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Dealing with Bullies

Vayishlach (Genesis 32:4-36:43 )

by Nesanel Yoel Safran

After escaping from the wicked Laban, Jacob and his family face another challenge.

To get home, they must first pass through the land of Esau, Jacob's violent brother. As Jacob well knows, Esau has been plotting to kill him for many years.

So Jacob prepares a brilliant three-part plan that teaches us how to deal with bullies like Esau.

  • First, Jacob prays to God to protect him and his family.
  • Second, Jacob sends messengers to Esau with pleasant words and valuable gifts, to let Esau know that he wants peace.
  • Third, in case all else fails, Jacob prepares to fight his brother if he has to.

But in the end, Jacob doesn't need to fight. His prayers are answered, and Esau accepts Jacob's gifts and words of peace. And he lets him pass without making any trouble.


Our forefather Jacob taught us how to deal with people like Esau, the violent bullies of this world. Here is a story of a boy who learned that lesson and had ...


Johnny and Ed were out riding their bikes home from the local fishing pond. They had caught many fish that day and were happy. There was only one problem:

To get home they had to pass by Thompson's farm. Chuck Thompson was known as the local bully. And with his big mouth and big muscles he really deserved the title. Anyone passing by Chuck Thompson's place could expect a good cursing out if he was lucky and a black eye if he wasn't.

Sure enough as the boys turned the corner toward Thompson's farm, Chuck was there to greet them with a hail of insults.

Johnny started turning red. "I'm not going to take it!" he fumed. "Let's put that bully in his place."

"This is his place," answered Ed. "We're riding past his house, remember?" he added with a smile.

"You know what I mean," snapped Johnny. "How can we let him get away with calling us those names? C'mon Ed, you've got a black belt in karate, together we can take him."

"That's not the point," said Ed calmly. "You know the things he's saying aren't true. If a dog was barking at you, you wouldn't get insulted would you? This is the same thing. Let's hope nothing happens. But if he tries to hit us we'll have to defend ourselves. Until then let's just leave it alone."

As the boys got closer to the farmhouse they saw Chuck Thompson standing there with a baseball bat. He seemed to be waiting for them to answer him back.

But Ed just smiled, waved and called out, "Thanks for letting us ride by, Chuck. Here's a couple of big fish as a token of our appreciation. I hope we didn't bother you."

"No problem," grumbled the bully.

And the boys rode off peacefully back home.


Ages 3-5

Q. What did Johnny want to do when Chuck Thompson insulted them?
A. He wanted to fight back.

Q. Why didn't Ed agree?
A. Ed thought that just because Chuck Thompson said something bad, they didn't have to get upset, answer back, or fight. He also thought there was a better way to deal with a bully.


Ages 6-9


Q. Why wasn't Ed angry over what Chuck Thompson said?
A. He knew it wasn't true, and he didn't want to fight unless he had to.

Q. If someone insults you, do you have to answer back? Why or why not?
A. No. Because bullies are just looking for an excuse to hurt people. Whatever they say to you doesn't change the good person you really are. Usually, it's better to ignore them.


Ages 10 and Up

Q. Johnny wanted to fight with the bully and Ed didn'. Who do you think was more secure and sensible, and why?
A. Ed was. Johnny just wanted to act tough. But fighting the bully wouldn' have proved anything and he could have gotten hurt. Ed used his head. He didn' take Chuck's insults seriously. He didn't answer back; he even flattered the bully. He was ready to fight if he had to, but he didn't.

Q. Can you think of a time when you or someone you know showed strength by not fighting back?



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