The Goliath of Cyberbullying
When I was in school, seeing my name written on the bathroom wall along with a mean or untrue comment would have been a “fate worse than death” to me! Back then, we called it teasing or making fun of someone. Today, we call it bullying. And this age-old behavior has expanded through technology to cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying involves making those same kinds of mean comments read on the bathroom wall by a few classmates to now being posted on social media sites with the potential of being seen by thousands of people you don’t even know.
According to a Weber Shandwick/Powell Tate Research Study, 43% of the 83 million Millennials have personally experienced incivility online or cyberbullying.
The BBC NewsBeat online just reported the results of a global study that documented most young people feel cyberbullying is “worse than face-to-face abuse.” This research also suggests that cyberbullying negatively affects one’s mental health.
If you are experiencing bullying – either online or in person – there’s no need to succumb to despair, fear or unhappiness. Though it’s two millenniums old, there are examples in the Bible that provide insight and hope to handle the cyberbullying problems of today.
Who could forget the story of young David who faced and defeated Goliath, a BIG bully? Standing more than 9 feet tall, Goliath led his army of Philistines and for forty days taunted and made fun of the Israelite army. He challenged them to send a soldier to come fight against him. The Israelites obviously feared Goliath’s threats, and their fear prevented them from even attempting to defeat him. But, David, a shepherd who wasn’t even in the army, believed in God and came forward unafraid – and without armor for battle. He faced Goliath and defeated him – with a small stone and slingshot! David showed that a conviction of God’s power can give courage to anyone being bullied and turn things around.
I think this accomplishment would have been impossible if David believed for one moment that Goliath – or anything bad for that matter – could oppose God, good.
It’s worth considering whether an approach which sees a bully not as an evil person, but as a mental state alienated from God, might be relevant to remedying cyberbullying and its effects today.
For example, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount gives us timeless instruction about how to treat those who wrong us. “Bless them that curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” he taught, with love for all as the motivation. And to be able to pray for someone who has mistreated you requires forgiveness.
By following Christ Jesus’ counsel to bless and pray for, to love and forgive those who wrong us, we can reverse the mental effects of bullying and find courage and peace in the face of trials.
A teenager in my family has found this to be true. She began receiving anonymous mean voicemails on her cell phone – cursing her and calling her names. Soon, there were insults face-to-face by the bully and that led to others joining in during school. It even progressed to social media where she was often ‘tagged’ in mean posts. When faced with this unreasonable harassment, she turned to God and what she’d learned in Sunday School. I remember suggesting she consider that verse about blessing those that curse you, for she certainly had been cursed!
Another thing she’d learned was that God is good and that “Evil is destroyed by the sense of good” (from the Christian Science textbook , Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, by Mary Baker Eddy). There, Eddy outlined how to overcome all kinds of “Goliaths” – like fear, depression, and sickness.
So we began praying about the bullying and eventually, in a loving gesture, she found the courage to invite the bully to spend the afternoon with her, confident that love was stronger than hatred. That ended the bullying. And, while they never became best friends, the change in their relationship caused the other bullies to stop bullying her, too.
For those who feel alone and friendless, it can feel impossible to face and overcome hateful actions. But, by trusting in that same power of God, good, that helped David, it is possible to defeat Goliaths of today and restore our happiness and peace.