No impunity for cyber harassment

A Christian Science perspective: A response to trolling and cyberbullying.

My heart goes out to the recipients and perpetrators caught up in trolling – the defamatory, sarcastic, and misleading online comments made in an attempt to harm others through social media. Rightfully, the US justice system is beginning to make progress toward addressing cyberharassment.

But it has made me consider a higher rule, a divine law, that can correct this particular malaise and bring healing. The Bible points to such a law, and it has been recognized as so important to the welfare of society that it has been called the golden rule. Christ Jesus expressed it this way: “As ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise” (Luke 6:31). Wouldn’t practicing this impel honest and helpful communication, and also eliminate harmful or deceitful conversation, be it Internet-based or otherwise?

Clearly, it would. As a divinely impelled rule of conduct, the golden rule not only impels good but stifles wrong motives and actions – our own and others’. God, as the divine Principle, or lawgiver, demands that we express His goodness and love. Any wrongs, any harmful thoughts or acts, are divinely unnatural. They are contrary to God’s government and to our true nature, which is good, because God, our creator, is good. Being contrary to all that’s good and real and right, wrong acts cannot be done with impunity. The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, explains this: “Rest assured that the good you do unto others you do to yourselves as well, and the wrong you may commit must, will, rebound upon you” (“The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany,” p. 252).

This blowback of the wrong we commit is not by reason of some cosmic boomerang effect; it is that we experience what we believe. In other words, in order to harm others one would have to be holding harmful thoughts within oneself. Wrong thoughts create negative effects.

The suffering this self-destructive thinking and acting brings is what often makes us look for a better way. It creates a desire to be good, to understand and live more fully our real God-given nature. What impels this is the purifying truth of God and man; it is the action of Christ working within us. It is a correcting influence that not only keeps us from doing evil, but demands that we even pray for our enemies, as Christ Jesus so fully demonstrated and taught (see Luke 6:28).

Our prayers and actions toward those who send destructive and shaming missives can be based on the understanding that the golden rule operates as a law within consciousness that cannot be denied; as a law, it demands correction. And through obedience to God, divine good, we elevate our motives, speech, and actions – purifying even the cybersphere.

An encouraging example of this is in the recent article “Can tweeters be tamed?” It included the story of 13-year-old Little League pitching phenom, Mo’ne Davis. Though inundated with harmful comments via social media, she chose to live the golden rule herself. Her forgiveness and compassion toward a university baseball player who had trolled her on Twitter is more than exemplary. After learning that he had been kicked off his college team for his remarks, she said, “Everyone deserves a second chance. But sometimes you got to think about what you’re doing before you do it. It hurt on my part, but it hurt him even more. If it was me, I would want to take that back.” As reporter Harry Bruinius wrote, “It would be easier if everyone would temper their comments and treat people with dignity and respect. Or maybe they could just learn something from 13-year-old Mo’ne Davis.”

Tending to our thoughts, motives, words, and actions matters. What Christ Jesus taught, “As ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise” carries divine power. “The good you do and embody,” Mrs. Eddy wrote in her book “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” “gives you the only power obtainable” (p. 192).

Our own deeper recognition of the power contained in practicing the golden rule can bring a fresh impetus to our prayers and honest and loving discourse to our workplaces, campuses, our interactions on social media, and our homes. Doing unto others as we would have them do unto us, when based on an understanding of the divine source of this rule, envelops everyone in the purifying and reforming healing power of Christ.

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