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Reporting the Truth.
Restoring the Church.

Paul Coughlin: Bullies in Ministry

The Roys Report
The Roys Report
Paul Coughlin: Bullies in Ministry

Bullying is a huge issue in schools and workplaces. But what do you do when your bully is a pastor or leader of a Christian organization? Do you give a gentle word and turn the other cheek? Or, do you stand up and fight?

On this edition of The Roys Report, we’ll hear from Paul Coughlin, a best-selling author and nationally recognized anti-bullying expert, as he speaks at the Restore Conference.

In this eye-opening talk, Paul explains what makes bullies tick—and how to respond if you’re the victim of a bully.

According to Paul, 85-percent of the population are not inclined to bullying. They’re generally nice if you’re nice to them. And if you give a gentle word, they’ll turn from their anger.

But the other 15-percent are malevolent. They’re bullies. And being nice and gracious just makes things worse.

What’s even more alarming: stats show these bullies do the most harm in professions that attract nurturing personalities. These include medicine, teaching—and ministry.

Paul systematically peels back the spiritual manipulation and common deceptions that allow bullies to have free rein.

This Week’s Guest

Paul Coughlin

Paul Coughlin is an author, an international speaker and the founder and president of The Protectors, which is dedicated to helping schools, organizations and communities combat bullying. His books include No More Christian Nice Guy, Raising Bully-Proof Kids and 5 Secrets Great Dads Know. Paul and his wife, Sandy, reside in central Oregon and have three teenage children. Learn more about Paul and his organization at

Show Transcript


Bullying is a huge issue in schools and workplaces. But what do you do when your bully is a pastor or leader of a Christian organization? Do you give a gentle word and turn the other cheek? Or do you stand up and fight? Welcome to The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And today you’re going to hear a message from Paul Coughlin, a best-selling author and nationally recognized anti bullying expert. According to Paul, most of the population are not bullies. They’re generally nice if you’re nice to them. And if you give a gentle word, they’ll turn from their anger. But studies show about 15% are malevolent. Paul says they’re bullies and being nice and gracious just makes things worse. What’s even more alarming is that these bullies do the most harm and professions that attract nurturing personalities. These include medicine, teaching, and ministry. And this eye-opening talk from the recent Restore conference, Paul explains what makes bullies tick and how to respond if you’re the victim of a bully. Paul does an awesome job of peeling back the common deception and spiritual manipulation that allows bullies free rein. I think you’re going to benefit so much from this presentation. But first, I want to thank the sponsors of this podcast, Judson University and Marquardt of Barrington. Judson University is a top ranked Christian University providing a caring community and an excellent college experience. Plus, the school offers more than 60 majors great leadership opportunities and strong financial aid. Judson University is shaping lives that shaped the world. For more information just go to Also, if you’re looking for a quality new or used car, I highly recommend my friends at Marquardt of Barrington. Marquardt is a Buick GMC dealership where you can expect honesty, integrity and transparency. That’s because the owners there Dan and Kurt Marquardt, are men of character. To check them out, just go to Well, again, what you’re about to hear is a fantastic message by Paul Coughlin from the recent Restore conference, Paul is an author, international speaker and the founder and president of The Protectors, a group dedicated to helping organizations combat bullying. His books include No More Christian Nice Guy, Raising Bully-Proof Kids, and Five Secrets Great Dads Know. Here’s Paul Coughlin.

It’s great to be here. I have been a big fan of Julie’s for years. I used to be the editor of a newspaper, and I was a reporter, written eight nonfiction books. I know how hard it is to get to the facts. And it’s even harder to get to the truth. Well, a little about the Protectors here. We started out with adolescent bullying. I thought there must be a faith-based solution. And there wasn’t one. So, we created one. And I’m very glad to say that we have I have witnessed more than 8000 students publicly apologize for bullying and related behavior, including racism. So, we’ve been very fortunate to be part of that. And then we moved into workplace bullying. Done some work with the Baltimore Ravens football team. Main things we do with the Ravens is forgiveness work. There is something wrong with football culture. And the Ravens know it. It’s why we come in. And now we’ve been asked to come into the theater of spiritual abuse. Bullying and spiritual abuse go hand in hand, they’re often one of the same. We’ve been asked to be part of some of the former members of Mark Driscoll’s church in Arizona, working with some of them, including a family member. We’ve been also asked to go into the survivors of Applegate Christian Fellowship, which I know a lot about in Southern Oregon. I’m from Southern Oregon. I met my wife there, Sandy. So, I know a lot about Applegate. And you know what’s really sad? What just happened in there and I had an opportunity to speak earlier with Sandy and Paul. She’s part of the survivor group as well. You know, the sad thing is? There are more people who attend the survivor group than who attend an average church service. It ought not to be. Well, we’re here to talk about bullying, spiritual bullying. First, let’s talk about what it’s not. Bullying is not when you expect someone to fulfill their job description and you call them on it. Bullying is not expecting people to live up to a certain set of circumstances, responsibilities, and duties. So, when you call people on the carpet, who need to be called on the carpet, that isn’t bullying. Bullying is the new B word. We are calling bullying things that really aren’t bullying really sad, right? Because when it comes to people who are abused, roughly 75% don’t tell anyone. They suffer in deep silence. And so, when it comes to churches and schools and related organizations, when it comes to bullying, many people within administration, teachers, and so forth, they’re going down rabbit trails that really aren’t leading to bullying, that’s conflict, misunderstanding, miscommunication, that type of thing to people who can’t get along. All the while we should be spending precious resources, helping that kid come forward, helping the bystander come forward in schools, and churches as well. What bullying is, is really an imbalance of power, an imbalance of power. And bullies have great acumen when it comes to power. They’re very good at two types, real and perceived power. And in fact, they will tell you things that they think they know about you, but the kind of power that they have over you, which isn’t true. But because most people are not serial bullies, roughly 15% of a population tends to be malevolent. Because the vast majority 85% of people would never think about setting up another person. We don’t figure out the game. They’re gaming people. They’re gaming people, and they do that, in part through perceived power. So, it’s the superior use of power with the intention to harm another person. It’s not a one off. Multiple times, and for no justifiable reason, though they think it is justifiable to harm another person. Getting your feelings hurt every once in a while it hurts. Bullying abuses the harm. Paul made that distinction in one of his letters to the Corinthians. What I wrote, may have hurt you, but I didn’t harm you. It’s a very important distinction. Superior use of power with the intention to harm another person multiple times and for no justifiable reason. But there’s another portion to it that we need to add. There’s a lot of definitions about bullying. We include the following attribute. Audacity. Audacity means to take bold risks in a rude and mean way. Evil carries within itself, the seed of its own destruction. Evil carries within itself the seed of its own destruction. And when it comes to bullying, and when it comes to spiritual abuse, especially from an authority figure, that seed most of the time, is Audacity. It is their undoing. We need to accelerate that undoing because serial bullies don’t change. They say they change they don’t change. Even while holding a Bible in their hand, they are lying to you. All liars aren’t bullies, all serial bullies lie. It doesn’t matter if they have a Bible in their hand or not. And Sandy and Paul, I think we saw an example of this audacity there at Applegate Christian Fellowship, where I used to attend. There was a very fateful Sunday service. And some of you might be familiar with the video. I know more than just Sandy and Paul are where the leader of the church and his son John and Ben through the former wife under the bus. They said some of the worst things about that young lady. And let’s just say that even if they were true, you don’t say those things out loud. You keep them private. But they didn’t. It was an audacious thing that they did. And I believe it was the beginning of the undoing, because they’ve been doing a lot of audacious things. And I know people who have attended that church for over 20 years; they were there since the founding of the church. And one in particular, it was that event that audacious that bridge too far., that they said, timeout. This is wrong. More than saying it’s wrong. It’s a Popeye moment. They just said I’m going to do something about it. They made a big error. When you upset the women of a church, when you upset your wife, watch out. I think we saw that audacity there. And it’s important we point that out. When we view people, other people, we roughly view them one of three ways. When we have conflict, and we believe people are above us socially, we often express jealousy and envy. When we believe people are roughly equal, we express in conflict, usually anger. It’s hot, but it dissipates. That’s not bullying. That’s just conflict. Bullying comes from this. Where we express disdain and contempt toward people who we think are inferior, not important, not as valuable, not as loved, not as especially circled by God anointed, fill in the blank. That is where much of abuse comes from, and both the Hebrew and the New Testament forbid disdain and contempt because the father of life knows what it leads to. I was scheduled to speak in Rwanda on the 25th anniversary of the genocide. And I was asked to speak about the connection between bullying and genocide. In order to get to genocide, and we saw this with the Nazis as well, it starts with bullying. Bullying, sexual harassment, racism, genocide, all have this in common. In order to justify the assault on the other person, we must turn them into a less than, and they do it with great acumen as they get older. We must fight that as people of faith. Why do bullies do what they do? They do what they do because most are not motivated by self-hatred. They’re motivated by hubris. They’re motivated by arrogance. And one of the people who has pointed this out is Dr. Roy Baumeister. This article is in Scientific American. He asked the fundamental question, do people turn violent due to self-hate or self-love? We’ve been led to believe through the, to some degree cult of the self-esteem movement, that people do bad things because they feel badly about themselves. But that concept has really been challenged with recent and actually data that has been around for a lot of decades. We just don’t want to believe it. But your average bully hasn’t been abused any more than anyone else. The people who have low self-esteem are targets. They’re the ones who struggled throughout life. They’re the ones who have a hard time making lasting adult relationships. They’re the one with trust issues. They’re the passive aggressive ones, and they’re the ones who struggle with resentment. Resentment is the leading negative emotion that tethers people to drug and alcohol abuse. They’re the walking wounded, not the bullies. Because when you look at when bullies bully, when we look at the words they use their facial expression, the tone that they use, it is not one of brokenness, it is actually one of pleasure. It is pleasurable to dominate and to control another human being. I just gave you part of the definition of sadism. Why do they do what they do? Baumeister finishes his article this way, people who bully regard themselves as superior to others. Low self-esteem is found among victims but not among bullies themselves. We have been hoodwinked. By the way, what three groups have high self-esteem? Drunk drivers, racists and bullies. I would say high self-esteem is not serving our nation well, in that regard. In fact, in some Asian cultures, they don’t even have a word for high self-esteem. It isn’t something they value. I think our inability to spot a serial bully is similar to our inability to spot pedophiles, 20 something years ago or so. So, we believed for example, that pedophiles all of them had been abused, sexually abused. At the most 25%. We had this belief that pedophilia was a crime of opportunity. It isn’t. It’s a crime of habit. A pedophile will take a job with a church in a youth group across the country to get access to kids. Evil doesn’t look like evil. Bullying, and abuse doesn’t look like bullying and abuse. We’ve been hoodwinked and we need to wake up. As I said earlier, most serial bullies are narcissists. And this comes from the book The New Science of Narcissism. It’s a pretty cool book and it outlines three kinds of narcissists. We have the grandiose narcissist, which tends to attract people in politics for example, I will not name names. And then you have the wounded narcissist. And they tend to be attracted to the entertainment industry. And then we have a mixture of the two by far when it comes to ministry, the kind of narcissist who is attracted to ministry is going to be the grandiose, without a doubt. They’re the ones who create the most problems, and they’re also among the most to do a lot of harm. Does anyone want to take a guess which vocation that a bully does the most harm: medicine, teaching, ministry. That’s because they attract the nurturing personality, which is a blessing from above. The problem with the nurturing personality, most of the time, it doesn’t know how to handle a bully. And when you put a spiritual veneer upon it, it’s even worse. Well, if you just a general word turns away wrath, and if you’re just the nicest person in the world, it’s going to melt their heart and transform them. It doesn’t work. Again, you’re dealing with the 15%, not the 85%. They do a lot of damage. They have a lot of things in common. One of them is antagonism. All narcissists are antagonistic. And I believe I saw this at Applegate. When I attended there, it was the biggest church in Southern Oregon, by far. It’s where the cool kids went, right? So, he just went out to Jacksonville, he just followed all the cars. You got to an amphitheater; it was beautiful. But I was really disheartened by what I heard. I would hear multiple times, putting down the locals in the country. They would make fun of the locals for saying that the music was too loud, and the parking was too bad. And it was awful. And they would put them down over and over and over for complaining. I’m thinking, you know, people move out to the country to get away from traffic, to get away from noise. Hey, what about inviting them and not throwing them under the bus as well? I mean, I wondered to myself, would these people once they heard the message, would they be less or more likely to attend Applegate? There’s no way they would. But in the mind of people who have some degree of narcissism, their antagonism is justified. And it gets even worse in the church. Because the best antagonists do it with a smile on their face. They do it with a lilt in their voice. I used to say to people when I attended there, did you hear what was said? They didn’t hear what was said. If you saw a transcript of what you had said, you’d say, well, that’s kind of a mean thing to say. But it was said with such winsomeness that they didn’t catch it. And chances are you have someone in your life who has done that as well. The best bullies are the ones who do it, not with a snarl, but with a smile. They’re the ones who do most of the damage. They tend to be charming, at least at first, but it’s fleeting. It’s fleeting. People grow tired of the narcissistic personality and persona. And eventually they wear off because studies show initially they’re wonderful in a group. They do well, but their star fades. And I used to think in regard to some of the megachurch pastors who have been accused of abuse, that they were a victim of an insular culture. I no longer believe that with my work. anti-bullying work. I believe they want insular culture, because they don’t want to mingle with the average person. The average person they think is below them. If I have time, I’ll talk about my private dinner with Mark Driscoll. They believe they’re especially touched by God with special revelation. I saw this at Applegate, I started with their end times message or so called and times message. I wrote a book in response to that. They don’t look like bullies in public. They’re very good. I was there when they bought the radio station. I heard sermons on Sunday that let me tell you did not line up with behavior on Monday. And I’m being kind. They are very good at kissing up and kicking down. They kiss up to people who they think can give them something and they kick down to people in order to keep them under their thumb. They do not have integrity. Integrity is more than avoiding sin. Integrity means really to have balance. So, if the foundation over there were a little higher than that foundation, we would say this building lacks structural integrity because it’s out of balance. Integrity speaks to wholeness, not just avoiding sin. So, they’re very duplicitous, very duplicitous, and we must know that when we are contending with them, and we’re dealing with them. But one of the major characteristics that they have is arrogance. They often think that they are the fourth person of the Trinity. That’s how important they are. Lack of humility. It’s really what brings us into that arrogant world. So, I did have a private dinner with Mark Driscoll. And this is going to be equally as shocking. I was there to possibly partner on an anti-bullying effort. I just turned it up to 11. Yes, God has a sense of humor and and and irony. Indeed. I’m about as charismatic as Bob Newhart, right? So, I was surprised by how common he was. I expected something remarkable, even kind of memorable. I got a bunch of slogans. They just heard slogan after slogan after slogan. It’s like, you know, you’re a big name. Aren’t you supposed to be interesting? I didn’t say it, but that’s what I was thinking. And the one word that came to mind was glib. And by the way, glibness is a characteristic of narcissism and superficiality as well. The only good thing about the meal was that he paid for it, and it was a very good steak. So okay, that’s part one. Part two, how to stand up to a bully. You are contending with the 15% not the 85%. The usual rules don’t work with bullies. They don’t. To be nice, to be gracious, it makes things worse. They take your gentle spirit, your forbearing spirit, and they use it as a kind of utility. It has a lot to do. But the medievals called the sin of CA Pittacus, or the sin of the wolf. And the ninth level of Hell is reserved, I believe in Dante, for those who commit the sin of CA Pittacus and people are not burned, they’re frozen. And in Dante and the medieval thinkers, and we really need to keep this on our spiritual radar, what they told us is there’s a certain kind of person who only sees the value in other people in regard to their utility, what they can be bargained with what can be bartered for. So, people are only valuable to that kind of person in as much as what they can give them. But the problem is, they’re really good at the spiritual slogans, and they’re able to hide their nefarious plans through Bible words, and we need to change them. I’ve worked for two people who were both elders and deacons at churches that I went to. Serial bullies, absolute serial bullies, and one of them, we made the mistake of going to the church Applegate and those of us in the office were like, we can’t take this anymore. We need someone to intervene. Oy vey. So, we did get someone to intervene. We needed a Doberman Pinscher. We got a cocker spaniel. And when they walked through the door, I realized it’s over. He had already worked them. They were they were, you know, yucking it up all that kind of stuff. And we saw a very different behavior out of my boss when someone from the church was there. And it’s very similar to what Julie reported upon about that Florida radio station down if you remember that what she reported upon there? Where the workers thinking they’re being good Christians. Well, we’re going to try to work with this person and go to them privately and do that. The same thing happened there. When we did the same thing. And then after that guy left, who by the way, left his wife when he started a church in Hawaii, and ran off with the wife of another pastor there. The after he left, the screws were turned even harder on us, because we were dealing with the 15% not the 85. Narcissist don’t listen to peace, love and understanding. This is what they listened to. And please keep it in mind, power and consequences. What kind of power and consequences can you bring into their life? That is their love language, speak it regularly. Speak it regularly. You must have a bigger stick than them or they will not listen to you. I’ve been recording our conversation. I have a hidden camera on me. You didn’t notice it. Now you’re really looking. We rent out undercover equipment to targets of serial bullying, because we actually believe what the Bible says. That we are to be shrewd and wise as a serpent and innocent as a dove. This is how you beat them. This is how you get them. This is how you expose them. You must be a few steps ahead. Give up the usual Christian script that you have been given. They don’t follow it. And by the way, being wise as a serpent, I have heard countless sermons on what it means to be innocent as a dove. Have you ever heard one sermon on what it means to be wise as a serpent? Why is that? We are out of balance. Evangelical culture is uneven. I believe when it comes to abuse, it doesn’t mean to, but it tends to favor the abuser. I love what I think it was Henri Nouwen, I could be wrong. He said that the wisdom of serpents is that of the children of darkness, but minus the malice. And we get this in Luke chapter 16, don’t we? With the parable of the shrewd Manager, which we don’t read, because it’s not part of the NGB the Nice Guy Bible. Alright? The Nice Guy Bible, we only read the sweet stuff, as if the psalms are only full of sweets. Have you read the Psalms? Good Lord above? Lamentations? others? Revelation? It is a troubling scripture, Luke chapter 16. I believe it’s 16th parable of the shrewd manager. And he says something to the effect of I want you to be streetwise smart, but for what is good. Right now, there are children suffering from adolescent bullying, and they’re going to their teacher, they’re going to the administrator, they’re going to their parents, and they’re telling them but there’s no evidence. Here’s the evidence, wire that kid up and check with local statutes. Well, you say, well, I may not be illegal, I don’t know check with local statutes. They change. I’ve read them. Some of them allow for audio. Some of them don’t. Let’s say they don’t allow for audio. Let’s use the wisdom of serpents. Bring in a lip reader. Don’t admit the audio, bring in a lip reader to find out what that kid was saying to your kid, or to another kid or to the secretary at the church. Wisdom of serpents, very important. I was talking with Warren Cole Smith, what brought Driscoll down because his he had had a bad reputation for a long time. But what brought him down? And he told me it was documentation. It’s just there comes a point, you just can’t say anything you want. There comes a point, you have something that is black and white in front of you, and you can’t explain it away. Video is wonderful, except its full color. Chances are, you’re never going to change that serial bully. It’s just not going to happen. And it’s often a fool’s errand. If you don’t have a bigger bat than them, they’re just not going to listen. And when it comes to bullying, we need to remember something in standing up to bullies. And the Greeks had a great expression. They said only the gods are courageous in isolation. Only the gods are courageous in isolation. There’s a really cool study the Solomon Asch Conformity Experiment, has anyone familiar? I’m not gonna steal the thunder from this video. But it’s really funny and interesting, but it’s also telling let’s see if this works.

The experiment you’ll be taking part in today involves the perception of lengths of lines.. Your task is a very simple one. You’re to look at the line on the left and determine which of the three lines on the right is equal to it in length. All right, we’ll proceed in this order, you will give your answer.

Only one of the people in the group is a real subject, the fifth person with a white t shirt. The others are confederates of the experimenter and have been told to give wrong answers on some of the trials. The experiment begins uneventfully as subjects give their judgments. Two, two, two, two, two. But on the third trial, something happens. Two two, two, two, two. The subject denies the evidence of his own eyes and yields to group influence. Asch found subjects went along with the group on 37% of the critical trials. But he found through interviews, that they went along with the group for different reasons. One, one. They must be right. There are four of them and one of me. This subjects yielding is based on a distortion of his judgment. He genuinely believes that the group is correct. One, one, one, two one. I know they’re wrong, but why should I make waves. Two. In this case, the subject knows he is right, but goes along to avoid the discomfort of disagreement with the group. Here the distortion is at the level of his response. Two, two, two, two. In the previous experiment, the naive subject stood alone against the group. In this variation, Asch gave the naive subject a partner, here seated in the third position, who also gives the correct response. One, one, two, one, two. With a partner, yielding drops to only 5% of the critical trials compared to 37% without a partner.

Isn’t that something? You know, Jesus sent the disciples out one by one initially. It wasn’t only till later he sent them out in two by two and what was the warning? Send you out like sheep among wolves. Be wise as a serpent, and innocent as a dove. Oh, by the way, I’m from Oregon. That looks like it was old. That was filmed in Oregon last week with those guys. Some pretty groovy looking dudes. Keep on truckin. Does anyone remember keep on trucking? It dates us, I know. But it means a lot. Yeah, when we have someone standing by our side, what does that mean? Don’t go it alone. You’re gonna get courage. You know, courage is almost as contagious as fear. Psychologically. If we go alone, and we, you know, movies are made of it, of course, right? That that lone person standing against the crowd, it’s a wonderful thing. It’s a beautiful thing. You have to be particularly wonderful, amazing person to pull that off. Most of us aren’t that amazing. Only the gods are courageous in isolation. We see this in Gethsemane, by the way. No, we need someone standing by our side. If you suspect you’re working with a bully, do not grant them access to your personal life. They want info and intelligence about you, and they will use it later against you. At the church that I went to I finally said to my wife, I said do not talk to him after church, because I would hear things three months later that weren’t really true. But he would say them anyway, to get me on my heels. Do not give them information about your life. If you need to just fog them. In the anti-bullying world, it’s an answer without an answer. You know, Jesus only answers something like five questions directly in the entire New Testament and entire Gospels. The majority of the time he doesn’t answer the question. He’s mute. And he asks a question of his own. By the way, when he was mute before Pontius Pilate, that was a capital offense, that was offensive, you could be killed for not answering. Jesus was not nice, he was good, huge difference. Niceness is almost always a knee jerk reaction to people pleasing. And then also, like Chicago voters push back early and often. Push back early and often. The sooner you push back against the bully, the better your life is going to be. The chances of changing them are so small, that it’s not worth your time and your energy. And if you’re older and you got kids and and a spouse, it’s gonna affect your family. It’s gonna affect them. More and more people are actually being sued for bringing someone into an organization, so now we’re talking about churches, for example, who have a tattered past, but when we hire them anyway. You could be opening yourself up to some legal consequences that you weren’t aware of and hiring for example, we can ask the following questions, how do you take criticism? What are the three of your Achilles heels? Tell me about the achievements that you’ve accomplished with others. That’s important because they don’t like sharing the limelight. And they don’t really think about other people as much as they should. They’re not humble. They’re not team players. You might be able to ferret them out with those questions. There’s a great resource that I highly recommend to all my administrators and schools and teachers. It’s called Necessary Endings by Henry Cloud. It will save you your lower intestine. He has a lot of scripts that you can follow, how to set up a meeting where you have strong parameters, to where you can get to a viable solution to a problem and sometimes as they say in the book, prison does people good. Prison does some people good. I’ve experienced bullying myself. My parents are Irish immigrants. My mom was probably bipolar. Not exactly sure. She never went to the doctor type of thing. So, I know I know abuse. And I’ve had a sibling who piled it on as well. I know what it’s like not to want to live another day. Never tried to take my life. I remember waking up as a kid going, I guess I was meant to live. I wasn’t looking forward to it. I’ll tell you that. So, I’ve done some healing. And one of the main things that we can do is realize that you are not crazy, and you need other people to give you an amen. Chances are, unless you’re an incredibly out of this world person, you’re not going to do it on your own. We need other people in our lives to help us, but we don’t need just anyone. We don’t need people who have knowledge. We need people who have wisdom. Wisdom is knowledge that is appropriately applied to the matter at hand. And when it comes to abuse when it comes to the 15%, the rules are different. They’re not the standard rules that Paul lays out in much of his writing because Paul, the wise man that he was, isn’t writing to the exception, he’s writing to the rule. He doesn’t have time to write to the exception, though sometimes he does. Wolves in sheep’s clothing, for example. So, he does write to it, but he spends most of his advice on the 85% because he should. There are the 15% it’s very different. So, when it comes to bullying in the ministry, which is what I was asked to speak about, there is a profound difference. Men tend to get angry, and leave. Women tend to stay and medicate. So, in the nearly 20 years that we’ve been doing this, of course, we start with adolescent bullying, but we’ve expanded, our advice in most cases, most of the time for women more than men, is get out if you can. Because you will, you might, you might probably experience the same level of damage as soldiers returning from war. You know, PTSD,. We’re dropping the D, which stands for disorder, right? And so, we’re seeing more and more, it was never a disorder, it’s an injury. There’s nothing wrong with the person in that case. So be very careful. Be very careful. I’d love how in America, we’ve been able to make health care a little more portable, so you’re not married to a job to get health care, you know, so that’s a great move. So, if at all possible, really see, it may not be worth your time. By the way, when I speak in schools, to young ladies, I do think this world is harder on women than men. I’ve seen it myself, I’ve seen it done to my mom, to my sisters. People may have tried to do it to my wife, and that would not go down well. My wife could teach assertiveness training classes. But I think it is harder, you have a more accommodating spirit. And that is a gift from God. It gives the world flavor and texture and leaven. And there are malevolent people who want to take advantage of that spirit. So, I speak to students in school; the girls, I’ll say, you know, no is one of the most spiritual words you will ever say. Your no is true, because you said it true. You don’t need an Amen, you don’t need the other person to agree with you, you know is true, because you said it’s true. And if other people don’t go along with it, you don’t want them in your life. I call it opening a can of Jesus. We need to speak the truth in love which I think is opening a can of Jesus. But I don’t think we allow our daughters to do that. We need to change that. Because I see them on the other side of getting bullied. You’ve been lied to, and you’ve been gaslit. And one of the ways they do it is through redefining words. I spoke at Harvest Academy, probably six months or a year maybe after disgraced James McDonald and his and the nepotism that was there, right? I was there I was there afterward, speaking at the school, speaking with the people who run the school administration, they looked like they had been through a war. In fact, during the teacher presentation, I said serial bullies should never be allowed back into ministry into leadership ever. They don’t change. And what was remarkable is the teachers who looked like they’d been through a war, and I didn’t mean for this to be the case, but it did happen. I saw people physically shake when I said that. I thought man, I may have messed up. So, I was talking to the principal afterward and I said, did you see that? She said, Yeah, I saw it. And she said no one in some level of authority has actually ever told them that. What I spoke to them wasn’t knowledge. It was wisdom. If I It said knowledge I would say a gentle word turns away wrath. That’s knowledge but it’s not wisdom for the 15%. One of the ways that he had gaslit people is and I heard about him yelling down hallways and screaming at people. He would say, I’m not angry, I’m passionate. Bullying 101 gaslighting, you see someone in front of you who is a volcano, and they call themselves passionate.. Gaslighting it’s on purpose. Again, not all liars are bullies, but all serial bullies lie every one of them. Forgiveness is complicated. When I worked with the Baltimore Ravens, I’d give out this little booklet called How do I forgive by Everett Worthington, Jr. Highly recommend this very small little booklet and he talks about how forgiveness I mean, we are we’re commanded to forgive. That is a booger. How do you forgive a serial abuser? He says that a forgiveness is like two scoops of ice cream on the same cone. One is emotional forgiveness. You actually have warm feelings toward the other person. The other one is decisional, decisional. He said that he believes, he’s a Christian psychologist, that in order to fulfill the commandment that we need decisional forgiveness, we were not required to have warm feelings toward the person who abused us. And then I love with Martin Luther King said, there’d be no protectors without King. He felt that forgiveness was a process. I’ve been speaking a lot mostly in North America across the world. And I have met people who have the gift of faith. And I’ve met people who have the gift of forgiveness. I don’t have either one of those things. I want to fight someone if they do something, right? I’m not saying it’s right. But I don’t have those gifts. But I love those people when I meet them. They’re not simplistic. They’re simple. Simple is a virtue. Most people I don’t think have that. So, forgiveness is a process. It doesn’t happen overnight. For many of us. We’ve been given a mixture of the secular and the sacred when it comes to advice against bullying. Does this ring a bell? Consider it all joy. That was told to me by a pastor two days after my mom died in horrible circumstances. All is forgiven by the blood of Jesus. Forgive and forget. We’re not supposed to judge. absolutely not true. Have you read the book of Proverbs? Only a fool doesn’t judge. I think what we’re being told here is we’re not to condemn. I think that’s left to God and God alone. Ultimate condemnation. It’s not up to us. Don’t question God’s anointed. We should see the best in people not the worst. I’m so happy that these people these Christians do not dictate American foreign policy. We would be always speaking another language some of these people. A gentle word turns away wrath. It didn’t with Hitler. We are never told from that scripture that it’s the only thing that turns away wrath. A weapon can turn away wrath as well. That is knowledge not wisdom. Heap burning coals upon their head, turn the other cheek. I have before you an article I wrote for ACSI. It is the most tortured scripture in the theater of bullying. Turn the other cheek. It has to do with a generous spirit. It doesn’t have to do with accepting abuse. And then finally, let’s keep in mind that we have been tethered to our abusers, unfortunately. Through some very bad spiritual advice, we’ve been told that we are somewhat responsible for their spiritual transformation. They experienced it in the workplace, in the name of Christians, for example, we would have we would have Bible studies. And does anyone want to take a guess? But the really the only Bible study was that we had? Slaves obey your masters. Well, that sounds good, but I don’t think I’m a slave. And then we were told that we were part of his spiritual covering, and part of his blessing. So, I left my job. He said, well, I can’t bless you or give you my covering. And I said, that’s fine, because it never existed in the first place. That was one of the few things that shut that very big mouth of, of that person. So, in a strange way, we’ve been tethered and please know that you are not responsible for their spiritual transformation. That is between them and their Lord. And then we are targeted from bullying. The problem is, people who are targeted, the bully just doesn’t respect. And you probably aren’t going to get them to respect you. By pleading with them, you’re certainly not. You might get some respect by putting up strong boundaries. You probably will but that too may not change them either. I did want to say a word about anger. We believe in the church; anger is always sinful. That is completely not true. I remember Timothy Keller opening my eyes when he was saying some of us are sinning when we don’t get angry. And then I think for abused people, I would encourage you, and I’ve gone through this in my mind, there comes a point, it’s not anger anymore. It’s indignation. Indignation means much to grieve. You’re probably grieving after the first hit, you know, after the first thing you’ve had time for things to settle down, it’s probably not anger, it’s grief. And we treat those things very differently. And what I would encourage you to do, and I needed to do it is be better to yourself. Because we who fall on the 85%, we tend to be nice, and we tend to go after ourselves. Be good to yourself. Father, thank you. I thank you personally, for this. It is a sacred moment, to be able to speak into the lives of other people. And it has been my hope and prayer for months, that it would be wisdom, not knowledge, that it would put a courage into the soul of the people here, many of them on the receiving end of abuse. You did not give us a spirit of timidity, but power, love and self-control. We know that you are merciful. We know that you love us. But what we also need is hope. Hope is more important than love when it comes to beat up people. We need hope that tomorrow, the next day or the next month, could be better. And Lord, you have created a universe, you’ve created a world where we are the hands and feet of hope as well. So, I pray that we would come together, we would move past our own worlds and our own selfishness, and that we would minister to one another, and that we would provide that hope. Because without that hope all dark omens become possible. So, thank you, Lord. Help us be your hands and your feet in this incredibly important time. And please keep your hand upon this conference as well. And for months to come for those who are here. It’s through your son we pray, amen.

Well, that was an eye-opening talk by author and anti-bullying expert Paul Coughlin. And I want to affirm what Paul said about hope. I do believe things are changing, more and more bullies are being called to account. But as I’ve often said, this is a marathon, not a sprint. So, I think we really need endurance as we continue to expose bullying and abuse and work for reform in the church. Speaking of which, I want to ask for your prayers and support as we continue our work here at The Roys Report. I know a lot of conferences sell their conference talks; we’ve decided not to do that. But instead to offer these talks completely free of cost. But of course, ministry requires resources. And as I often say, we couldn’t do any of the work that we do at The Roys Report without your support. So, if you’d like to give to this ongoing work, please go to Again, thanks so much for listening to The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And if you haven’t already, please subscribe to The Roys Report on Apple podcast, Google podcast, Spotify or YouTube. That way you’ll never miss an episode. And while you’re at it, I’d really appreciate it if you’d help us spread the word about the podcast by leaving a review. And then please share the podcast on social media so more people can hear about this great content. Again, thanks so much for joining me today. I hope you were blessed and encouraged and equipped to stand against bullies.

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5 thoughts on “Paul Coughlin: Bullies in Ministry”

  1. Jolienne Guthridge

    Thank you for this insightful podcast. We have bought the lie that bullying is always a result of low self esteem. I appreciated your words about anger and indignation. How many years have we, particularly as believing women, suppressed both.

    1. I know this guy. He has an axe to grind. Hides it well. But he has an agenda that should eliminate him as any sort of a credible source for anything. Be careful who you listen to and be like the Bereans … test everything

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