Ask yourself these questions and see if this article is for you:

  • When you’re honest with yourself, would you say you long for the approval of others?
  • Do you find yourself deciding where you sit in terms of social standing when you’re in groups or meet others?
  • Would you admit that you keep a hierarchy of looks, coolness, intelligence, abilities, wealth, or athletic abilities?
  • Is there something in you that really longs for admiration on social media when you post a picture, meaning you post more than one selfie a month?
  • Do you like it when you get the credit for something, and you kind of keep a tally about it at work?

If you recognized a little bit of yourself in those scenarios, then maybe my true-life story will be a value to you.

Rob’s Story about Transforming into a Bully:

My ninth grade acne was just barely under control, and my polo-shirt & jean outfit was stiff from never being worn. This first day of school was quite a bit scarier than the other days, because it had been six long years since I attended a public school.

In fourth grade, our entire school at Living Word Academy, was made up of about 30 kids total, 10 of which were in a class with me. After that, Christian Life School in Farmington boasted double the number of students, but it’s main goal seemed to try and keep us purified through behavior modification & evangelicalism.

I’d been lifting weights in the public high school weight room for almost a year and football practice started a month before, but as I stood in the Kenwood Trail Junior High lunch room, my single focus was to find someone that I could sit with to eat lunch.

My stomach churned with the hope that I might find acceptance in the form of a lunch-room table.

The lunch line was already 20 people deep, and I’d been standing in line for about a minute when I looked up to see three of the most beautiful girls I’d ever seen (up to that point).

Since there’s a chance they would read this, I won’t use their names, but I’d never seen such physically alluring girls wearing clothes that were quite so fitted. Even the cheerleaders in my Christian school were required to wear full-length dresses that came down to their ankles, but these girls were wearing shorts that allowed their legs to hypnotically glow in complete splendor from their summer tan. I, along with every other teenage boy in that school, were spell-bound by the girl’s which had recently experienced the hormonal surge of maturity out of girl-hood.

Right behind these girls was a group of guys that confidently cut to the front of the lunch line without any regard for those of us who’d been waiting quietly. I was in awe, because these girls and guys simply ignored the time-honored tradition of waiting in line, and all of us seemed to accept their status as “too good to wait”. I later learned that all ninth graders would budge in front of under classmen, but this group cut right in front of many kids their own age. They obviously were in a status above us.

That group took their seats amongst another group of equally beautiful and confident girls and guys.

I finally got my lunch and exited the serving area, finding myself staring at a sea of tables filled with people I really didn’t know. I started to walk around slowly, fishing for some sort of eye contact. I knew there was a little bit of hope because luckily, I was part of the football team that had been practicing for the last month or so.

The table of pretty girls and confident guys didn’t even raise their eyes when I walked by them, and just when I thought that I’d have to sit friendless and alone, a voice spoke up “Satrom, you can sit here man”.

I turned around and saw a fellow football player that I didn’t completely recognize, “Satrom right? yeah you can sit here, I’m Josh Storm remember?” I sat down in relief.

Josh had carved out His own little niche of confidence amongst the swirling uneasiness of Junior High School. He was sitting alone, but His face was confident, stern, and tough. We talked about sports, the lunch room, gawked at what we thought were the most stunningly beautiful girls, and then was off to class.

To this day, I think that Josh’s seemingly small action of speaking out to me, was a display of the tremendous inner character that I believe Him to possess even today. Josh was a hero to me in that moment, and He selflessly acted as a friend to me in a really huge way.

Just a couple of days later, Josh and I saw another new person wandering around the lunch room aimlessly. We invited Him to sit down, and got to know Brian a little bit. Brian was a little more “tough” than the other kids, He seemed to walk around with a little bit of a chip on His shoulder, and He wore baggy “gangsta” clothes. Even though we were dressed completely different, Brian was eager to have a safe place amongst the lunch tables.

The fall pressed on, and I was starting to be noted as one of the new standout football players and was even asked to come visit the high school games a couple of times by the varsity coaches. I was definitely known as the big guy who was good at sports.

That fall, every day at the lunch room was filled with the same thing. Brian, Josh, and I would sit at the lunch table, and fall completely in love with the girls in school who we thought were the most beautiful things on the planet. I’m pretty sure every Junior High boy is so chock-full-o-hormones that they think about girls all day long. I remember how badly every guy wanted to be “liked” by one of the girls or to “go out” with one of them, which meant that so many of the “most” physically attractive girls sitting at one table, obviously raised the status of anyone else sitting with them.

so many of the “most” physically attractive girls sitting at one table, obviously raised the status of anyone else sitting with them.

As described in a previous post, even at this time, I was riddled with a very destructive mindset that was sinful and hurt my relationships. I had a mindset that desired notoriety, honor, and for others to think highly of me. As I was getting noticed on the football field, I wanted to become the most dominating person on the field and be known off the field for being a badass. This caused me to use anger, rage, and self-exultation as I worked hard at developing my athletic and physical prowess.

About half way through that ninth grade year, my arrogant mindset started to impact my personal life as well.

Many of the kids at the popular table, with all the pretty girls, were football players. They had an exclusivity about them which caused others to envy them. This envy and exclusivity was the exact type of thing that, unfortunately, was a driving force and desire deep within my heart. I was starting to get annoyed that I wasn’t sitting at the most elevated table in the room, and I was slowly becoming emboldened enough to do something about it.

The popular kids had an exclusivity about them which caused others to envy them.

I’ll never forget, my self-confidence and ego was starting to swell because I was becoming physically quite dominating. On the football field in particular, I was having quite a bit of success (that’s not to sell any of my teammates short by the way! In particular, Matt Olson was an absolute terror for me on the field that year. He kicked my butt everyday in practice and was critical in my athletic development.)

I was no longer intimidated by anyone, so much so that I had started to use intimidation to my own advantage, flippantly and arrogantly leaning on physicality to set myself above others.

One day as I grabbed my lunch, I made a seemingly small decision which impacted my life in a really big way.

I got my lunch as I always did, but instead of walking over to Brian and Josh’s table, I walked right over to the “popular kids table” and I just invited myself in. I started some conversations with the guys that played football, the girls, and a couple of others. I was trying to make a good impression because I was bound and determined to become an ‘insider” of this seemingly powerful group that lorded exclusivity over the rest of the kids in the school.

Sitting at the table wasn’t such a big deal, but my reaction to their conversation and behavior was.

Many of the people at this table were simply mean to others, and were consistently making fun of people in some pretty flippant ways. Right off the bat, I remember one of them asking about those two “idiots” that I’d been eating lunch with everyday. Brian and Josh had been nothing but amazing friends to Me and I really owed them quite a bit. They were kind, forgiving, and they took effort to build and sustain a relationship with Me during that first semester. But as the kids started ripping on ’em, I gave in and started acting like they were beneath me.

The bottom line was that there was a game called “popularity”, and I was ready to dive in head-first.

This game was all about moving yourself upwards and forwards in notoriety, power, envy, and “prestige”. Looking back at it, it appealed to all the desires of  what the Bible calls “the flesh”, reveling in the admiration of others. We wanted to be the funniest, the coolest, the most athletic, the prettiest, the most desirable, the most enviable, the most popular, and the most successful kids – all at the cost of others.

The game is played at the cost of others and that’s really it’s main function. In this game, it seems that every situation must be taken as an opportunity to exalt yourself above someone else. You even believe the delusion that the put-downs are “endearing” to the people you seem closest to, while it really just chips away and tears them down.

I compromised who I was that day in order to gain notoriety points. I turned my back on people in a way that was cold, mean, and disrespectful. I had used Josh’s friendship as the first rung of my climb up the notoriety ladder, only to totally forget about Him as I took the next step.

Josh, If you ever read this, I’m sorry for what I did. I know that you were steadfast, and we had an amicable relationship throughout high school, but I really enjoyed your friendship and I would have liked to pour into that more than I did. I was a backstabbing, arrogant jerk, and i want you to know that I am truly sorry for that.

I made a small compromise when I was a willing participant in the bullying, demeaning, and “political” behavior of this new group of friends. I quickly became proficient at advancing my own glory, and social status by creating exclusivity amongst ourselves and using cruelty to demean others. The cruelty that we implemented was essentially bullying and I’m quite ashamed of some of the things I said and did.

None of what I did was criminal or caused tremendous physical pain, it’s not like we jumped people and beat them up. But we put labels on people, stereotyped them, issued nick-names, labeled people’s behaviors as “gay, stupid,or weird” and subliminally worked at pushing others down while lifting ourselves up.

Back then, I never would have admitted to all of this, and probably didn’t have the maturity to identify it and recognize it for what it was. In fact, as I’ve said before, these problems existed because while I would call myself a “Christian”, I didn’t know or understand the heart of God and didn’t keep the focus on Loving God & loving other people as myself. I wanted to know more about God, but when I’d try, I was totally lost, particularly because I was reading a hard-to-read version of the Bible. Not only was my inability to have a true devotion hurting my spiritual life, but my “Christian” friends seemed to be missing out on this as well. We we more concerned about friends, girls, and the glory of sports than loving God and loving others as ourselves.

Another weird aspect was that this game only works when people decide to become participants. This is done when you either participate in exalting yourself or pushing others down.

The core of the entire game is desiring the approval of others and When we live for the approval of others, we will die at their rejection.

You can avoid the insidious game altogether by finding value in your identity in Christ.

During High School, my life was engulfed by seeking the approval of others and in the exaltation of myself rather than seeking Christ-like humility.

Shortly after my ninth grade year, my parents moved across the street from one of the most notorious players in this game. My new neighbor would end up being eventually my born-again, totally transformed.  He is my current best friend and business partner, Nick Meester.

Here’s the reason I wanted to write about this, it’s important for young people to realize that there is a game people are playing. It’s amplified in school, but it lives out in your jobs and other places. The game might be called the “popularity game”, it might be the “notoriety game” or the “wealth & success game”.

Regardless of it’s subtleties, the core of this game is about seeking approval from the world.

There is a God, who made each and every person as the pinnacle of His creation, and He loves and cares for you.

He wants you to come to Him like a father, and find your identity as His child through a relationship with Him.

God came down to this earth in the person of Jesus to make us right with Himself because He’s perfect and Holy, and we all come out of the womb as little sinners who break God’s law.

God loves us, wants a relationship with us, and He has a purpose He wants us to fulfill.

You become the SONS and DAUGHTERS of God when He grafts you into His family because of your faith & belief in Jesus. We are God’s children when we believe in, and trust in Jesus. Not only are we made right with God when we believe, but God then sends us His Holy Spirit. The same God that created the universe, and the same power that raised Jesus from the dead, will come and live inside you.

When you place your trust in Jesus as your only means to salvation, God’s spirit comes and lives inside of you, giving you a new peace.

If you don’t have peace, and you find yourself constantly playing a game where you’re trying to lift yourself up, then come to Jesus and find your identity as a child of God because there is fullness of joy when you do it.

You won’t be yearning for the approval of people so badly, because you’ll understand that the creator of the Universe has chosen you, knows you, and wants a relationship with you. Not only that, but you’ll read that He’s promised to reward you in heaven for fulfilling His purpose here on earth.

It sounds cheesy sometimes, but I believe it to my BONES because of the evidence in science and the testimony about Jesus.

If you’re playing the game, I want to warn you to end it now and call out to God for forgiveness.

If your a victim of the game, cry out to Jesus for help and He will start to work in your life.

Here are 16 thoughts I have about my experience of being a bully in the popularity game:

1 – My self-glorifying tendencies were an evil force in my life.
2 – There is a game of popularity and notoriety not only in Junior High, but in the adult world.
3 – The game is all about looking for the approval of others.
4 – the game is also about finding your identity in anything other than Christ.
5 – The game’s currency and tactics for advancement evolve every year, but it’s essentially a desire to lift ourselves above others, and get the approval or envy of other people.
6 – Jesus addressed this specific behavior by saying “Whoever humbles himself will be exalted, and whoever exalts Himself will be humbled”. This means that by playing the game, you’ll probably experience a humbling thing in your life that keeps you down.
7 – Jesus addressed the game again when He taught about serving rather than being served; Jesus was all powerful yet served others rather than being served himself.
8 – Jesus also talked about this when He said that whoever wants to be first, must be the least among you.
9 – Satan and our sinful nature, rope us into this game which causes us to pull other players onto our game-board. The ultimate competition for us is God, which Satan was the first to try and beat when He tried to make himself “like the most high God”
10 – In a way, this pride is the core of all sin and brokenness in this world
11 – Pride is very dangerous when we have any form of power.
12 – using power for our own gain is completely contrary to what Jesus taught, and is squarely at odds with what Jesus said was the Number One Rule of God: To Love God with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind and to love our neighbor as ourselves”.
13 – True love of God and People is defined in the Bible in some interesting ways – both by what it IS and what it IS NOT. I list this at the bottom of this post
14 – Envy, a desire to have what others have or more, is really hard for us to identify in ourselves, and creates a strong pull towards sin.
15 – refusing to play the popularity or notoriety game begins with Humility and Jesus.
16 – God has an entirely different game that He wants to play, one where we seek first God’s way of living.
14 – When we play the popularity / notoriety game, we are acting at odds with God, which will absolutely lead to some sort of destruction in our lives. “For God opposes the proud”.
15 – Jesus taught that we should not “lord ourselves” over other people, which applies to playing the popularity/notoriety game.
16 – Jesus gave us an example during His time on earth, that while He was the most powerful person on the earth, He used it only to bring glory to God the father, through complete obedience to Him.

I’m ashamed of how arrogant, mean, self-centered, and cruel I was to a number of people while I was in High School.

I was dead in my trespasses during this time of my life. God was always in the back of my conscience, inclining me to repent and turn back to HIm.

I always knew I wanted to return to my father in heaven, but I was addicted to the short-term quenching from playing the game.

I was eventually born again, experienced a resetting and re-birth, after I responded to an altar call by Lowell Lundstom at Celebration Church in Lakeville Minnesota on a random Sunday afternoon.

I stood up when the pastor asked “who wanted to repent and turn to Jesus”, and I went in the back for prayer and encouragement.

I didn’t suddenly change, I was deeply rooted in my old ways, but it was that day that I placed my faith in Jesus to save me. It was that day, that I was no longer a slave to the game, and I took my game-chip to God’s board and started playing His game.

My identity is now fully in Christ, my ability to be marked by His love is what my testimony hangs on. The easiest way to see that the game of popularity is evil, is to understand that it is NOT love.

Jesus told us that if we “Love God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind, and love our neighbor as ourselves”, we’d be pursuing the overarching command of God.

Examine your life by reading God’s truth about Love:

Love is patient
Love is kind.
Love is not jealous.
Love is not boastful.
Love is not proud.
Love is not rude.
Love It does not demand its own way.
Love is not irritable.
Love means you keeps no record of being wronged. Love does not rejoice about injustice
Love rejoices whenever the truth wins out.
Love never gives up,
Love never loses faith,
Love is always hopeful,
True love endures through every circumstance.

Nothing matters in life if it is not marked by Love.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 – summarized by Rob.

This might be important, especially if your’e wondering things like:
How do i stop a bully?
How do I fight a bully?
Why do people bully?
How do I become popular?
How do I make girls like me?
How do I make guys like me?
How do I make my boyfriend jealous?
How do I make my girlfriend jealous?
How do I make someone look stupid?
How can I make friends?
How do I survive high school?
How do I survive college?
Why are kids so mean?

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