By Valerie Minard
When Caitlin Prater-Haacke went to her high school locker last September, she had a rude awakening. Someone had broken into it, stolen her iPad, and written on her Facebook page encouraging her to commit suicide. While many teenagers might have been devastated, the 11th grader had an unexpected response. Instead of feeling victimized, she “turned the other cheek,” and posted 800 positive and inspiring Post-Its around her school. She covered every school locker (including the unknown bully’s) with messages like “You’re beautiful,” “Love yourself,” and “You’re awesome.”
Caitlin’s act of courage and forgiveness inspired many classmates and teachers. In addition, her town started a new anti-bullying campaign called, “Positive Post-it Day.”
While Caitlin’s response may seem simple, it was profoundly effective in an era when dealing with bullies and feeling victimized is serious business and is one of the major reasons for teen depression and suicide. Many schools are addressing this problem through anti-bullying campaigns— to not only discourage bullying, but perhaps to encourage those to speak out if they, or someone they know, is being bullied. Unfortunately, as helpful as these programs try to be, I wonder if they are addressing the underlying problem, which I’ve learned is actually about allowing one’s self to feel victimized? Perhaps it’s time to go deeper and see if a spiritual approach can help.
Whenever I have felt victimized, I’ve turned to divine power, God, for comfort, guidance, and support. Sometimes it’s led me to speak out or avoid a situation, but it’s never left me feeling helpless. I’ve not only prayed for my own safety but to see the ‘bully’ in a different light— as God’s child governed by Him/Her. That right where there appears to be an aggressive person, is standing the beloved daughter or son of God.
I’ve also been encouraged by something Mary Baker Eddy wrote, “At all times and under all circumstances, overcome evil with good. Know thyself, and God will supply the wisdom and the occasion for a victory over evil. Clad in the panoply of Love, human hatred cannot reach you.” A panoply is an armor. I like to think that all of us are completely wrapped up in divine Love’s impenetrable armor that totally shields from harm– whether it’s mean words, hostile treatment, or bodily injury. No one is left out.
I had an experience that illustrates this approach. Back when I was a university student I lived pretty far from school. I usually walked or rode a bike, but one afternoon I was especially tired and decided to hitch a ride. I had seen other students do it and it didn’t seem like a big deal. Granted, this was a foolish choice (kids don’t try this at home!), but at the time it seemed like a reasonable option.
As I stood on the street corner with my thumb out, I decided to pray, since beneath all the rationale I’d given myself to do it, I knew this was not a wise move. I reasoned that since God was good He was always protecting me and everyone else. His children were also good—made in his image and likeness— God never made or allowed any of them to harm me.
While I was thinking along these lines, a man stopped and offered me a ride to school. As we rode, I held onto those ideas. As we approached school, rather than take me directly there, he pulled into a nearby alley with no exit, stopping the car. Realizing I was now in a dangerous situation, I remained calm and continued praying. Instead of panicking as he reached out for me, I turned to him and thanked him for the ride and left the car. As I walked out of the alley he started backing out. As he approached me, he slowed down and shouted “I’m sorry,” while driving away. Shaken, I gratefully acknowledged how prayer had kept me from being a victim and him from becoming a perpetrator.
If you are feeling bullied or intimidated, don’t loose hope. Caitlin refused to be a victim. You, too, can refuse. When that happens, where is the victim or the perpetrator?
Valerie is a self-syndicated blogger writing about the connection between health, consciousness, and spirituality. She is a Christian Science practitioner and the media liaison for Christian Science in New Jersey. Contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org or @valerieminard.