For anyone who follows us on Facebook, you have probably, at one time or another, seen someone make a rude or hateful comment on a photo I've posted of Christian. It has been happening pretty much since he was born. In fact, much of the reason that I decided to make the video that went viral was because of all the negative comments that we would receive, whether through social media or face to face when we were out in public with Christian. And I have to say, I am tired of it. I sometimes find myself unable to deal with a hateful comment on a particular day, or exhausted with the idea of checking my email and finding another rude comment left on my YouTube Channel. So this blog is my outlet to vent my frustrations and share my wisdom on the matter. I consider myself a professional at handling bullying, after all, considering all the bullying I've dealt with over the last few years.
At first, the comments hurt. I remember the day that I first took Christian out in in public, to the grocery store, and many of you have heard me talk about that experience before. I've spoken about it multiple times in interviews. The part about that day that I remember the most vividly was the feeling in the pit of my stomach that those comments left, and the tears that I couldn't hold back as I put Christian in the car and drove home. I remember getting Christian home, wrapping him in a blanket, and cuddling him up close to me, and telling him that those people were wrong. I told him how beautiful he was, and how he was the most perfect thing I had ever laid eyes on. He was only 2 or 3 months old then. He had no idea what those people had said. Heck, he still doesn't understand things like that. He also had no idea what I was telling him. But I said those words to him, I guess, maybe as my way of responding to the hurt. I could not comprehend, and still don't,why someone who had no idea who we were felt compelled to say hurtful things about an innocent child. What could their purpose be except to hurt us? What motive could they have except hate?
I didn't tell anyone about that day for a long time, especially my husband and my family. In fact, I'm not sure they had ever heard that story until the video went viral last May. I decided that the pain of knowing what those people had said was just another burden that I didn't want them to have. We were all already so heartbroken over the last few months, with finding out Christian was blind at birth, our 4 miserable weeks in the NICU, one surgery already taken place and another scheduled for just a few weeks from then, and the struggles we had in taking him home and trying to figure out how to care for him. I didn't want to add yet another weight to my family's already broken spirits.
So I went on dealing with these comments by myself as best I could. I even did experiments. I tried different methods of reacting to the comments to see which reaction would have the most positive affect. I tried getting upset, being rude, explaining myself, questioning them, ignoring them, you name it. Occasionally the scenario would play out in a good way, and leave me feeling a little better, but that wasn't usually the case. Usually, no matter what I said, the conversation was awkward, I was clumsy, and I left with that familiar pit in my stomach.
After the video went viral, because we were in the public eye, the rude comments became more frequent, and more vulgar. Not that the rude comments were the dominating factor, because they weren't. The majority of the comments we received were so loving and heartfelt that many of them brought me to tears. But the rude ones still stung none the less.
At one point, on my YouTube Channel, I had a group of individuals who apparently banded together to attack me. Four or five people spent one entire day leaving comment after comment, unprovoked, with no replies from me or anyone else. The comments ranged from things I couldn't understand such as an apparent reference to their so called "group," to stating that they planned to "rape that baby in his eye sockets." There were dozens of comments in between that included references to masturbating to photos of Christian, threats to murder him and rape me if we were found, and you get the idea. Comments like these didn't leave that pit in my stomach. They were obviously comments made by people who were sick and unstable. They did, however, terrify me. I took screen shots of all the comments and filed a complaint with the FBI's Cyber Crimes Unit. I got an e-mail almost immediately informing me that they had received my complaint and were looking into it, and a phone call a few days later from my local FBI, getting all the information they could collect. The officer that had our case finally concluded that the people who made those threats were not in the United States, and therefore the FBI wasn't going to go any further at that time due to a lack of threat of danger, but that if anything else presented itself, they would take appropriate action.
Although I've not received any comments to that extreme since that instance, I have received plenty that were just vile and full of hate. I've had people tell me that I should be ashamed for exploiting Christian, ashamed for letting him live such a miserable life, ashamed for posting his photos on Facebook and expecting not to get rude comments. I've had people tell me that my "kid is a walking abortion." I've had people post hate comments on my photos and insist that they won't stop until I block them. I've had people who get mad at me because they saw a photo I posted. They tell me that they didn't want to see it and it's my fault. Even when I explain to them that I didn't post the photo on their Facebook page, and that they must have seen it because one of their friends liked or commented, they still curse at me until I block them. My favorite new term has to be "kill it with fire" which is apparently a "common phrase" nowadays, used by people my age and even younger as a bullying tactic. When I was younger, bullying consisted of "fart face" and if you really didn't like someone, "retard." It's a sad commentary on our society when threats to kill someone are just common place and overlooked as if the person had been called a "fart face."
Two nights ago, I saw a guy posting comments on a photo of mine, saying how dare I photoshop photos of my kid to get pity. I sent him a friend request and a generic message, hoping to just get the opportunity to chat and "win him over" so to speak. I found out he lived about an hour from me, so I started with small talk about that. I didn't mention his rude comments at all or Christian. His response was to call me a sick person and to leave him "the hell alone." I replied saying that I noticed that he had lived closed by and just wanted to say hi, along with an apology for bothering him. He replied again calling me evil. I explained that he was welcome to Google about Christian's birth defect and see that it was a real condition, but again apologized for having bothered him. He kept messaging me about photoshopping photos of Christian until I finally just had to block him to stop the messages. Lesson learned there for sure! I probably won't attempt to make friends with people who make rude comments anymore, not because I don't want to; but that definitely taught me that some people just don't want to understand.
I am not naive. I have come to realize that as long as Christian is seen in social media, there will be rude comments and hateful people who can't be "won over" so to speak. I have also come to realize that I can't stop it. All I can do is control how I react. God has done a MAJOR (I'm not even sure that word is adequate) work in my life in the last 2 years on forgiveness. True forgiveness, the kind where I can think of those people who said that they wanted to rape Christian and not wish harm to them. The kind where I can see a rude comment that was just posted, and although my blood immediately starts boiling and my heart starts pounding, and I want to lash out at them, I can muster up enough of myself to say something respectful. I have learned that God doesn't expect me to only show respect to people who deserve, or to be kind only to people who are kind to me. Don't get me wrong, it's not easy! I don't just breeze through those comments and smile and feel good about saying something polite to someone who just said "WTF is that thing?!" about a photo of Christian. It doesn't feel good at all, for the moment. But later, when I have calmed down, and I think about, I am always glad when I do react positively. And when I fail to act respectfully, and do lose my cool with someone, I always regret it later. When people bully, the point is to hurt you, knock you down, and make you feel worthless. Surely they don't expect you to just agree with them! When I react negatively and lose my cool, they have accomplished their purpose, they have won, and I feel knocked down. When I stay calm and react to that hate in a way that I know I should, I have peace about it, I don't feel defeated, and the bully has not done what they set out to do which is hurt me. So really, when you think about it, what good does retaliation do anyways? It is simply giving the bully what they are seeking. Is getting the "last word" or calling the worst name really winning?
What God has taught me, most importantly, is that one day, Christian WILL know what those people are saying about him, he WILL hear rude comments while he's out in public, and I cannot protect him from that, but I am not powerless. I can teach Christian how to handle those moments, just as I have had to handle them for the last 2 years. I can show him that getting upset won't make it better or make it stop. I can show him that what those people say has no affect on his value and self worth, and does not diminish who God has created him to be, and all the good his life has brought into this world.
So, why have I spent the last 9 paragraphs on how Christian and I have been bullied and how we react to it, when you probably figured that this post was going to be about all those people who need to stop bullying? It's because I'm convinced that bullying will never stop on a large scale, because bullying doesn't happen on a large scale. Bullying is an individual choosing to act in ignorance, using misguided or skewed information, to distort the truth in an attempt to judge, belittle, or provoke another individual. We have all witnessed it, and if we're honest, we have all probably participated in it at one time or another. We know well what it is, but the solution still eludes us.
The solution to bullying lies within each one of us, and in my opinion, parents hold the predominate key to putting a stop to bullying altogether. When we raise our kids to know that saying mean things to or about others, even if we think they deserve it, is NOT ok, we are part of the solution. When we teach our kids to be slow to anger, and to control their emotions and use self restraint, we are part of the solution. When we use that restraint and self control ourselves, and be a living example, we are part of the solution. When we make sure that our children are included in the lives of others who are not like them, and show them how to respect those people for who they are, we are part of the solution. When we speak up when we see bullying take place, and don't just turn a blind eye, we are part of the solution. When we stop using Facebook as an outlet to say things that we would never say to someone face to face, when we learn to live the Golden Rule, when realize that it's not all about me, when we open our hearts and minds to accept the fact that not everyone is going to believe what we believe or agree with everything we say and that it's OK, we are the solution. The solution really all boils down to one simple word: LOVE. When we choose to love others, not because they have done anything to deserve it or earn it, and not because we "have to," but because we want to be the solution, the world will change, one person at a time. Martin Luther King, Jr. said it best "I have decided to stick with love, for hate is too big a burden to bear."
|All I have to say, is how can you NOT love this face? It melts my heart every time!|