold their tongues in the face of false accusations.
Love this! I was just having this conversation with high school girls over coffee today.
Beth Williams says
Truly great people are “small”. They care more about others than themselves. I have been in a small church for about 13 years & it is full of people like that. These people can be called, texted or emailed just about any time & ask for prayers. I have one really good friend who went through aging parent trials with me. We talked all the time. Nice for a change to have these people to talk with about life. Like Bev said the worst enemy is the evil one. He sends messages (lies) of not enough, stupid, ugly, etc. When they come to me I shout out loudly “Get thee behind me Satan” You are not allowed here!!
People who love us unconditionally like Jesus & readily forgive us. I have a boss like that. Make a mistake & she gently corrects you. I pray that more people would be like this. It is such a great way to live!!