It is difficult to see from one day to the next what the future will hold for us. For me, I have confidence in God that if I listen to His word then I will walk in His ways. But this is not always the way. Sometimes I want to do what I want to do and then convince myself that this is God’s plan. Discernment is a tremendously difficult task and requires time, patience, and lots of listening.
But what of the actions that we take today, how will those shape our future, or will they?
Some time ago I happened upon an episode of Dr. Phil. He was discussing how things we post online may or may not affect any future employment. Several of his guests had been denied jobs because of pictures they posted of themselves in, shall we say, compromising positions. He also had some employment specialists on the show, I think we call them headhunters, and they spoke of what they do when they receive an application. One of the first things they do is to Google the person to see what kind of online presence they have. What they post will, according these folks anyway, affect the outcome of their job search.
A week or so ago, there appeared an article in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette about a student at Southbridge High School who had been expelled from school for cyber bullying one of his teachers. While all of the facts surrounding the case are unclear to me, follow the link above to read the article for yourself, I think the actions of the School System suitable. I understand the student in question was offered several options before expulsion, and he chose none of them, so the School Department expelled him.
Some of the comments along with the story in the paper were particularly interesting, and most of them surrounded sympathy for the student. “What will his future be?” “How will he go to college?” And other questions along those lines. As the story reflects the bullying of the teacher was so severe the teacher is now under the care of a doctor.
One of the troubling quotes from the article speaks of his lack of remorse for what he had done;
The administration also said it was troubling that once Mr. Latour became aware of the inappropriate messages, he deliberately chose not to notify anyone because he did not think the district would be able to trace the creation of the portal to him, and he wanted to “distance himself from all responsibility.” The letter also said he lacked remorse.
Actions have consequences and those consequences can be difficult to deal with. We never know what the consequences of our actions today might be on our future. Is the future of this student destroyed? It might be, but what of the future of the teacher? Will the teacher be able to go back to work? Bullying is something that we just cannot tolerate at any level in our society, and that is a lesson I hope this young man has learned. He can still earn a high school equivalency and go on to college and have a bright future, but he also needs to understand that this story will now be attached to his Google profile for life and may affect his future in other ways.
I am a firm believer in reconciliation and forgiveness, I should be it is my business if you will, but with any reconciliation there needs to be an understanding of what you did was wrong and there needs to be some remorse felt by the person. Confession and reconciliation are vital parts of our spiritual life, but we also need to understand that sometimes our actions do require some punishment. In the Orthodox tradition, we believe that forgiveness is given to us by God if we are truly sorry for what we have done. There needs to be an acknowledgement of the wrong, confession, and a commitment to try and not do it again. All of these must be present for us to receive complete forgiveness. Acknowledgement of wrongs is difficult for anyone, no one wants to stand before another human being, the priest in this case, being honest and vulnerable and declare that they have done something wrong. It is a difficult position to be in, but once the confession is completed a substantial weight is lifted from the shoulders of the person confessing. The merciful arms of God have removed that wrongdoing from you, and the relationship has been restored. But we need to take that first step, we need to confess and genuinely mean it.
My prayer is that the young man has learned a lesson here, and that others will learn the same lesson that bullying is wrong and that their actions will have long and difficult consequences.