Last year, I was doing a lot of writing on another site. I was writing fiction and was posting a new chapter every day. Every morning, I would wake up to find a few comments in my e-mail box. They were positive most of the time, but there were always a few negative ones among them that ran the entire gamut from “Why are you writing” to “This is trash.” However, there was one reviewer who went well beyond the pale and wrote me three page notes about where I had gone wrong and what I could do to write better.
As a graduate of a creative writing department, I know how writing workshops work. Usually, the person whose work is discussed keeps quiet while everyone else discusses their work. This same person is always taking notes and then can comment on what he has heard. I’ve been through that trial by fire and I will be the first to admit that I am not the best writer in the world, but I also know that I have creative license to do whatever I want.
Well, this person cyber-bullied me every day for a month with her exacting comments. I blocked her and then unblocked her. I wrote her messages asking her to stop and she never did. Eventually, I was forced to delete all of my stories and look elsewhere. That’s where the story should have stopped, but it didn’t because I kept thinking about the bullying in my mind over and over again.
I went on the internet and looked up the screen name. I visited countless sites where I encountered the same kind of posturing and bullying. I saw the same kind of trash spewed on page after page. I wondered if this person had a conscience and I also wondered whether or not she was mentally ill or a compulsive liar. I did this almost every day and, every time, I would have an apoplectic fit because of what I saw.
A few months ago, she attacked a new story that I had posted on the same site. This time she really pressed the wrong buttons and I asked some internet friends to spam her inbox on Formspring (a site where people can ask anonymous questions). That was the worst mistake I could have made because I was the bully now and I was going after somebody that probably didn’t have anything better to do than to sit on the internet and read stories written by other teenagers as well as fully-fledged adults.
The months went by. I used to visit her Formspring account every other day. After that it was once a week, once every two weeks, and once a month. Finally, I just stopped caring and let go.
I know that I am not the only person who has been bullied on the internet. I know that I am not the only person who has the wounds and the scars to prove it. I know that I am not the only author who has had his pride hurt. There are hundreds of others like me out there if not thousands. Some of us are able to let go, while others aren’t. Some of us dream up ways to avenge ourselves, while there are always those others who close their eyes and keep on trucking.
I know for myself that letting go is always difficult for me. There are many painful memories that I have held onto for years, but the truth is that I have to let them go because that is the only way that I can moved forward.
Indeed, letting go and letting God are two parts of the same equation. When we are born, our little hands are balled into fists. We are defiant because we don’t want to be born into this world, but we die with our hands to what God has planned for us in the future. Not only this, but because we are now willing to accept the reward or the punishment that comes our way when this life is over.
When we undergo painful experiences, we always ball up our hands into fists. We want to fight those that have buffeted us and beaten us. We would like to teach them a lesson or two or we pray that God would grant them a taste of their own medicine. Yet there is a point when we open our hands and forgive because we know that that is the only thing that we can do as Catholic Christians.
There are many people who say that they cannot forgive someone else. There are probably thousands who walk around with their hands balled into fists and their hearts full of hatred. They wander through our world and their anger is like an infectious disease. Yet that same all-consuming anger is merely a manifestation of their hurt and, sometimes, the only thing we can do to assuage it is to give a helpful ear and listen because that is what these people want more than anything else. They simply desire someone who will hold their hand and say, “You’re going to be fine. You will get over this. Eventually, you will forgive everybody.”
Forgiveness, my readers, is at the heart and soul of our Catholic faith. When Our Lord shed His blood on the Cross, He died with His arms out and His hands open. He did not rail at those who had slapped him and crowned him with thorns. He did not pray that the Father would strike them with bolts of lightning and smite them. No. He looked down upon and He said those words which have reverberated in every Christian heart for more than two thousand years, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
It is this spirit of love that we must acquire if we are going to let go and forgive those who have done cruel things to us. Indeed, it is one of the hardest virtues to acquire, but it is the most rewarding. Indeed, we will be loved as we have loved and we will be forgiven as we have forgiven. Isn’t that incentive enough?