As I walked into the store the sign read, “Mask Recommended but Optional.” Seeing the word optional brought a sigh of relief because face coverings and I don’t make a good pair. In fact, we are not friends at all. When I read the word optional, I was thrilled to exercise the free choice to forgo the mask.
Enjoying the ability to breathe freely while my daughter and I shopped was a real treat until I noticed a woman staring at me. I could not see her expression because her nose and mouth were hidden behind a cloth covering. She spoke no words, however, I could feel her eyes beating on me like the hot sun. It was intimidating and I ducked down and tried to avoid her. Then she piped up with a loud voice that sounded like an invitation to argue, “Where is your mask? You are supposed to have a mask on…why do you think you don’t have to wear one?” That’s when I realized I was being harassed by a stranger in the store.
Have you ever felt harassed?
Harassment is defined as an act of intimidation, torment or bullying. It’s the assertion of power or authority over another to make him/her think, act or believe what the harasser demands. As Christians, harassment is defined as persecution. Someone rejects or, taunts us, or we suffer consequences just because of our faith in Jesus.
Harassment comes in many forms. Whether an aggressive “in-your-face” assault or a subtle pestering from afar…both cause the person being harassed to feel afraid. My recent experience at the store was in person, but I’ve also felt the sting of harassment on Facebook and Instagram too. It’s not directed at me specifically but is aimed at people I know and love demanding that their followers believe and/or act in accordance to their convictions. They spew out strong opinions, make assumptions, refuse to engage in a conversation that is contrary to their view or harshly judge those who don’t agree. These social media harassers who feel brave behind the screen have made Facebook and Instagram a hostile environment.
Let’s be honest life has been an unusually challenging. Our country is divided in multiple ways from how we feel about wearing masks to the tensions of the day to the political divide…the list could go on and on. And I imagine many of us have felt harassed or bullied in one of these areas.
How do we respond when harassment is happening to us? How do we handle feeling afraid and wanting to either stand up and fight or run the other way?
The book of Proverbs is known for its wisdom. These quick tidbits of knowledge and insight are powerful weapons that are sure to give us a mindset that pleases God and that equips us to handle the bullies, persecutors and harassers of the day. Instead of reacting out of heightened emotions (which can lead to becoming fools ourselves) we can discern the right course of action.
6 Proverbs to Remember When Feeling Harassed
- Proverbs 1: Wisdom Comes from God not from the World
“For the Lord grants wisdom! From His mouth comes knowledge and understanding. He grants a treasure of good sense to the godly. He is their shield, protecting those who walk with integrity. He guards the path of justice and protects those who are faithful to Him. Then you will understand what is right, just and fair, and you will know how to find the right course of action every time. For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will fill you with joy.” Proverbs 2:6-10
- Proverbs 2: Wisdom Protects You from Becoming Like Them
“Wisdom will save you from evil people, from those whose speech is corrupt. These people turn from right ways to walk down dark and evil paths. They rejoice in doing wrong, and they enjoy evil as it turns things upside down.” Proverbs 2:12-14
- Proverbs 3: Lies of the Harasser Won’t Last
“Truthful lips shall be established forever, but a lying tongue is [credited] but for a moment.” Proverbs 12:19 AMP
- Proverbs 4: Acting with Integrity is a Firm Foundation
“People with integrity have a firm footing, but those who follow crooked paths will slip and fall.” Proverbs 10:9
- Proverbs 5: Refusing to Engage is Wise
“A fool gives full vent to anger, but a wise person quietly holds it back.” Proverbs 29:11
- Proverbs 6: Think Before You Speak
“There is more hope for a fool than for someone who speaks without thinking.” Proverbs 29:20
That day in the store when the woman harassed me about my lack of a mask I wanted to scream and yell back. She frightened me and I wanted to match her intensity or take it up a notch and declare, “You can’t speak to me that way!” Thankfully God’s wisdom was brewing in my heart. I remembered the Proverbs above…not word for word but just enough to know what was right. The power of God’s Word gave me the courage and strength to hold my tongue so that I would not become a fool too.
If you are experiencing harassment or intimidation by others because you don’t see life as they do, imagine how remembering these six Proverbs can change your response. If you commit them to memory the Holy Spirit can remind you of these truths when you need them most. God’s Word is Truth. It’s live and active, and it will never lead us astray. We can trust it!
*Please note: If you are in real physical danger or are experiencing ongoing mental or emotional harassment, please seek help from the authorities, a doctor or a counselor.