Updated: Aug 26, 2021
It's no secret that I'm single AF. I've even written about my lovelorn status in a previous post. But what you probably don't know is that I've become quite the fisherman....sorry, fisher 'person'. As much as I hate to admit it, I've spent way too many hours scrolling through online dating apps only to come up on the hook of a catfish. Now, I'm assuming y‘all know what type of catfish I'm talking about and it's not the kind that swims in the liquid stuff. It's the manipulative type that hunts it's prey on the internet with perfectly edited pictures and craftily worded profiles, usually involving a dead spouse and some type of engineering degree. They search out the vulnerable while hiding behind their insecurities, all in an effort to trick someone into “loving“ them.
Trust me, I was not looking to become an expert angler, but over time, my skills increased and I learned to spot these ugly fish a mile away. It was as if I had polarized sunglasses on that turned the murky waters crystal clear. It reached a point that I could no longer concentrate on my own self-serving search for Mr. Wonderful because all my eyes could see was the elusive catfish. To be honest, it was quite frustrating. I simply wanted to explore the dating pool to find my knight in shining armor (assuming they still actually exist) and instead my gaze centered ONLY on finding that cursed greasy guppy. Little did I know, but I had turned into a dating site vigilante.
So, I went with it. I launched my boat, rowed out into the treacherous online lagoon and cast my line. That's what happens when you're a fighter by nature, you can't help but jump into the ring or in this case, the water. My thoughts were consumed by the other middle-aged women who, not having the proper gear, were in these same murky waters searching for their next soul mate and little did they know they were nothing more than bloody chum waiting to be shark attacked. Let's face it, those of us of a certain age aren't exactly tech savvy when it comes to the internet. We tend to believe what we see because that is how we were raised...different times. And I needed to protect these woman from their pirating love poachers.
And that's exactly what I did. I'd spot them, dangle my worm, and BOOM....gotcha! REPORTED!
One time I actually had a catfish tell me that I deserved an award because I caught “him” so quickly. Of course, I victoriously replied back, "Yeah, I'm just that good!" “His“ retort, "Clearly."🙄
After a few weeks, my live well was more than full (for those non fishing people, that's the container that holds the fish in the boat). My fishing for sport had grown old quickly; it was no longer fun anymore - although, in full disclosure, I've always thought fishing was kind of boring.
On one particular night, while in a swiping frenzy, I came across a profile that changed my entire attitude. The man was, of course, extremely attractive, touted some great career choice and claimed to be a widow (classic catfish move). At first, I was completely incensed...here we go again...but then something in my heart changed instantaneously and my anger left me. And in it's place I felt pain. Specifically, rejection and worthlessness. It was so strong, I damn near starting crying.
What? What is this? What just happened? Why do I feel sad for this person...knowing that the picture I was looking at wasn't who the person in my heart was? I had the keen awareness that the profile was a facade, but that the suffering of the person behind it wasn't. And I knew in that moment that I was about to get a casting lesson from the Greatest Fisherman that ever lived. God was showing me that these "catfish" were simply hurting people, desperate for love. He was asking me to see them through HIS eyes, not mine - mine looked through a filter of judgement. My viewfinder was telling me that the catfish was obviously wrong, so that meant “he” was obviously bad. I guess I hadn’t realized it, but the lens I was using was faulty.
Sure, my intent to be a warrior for other women was pure, but my ideology was skewed. I was only looking at the surface of the water, not down in the depths were the truth swam. Who was I trying to help? Or the better question was, who actually needed help?
It wasn’t the lonely female who was scouring the seas for love. It was the catfish. The person hiding behind a mask of hurt and shame. The one who felt so worthless that "he" doesn't have the courage to show "his" face. The soul who doesn't believe "he" has enough value to be truly loved by anyone. The individual who has convinced "himself" that it's admissible to bamboozle someone into accepting them. The one who was the most broken of all because “his” despair led “him“ to deceit.
I know, some of you are thinking...screw ‘em. They are connivers and they’re preying on people's vulnerabilities; they don't deserve any sympathy. And you know what, I get it and to some extent, I agree. But then I have to ask myself, do any of us deserve to have someone try and understand us? For someone to pause and try to connect with what we've experienced in our lives? To care enough to want to relate to our pain?
Well, I can only speak for myself, but after Don killed himself, compassion for him was not readily available. I was desperate for anyone to just look beyond his choices and love him in his pain. But so many could only focus on his misstep and not on the hurt that drove him off the path. And you know what? I don’t want to be like that. I want to be better. So, I choose to remove my shades of condemnation when witnessing other's behavior and let God be their judge. Is it easy? Hell no. I fight strapping on those accusation googles everyday. But, in the end, I know that I want love and compassion to be used as my sight lines.
So, I bet you're wondering, what do I do, now, as I continue my search for Mr. Right? Do I let all these catfish just swim freely in the dating app abyss? Nope. I still try and catch them, but I‘ve chosen to use a net instead of a hook. My approach is gentler. I encourage them to be themselves; that they are more than trickery and deceit; that it is far better to be loved for truth in who they are than in the lie of someone else. BUT, I also let them know that I will disclose them if they don't stop their behavior. Because, after all, accountability is also love. And I can't let them continue to pollute the ocean, either.
So, am I doing any good out there in my quest on the high seas? Honestly, I’m not sure. But I do know that it feels right. Then again, kindness always does. So, I will continue to navigate my fishing excursion one catfish at a time, using love as my bait and who knows, maybe one day, in the midst of all these fishing adventures, I might end up snagging my own catch of the day!
Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.
Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.
1 Peter 3:8