When Teasing Our Friends Becomes Subtle Bullying

Cza de Leon-Rola

May 25, 2021

In 2018, a global survey conducted by Gallup International tagged our country as the third happiest nation in the world. There’s no doubt: We, Filipinos, are really good at looking at the bright side of any situation and at having fun even in the face of the most serious problems.

But we’re not just known for having fun in the midst of trials. We’re also notorious for making fun of a lot of things—from the memes we create to the jokes we poke at our friends.

Yes, for Filipinos, teasing (or “bullying”) is often taken as a sign of close friendship. Sometimes, when we throw mean jokes toward one another, we immediately follow it with the disclaimer: Close kasi kami kaya ganito kami mag-asaran.

Ironically, it seems that the closer you get to someone, the harsher the joke becomes. We make fun of our friends’ height, complexion, accent, or relationship status.

You’re probably reminiscing by now about how much you “bully” your friends during your hangouts, aren’t you? Truth be told, these moments actually add fun to our get-togethers, especially when we reminisce about our friends’ silly moments and embarrassing experiences.

However, as we build healthy relationships with one another, it is good to be reminded that there is also a fine line between fun teasing and dishonoring the very people we love—whether that’s in your physical hangout or on social media.

Words frame our world. Whether we acknowledge it or not, the words we utter have power—including the tactless jokes and the careless comments we say. The Bible attests to this truth:

The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.

Proverbs 18:21 (NIV)

If you are now feeling convicted because of the words and jokes you said recently toward somebody, don’t worry. You are not alone, because we’re on the same boat. I bet none of us intends to hurt our friends or bury them in disgrace. Sometimes, all we want to do is to have a good time.

I guess the question is, how can we promote a culture of honoring among our peers while also enjoying each others’ company? How can we avoid the pitfall of shaming, bullying, and dishonoring our friends?

1. Consider your words before speaking.

The heart of the godly thinks carefully before speaking . . . 

Proverbs 15:28 (NLT)

The book of Proverbs is a collection of practical wisdom for living. One of the most prominent themes of this book is about the power of the tongue. According to the book, the tongue holds the power of life and death. The words we say can either give life or destroy it. That is why, according to Proverbs 15:28, it is important to think carefully before speaking.

Nowadays, taming the tongue is no longer just confined with the words we literally speak; it covers the words we type, send, and publish through our mobile devices. May we be the kind of people who are quick to listen and slow to speak. (James 1:19)

2. Correct when necessary.

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them,

for this is the Law and the Prophets.”

Matthew 7:12 

Whether you’re the victim or the culprit of a thoughtless joke, it is never too late to bring change to your relationships by bringing correction. 

Correction can be both done to oneself and to others. We have the power to help, harm, or be heedless of others. If you feel like one of your friends has a habit of mocking or bullying people, my prayer is that you will be a friend who will be there to help them know and encourage them to change.

3. Cultivate the culture of honor with others.

Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.

Romans 12:10

One of the best ways to cultivate a culture of honor is to live it out with others. According to the apostle Paul, we show love towards others by outdoing one another in showing honor. To show honor is to acknowledge someone’s value. This is evident in how we relate with people or speak about them not only in public but also in private. 

Ultimately, the words we say flow directly from our hearts. Jesus said that whatever is in our hearts determines the words that we say (Matthew 12:34). When the words we speak are full of envy, pride, self-promotion, hatred, or gossip, they reveal the issues that we harbor deep in our hearts.

So, aside from considering our words, correcting when needed, and cultivating the culture with others, a change of heart is necessary so that the words we speak will be full of life and love. 

May the psalm of David be our prayer as we build relationships with others with honor and respect, expressed in our words:

Set a guard over my mouth, LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips.

Psalm 141:3 (NIV)




The Author

Cza de Leon-Rola

Czarina Rola is a campus missionary in Victory U-Belt. She loves cooking Bicol Express, reading books, and binge-watching post-apocalyptic movies. She is married to Jonas, who is also a campus missionary. They plan to have three baby Rola's soon.