In all honesty I believe there are certain types of people who take great pleasure in making someone else feel small. I have my personal stereotype of them. If they are a woman they are, most likely, a former Small Group Big Shot. If they are a man, they spent their formative years sleeping with as many girls as they could in order to hide the fact that they lack the capacity to create a home of their own.
This stereotype is not fair - I know it. I just can't help but think of those movies from the 1980's when people go back to their High School Reunion and the same mean people are still mean, only wearing different hair styles.
Social Media Sites offer the bullies a chance to continue to do what they started when they were in middle school - do their best to make someone else feel small.
I know, I know...no one can 'make' you feel anything. At least that is the mantra we chant in our Tuesday Self-Esteem Class down at the Women's Center. We write that on Post-It Notes and put it on our refrigerators and we write it in lipstick on our bathroom mirrors. We almost believe it, too. Then one of these semi-professional human destroyers takes aim at us out of nowhere and subtweets about something they know is near and dear to our hearts and we feel a little sick to our stomach. They have given us a cyber-punch for no reason and we suspect (and are probably right) that if we were to call them on it they would widen their eyes and say, "What do you mean? I didn't mean YOU!", thereby shifting the responsibility for their childish and ridiculous behavior squarely onto our shoulders. They make you doubt your own strong instincts. Suddenly, not only are you hurt because you have been punched out of nowhere you are wrong for asking them about it.
So what do you do?
I know what I do...I get angry. I also know what I want to do....I want to hurt them back.
Is that the right response?
Not for a Catholic, it isn't.
One of the most difficult character defects I fight is the one that tells me it is okay to punch back, to hurt as you have hurt me. My experience has been that when I do that those people that widen their eyes and manage to look surprised when someone merely stands up to their bullying tactics now have a legitimate complaint. They also have a chance to call me a hypocrite (though most of them have no idea what the correct use of that term is) because I have fallen short of the standards set by Jesus' Church. "Ah HA!" they can exclaim, as they flip their hair. "SEE! I TOLD you she wasn't REALLY a Christian!".
Therefore, not only have I hurt myself by falling into their little sandbox I have inflicted harm on the Body of Christ, which is (of course) one of the characteristics of sin. Sin does not just hurt the sinner. Sin hurts us all.
My life so far has been one long learning curve and lest you think this is a lesson I have always known, let me say "Oh no, no, no". Most of the time I have stepped right square into the fray only to wish I had just stood still, allowing the Self Satisfied Groovy People Parade pass me by without a flicker of recognition. Nowadays I can usually just take the appropriate action (like hide or delete the post on social media) without responding. Those days I respond before thinking it through, I can make good use of my OWN delete button.
Restraint of Tongue and Pen....a tougher principle to follow than you would believe.
I am saddened today when I see the jabs we take at each other on Social Media. I am saddened even more when I engage in some sort of weirdly disconnected running battle with a former friend or someone I knew in high school. I try really hard not to do that today, though at times I fall prey to my own need for perfect justice on this earth. I have to stop, take a deep breath, remember that I am dealing with a wounded soul and then keep on going.
I can pray for them and for me. I can ask The Holy Spirit to fill me with the Love that I need to love them in spite of myself. I can beg God to remove from me those defects of character that stand between me and my chance to be useful in the world. I can throw myself on the mercy of Jesus and admit, "I am a sinner. Please help me to be kind where there is no kindness, patience where there is no patience and calm in the midst of a raging emotional tempest".
I always hope for the best. I know how much I have grown in the past 20 years and I know how far I need to go in terms of being a good woman. I am not there yet....I am a fairly okay woman.....but I have a long, long way to go before I can hit 'good'.
Pray for me - that I do not add to the mess. Pray for me - that I be able to be the woman God wants me to be no matter what anyone's emails or messages me today.
Pray for me - as I pray for you.