Introductory Note: I started writing this post weeks ago…towards the end of the election here in the U.S. I couldn’t wait for the election to be over because of the hate that was spewing over the interwebs would finally come to an end. Little did I know, it would only get worse! It has been such a discouraging time in our history as a nation, not necessarily because of who occupies and will soon occupy the White House, but because of the hate, divisiveness, and vitriol expressed on both sides. I encourage you to read this with an open heart, especially the end where I share a specific struggle that I am guilty of.
There has been a lot of emphasis lately on bullying and its devastating effects on children and young adults. Many people are concerned and are now pushing schools to take a serious stance to stop bullying in all its forms. Cyber-bullying, specifically, has been an issue of great concern for parents and teachers of today’s youth. It is estimated that at least half of all adolescents with access to technology have been bullied online (source).
Like most issues in our society, I believe the answer to bullying begins at home. Children need to be taught to be kind, compassionate, and loving…even to someone who is different than they are. This involves a lot of time in discussion as a family, reading, and even role-playing. And unfortunately, it also begins by taking a good long look at our own behavior…especially our online behavior.
Let me ask you something: If your child read everything you wrote online or even in text messages, would he/she consider you to be be a hypocrite when it comes to bullying? Based on the number of rude, disrespectful, hateful, distasteful comments I have seen in the last couple of months, it seems as though there is plenty of hypocrisy among parents and adults.
Whether it is a discussion on politics (WOAH NELLY), religion, or a maybe a controversial toilet paper roll craft tutorial (TRUE STORY), there are a lot of people that want their opinion
heard read. Some days it feels as though people just want to pick a fight for the fun of it. And not only that, they choose to use the most hateful, derogatory words to make their case.
I myself was a victim of cyber-bullying in high school (way back in the olden days when “cyber-bullying” wasn’t even a word and when we had to use AOL dial-up to log on to the internet). :) A close friend sent me a scathing email attacking my character that left me absolutely devastated, crying rivers of tears. In time (and after a serious confrontation with my “Mama Bear”) we managed to repair our fractured friendship. To this day, however, I will never forget the words that he typed to me in that e-mail, especially as I could go back and reread them over and over again. When my mom confronted him, she said, “I know that you would never say those words face-to-face to my daughter. So why would you type them?”
Here is a litmus test to use when in doubt: Unless you would look the person whom you are talking to/about in the eye and say those words aloud, do not type them. It doesn’t matter if it is a distant relative, a politician, a movie star, a mediocre blogger, or your ex-boyfriend’s current girlfriend. There is always, always a human being sitting behind the screen. Even when in a heated debate or argument, we often will look away when verbalizing something truly hurtful. If our words are meant to sting so much that we can’t look the person in the eye when delivering them, then perhaps we need to reevaluate if they should be said/typed in the first place.
And as for celebrities, athletes and politicians…just because they have chosen to live their lives in the public eye does not give any of us the right to say derogatory things about them. We are talking about human beings here!
If you are a follower of Christ and you read this post, I especially admonish you to think long and hard before posting anything online. We are the ambassador’s of Christ here on earth and our words and actions have ripple effects. We aren’t just representing ourselves- we represent our Creator who longs for every heart on the face of this Earth to know Him (2 Peter 3:9). There is a way to disagree with someone while still maintaining the truth that every single person was made in the image of God and is loved and cherished by Him. Let our words drip with grace, ooze with love, and be grounded in Truth.
“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleasesGod our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” -1 Timothy 2: 1-4
Just one more thing…
Perhaps you don’t think you have a problem with cyber-bullying and are able to maintain self-control when reading something you disagree with by scrolling past or being kind and respectful in your rebuttal.
Good for you!
Personally, I don’t often comment on articles or posts and when I do I try to be as respectful as possible, especially if my comment is in opposition to something that I have read.
But here’s the thing…I am embarrassed to admit that I find myself reading the comments on controversial articles for entertainment. I would often prefer to read the comments than the article itself! It is sick and I can’t hardly stop myself…it’s like the modern day version of watching Jerry Springer but in 12 point Lucida Grande. Even though I don’t engage by liking or replying to the problem, I still am contributing to the heart of the problem…the heart problem inside each one of us. Pride. Discrimination. Conflict. Sin.
We have got to STOP being okay with smiling politely at the grocery store clerk and then 2 minutes later typing a scathing response to a Facebook article or post.
We have to STOP being okay with calling people names just because they hold a different worldview than we do.
We have to STOP being okay with bold criticizing people in the public eye just because we can.
And we (or maybe it’s just me) have to STOP getting our entertainment from watching others be bullied online.
After all, our children take our cues from us and someday they just might read what we have written. May we truly be the examples for them to follow, in real life and online.