Navigating Cyber Bullying
I may have studied drama in high school, but when it comes to my real life, I try my best to keep things low-key. Drama is best left to the stage or screen, preferably with a cup of coffee in one hand and Sour-Patch Watermelon gummies in the other.
Luckily, my life has, for the majority, been full of Hakuna Matata moments. Forgetting the awkward middle school years and discounting the rare high-school frenemy, I have been fortunate enough to live my life mostly free of discord. In fact, I didn’t experience my first “Mean Girls” moment until I was 24-years-old—practically unheard of in this day of hashtag hate and cyber-stalking.
Because I like to focus on the positive instead of the negative, I’m not going to waste your time or my present with gossipy, unnecessary details. In 25 words or less: I was harassed by someone for almost eight months in my mid-twenties via social media and phone calls.
That time feels like it’s from another person’s life, not only because of how bizarre this person’s behavior was, but because of the way it made me feel. I’d never struggled with anger before. For me, forgiveness had always been a natural path…something that came fairly easily, something that I rarely had to work for.
That was before someone who I never even met decided to target me with spiteful comments and unsolicited abuse. It was unexpected, it was unplanned, and it hurt. Badly. It tore at my self-confidence and threatened my understanding of my own heart.
I have never had a problem with confrontation. In fact, I sincerely believe that confrontation is a key ingredient in any healthy relationship. When it’s done biblically, it leads to growth and a deeper, more meaningful connection.
However, I didn’t want mature, respectful confrontation in this case. I wanted revenge. I wanted to hurt as badly as I had been hurt, and honestly, that was by far the more threatening feeling. With each instance of meanness, I felt the grace in my heart dwindling. I became more guarded, more mistrustful, and it wore on my spirit.
The very worst part? I mistrusted God. I couldn’t understand what He was trying to teach me and why I was having to deal with a situation that no one should ever be in. It seemed like such a wasteful use of my and His time, but the real waste was fooling myself into believing that God can’t use every single thing for His good.
That person’s spite? For His good.
My sinful attitude? For His good.
I look back at that time and realize that in the midst of my confusion and anger, God was breaking through my pride to plant His seed of forgiveness. He literally brought the darkness into the light (Job 12:22).
I wanted to run to revenge, He wanted me to walk with Him in humility.
I wanted to trade insult for insult, He urged me to repay with blessing. (1 Peter 3:9)
I sought atonement, He granted restoration.
I craved condemnation, He bestowed forgiveness.
It wasn’t an easy path, but eventually the abusive behavior stopped. I wish I could say that I confronted the bully and all was well—after all, that’s what every after-school special taught me growing up. In reality, I had to take some steps that were both time-consuming and mentally challenging. It wasn’t fair, but it was right.
- First, I stopped dwelling on the “Why.” Based on this person’s attitude, I was never going to receive an apology, much less an explanation. I stopped caring about the bully’s intentions and gave that burden to God. This person’s heart was clearly in need of love, and who best to give it than Him?
- I went on a blocking frenzy. Phone numbers, Twitter handles, Instagram pages…if this person had it, I blocked it. Not only that, but I blocked this person’s friends—I didn’t trust that someone who would associate with that kind of negativity could be trusted to view or interact with my pages.
- I confided to friends I could trust, not only with my anxiety, but also with a maturity of response. I didn’t want to compound the ugliness, and so I told friends who I knew would support me in creating light rather than seeking retribution.
- I spent more time doing things I loved, which coincidentally, were things that didn’t require technology. Self-care, even when you’re not under pressure, is vital.
Most importantly, I lived my life with more kindness. If anything, this situation taught me that when a heart is unfilled, the Enemy uses it to wreak havoc in the world. I focused on letting God shape mine to be a tool He uses for love, not hate. I forgave and, eventually, forgot.
It’s been over two years now, and I hope that person found the Key to happiness. I certainly have.
Author: Caitlin Mae
Caitlin Mae is an amateur adventure curator, currently residing in Nashville, TN, where she’s navigating her 20’s with a broken compass. She spends her days exploring her own heart and searching for the gold in others’, with the help of chai lattes and Jesus. She’s currently working on her own little corner of the internet, www.leftofmae.com.