Bullying and the bachelor
If you’ve been tuning into this season of the Bachelor, or caught any of the clips, you’ve gotten a taste of the extreme mean girl culture that’s taken over the house where the contestants are currently living together.
If you’re completely new to the Bachelor reality television series, here’s the basics: an eligible young bachelor is picked to be whisked away and have 25+ beautiful women leave their lives to vie for his heart and ultimately a proposal. The goal of the show is for the bachelor to find his wife. During the coarse of show, the women can have no cell phones, internet access, or access to the outside world. Each week the women go on dates and bachelor symbolically gives the women he chooses to keep dating a rose. Whoever does not receive a rose is sent home. This continues week after week until he eventually is left with the woman he chooses to propose to. This season, Matt James is the bachelor, and his group consists of 32 women competing with everything they have to win him over.
Just hearing the synopsis of this series makes you understand why there would be tension; 30 or so women date the same guy, are egged on by producers, are forced to live with one another, and have no outside contact with the world. Obviously this would create drama, which is why this is part of a hit franchise. However, this season has been particularly terrible in the bullying department.
Here’s the thing: trash talking bullies is simply continuing the cycle of bullying and treating people poorly. If we bully the women who are being bullies, we become the thing we hate. For that reason, there’s no need to name names or be super specific, but if you tune into to an episode or two you will catch on quickly.
Here’s a brief overview of what’s happened in the bullying department this season: a woman in the house said she heard rumors that another woman was an escort. When the woman accused of being an escort explained to the group that this was in fact not true, she was told “okay, then get out of the house”. Another woman has consistently called other contestants “disgusting”. After one woman made other contestants upset for interrupting their group date, she was told that “her life would be hell” in the house because of her actions. When that woman left, someone said “the trash took itself out”, referring to her exit. A woman was called a “ho” to her face because she is a dancer by profession. A woman constantly has referred to other women she dislikes as "fu***** losers". This is the tip of the iceberg.
So why is this bullying culture accepted?
The simple answer is that we watch drama. Drama sells, drama makes money, drama makes 19+ year franchises that take in millions. This television show is specially created to foster dramatic interactions. However, there’s a clear difference between the natural tensions that arise when a group of women are dating the same person and the intentional destruction and disrespect we have seen on season 25 of this series.
Luckily, after being tipped off by a contestant who was tired of the cruel behaviors happening amongst the group, Matt addressed the bullying head on. In episode 5 of this season, Matt talked to his contestants about unacceptable behavior going on. He took two women aside, who had been accused of severely mistreating others in the house, and condemned their bullying directly, eventually sending them both home.
So what can we do practically to stop this extreme mean girl culture from existing in our world?
[I generally don’t believe in giving prescriptive advice anymore, unless explicitly asked, because it can get messy and legalistic very quickly. The only thing that will be genuinely helpful is sharing what the Word of God says, and as much as I can share with you, I highly encourage you to pray and search the word of God for yourself and pray for your own convictions from Him.]
First, let’s take bullying seriously [Psalm 34:12-18; 1 John 2:9; 3:15] We can’t brush off harmful and extremely hurtful behavior as just “entertainment”. Bullying is simply never okay. After looking at some of the “bullies”’ social media accounts, I observed that while many followers continued the cycle of bullying and used their words violently, many were quick to brush off the cruel actions as “harmless fun” or said things like, “you’re the reason this whole season is entertaining”. We can see that neither of those things are helpful.
Second, we can use and give others the real solution. Real problems will never be solved with mean comments on someone’s Instagram selfie. Someone’s heart will not be transformed by your message about their Facebook story. We can’t combat bullying with bullying. We also can’t encourage or diminish the damage done by someone and tell them it’s no big deal. Hurting someone with words, especially on national television to forever be archived, is serious and needs to be treated as such. As followers of Jesus, we know that ultimately, when everything is stripped away, Jesus is the only hope for the world. Jesus and the gospel are the only true sources of healing and only real solutions for our problems. Without the gospel, without God and His love, without the eternal promises secured in Jesus, there would be no reason to be kind, to be loving, to try, to hope, to heal. But Jesus gives us hope [Romans 5:1-5]. Jesus teaches us to love [1 John 4:19]. Jesus gives us a new identity [Galatians 2:20]. Jesus is our reason for living and being [Acts 20:24]. We have to remember the real solution to solve any real problems and share it [the gospel] with those who don’t have it.
Third, we can stop the cycle of bullying. We can never control the actions of others, but we can control how we react to them. Our words matter, even when we are talking about people on a reality television show; it matters what we say [Proverbs 15:4; 16:24; 18:4; 21:22; Matthew 12:36]. Our words have real impact and consequence, even if the people we are talking about never hear them [Proverbs 10:19; 18:21; 21:23; Matthew 15:18; James 1:26; 3:5]. Negativity breeds negativity, and trash-talking words attract more of the same. We are instructed by God to treat others with respect and kindness, no matter the circumstances [Matthew 7:12; 5:44; Romans 12:14; Ephesians 4:29; Colossians 3:8; 4:6; James 1:21]. So by just using our words for encouragement, edification, and kindness, we can combat this nasty, mean culture of cruelty. I absolutely know how hard this is. If you're like me, you've probably rehearsed the absolute perfect way to clapback at that mean girl or already written the draft of the text message to show her what's up, but by doing that you become the thing you are trying to stop. By not bullying the bullies, we end the cycle. It seems trivial, but we can pray for those who have chosen cruelty over kindness, knowing that prayer and kindness have a far greater impact than rude comments on Twitter.
Finally, we can equip ourselves to handle conflict wisely. We are called as believers to stand up for the truth and speak it in love [Ephesians 4:15]. If we need to address a conflict [and girl this is the real world, so you know we do] then we do it, do it in love, listen to wisdom [Matthew 18:15-35 gives instruction on confrontation with other believers] and when we are done, we are done [Proverbs 17:19]. We all know it’s not a cute and uncomplicated thing. No one likes conflict. I can’t stand when people try to boil down real, difficult things into a phrase that should be embroidered on a pillow at Hobby Lobby, so don’t get me wrong when I say, there isn’t nothing simple and easy about this. It’s usually always more complicated than it seems, messy, uncomfortable, and difficult. But, the word of God is extremely practical, and does not fail in wisdom, so sometimes we have to humbly jump in, hold the cringe, and to do what we have to do, trusting God and His Word. Sometimes it can be helpful to speak to a therapist or counselor to get unbiased advice or have a safe and completely private space to vent. And, sometimes trusting God with our conflict means we are stress pacing while eating a bag of cheese puffs and praying that God helps us keeps our mouths shut from speaking that toxic negativity.
This is an uphill battle that we will probably battle the rest of our lives, especially as women in a world where women are constantly pitted against one another. But, the good news is we have practical tools to fight the bullying culture on television, and in our everyday lives! Don’t give up! Don’t stop fighting for what you know is right! It will be hard, it won’t be fun, and it will get messy, but be a strong, courageous woman of God who sticks up for the vulnerable and oppressed.
"Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near."
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