by Dan Balow
Have you noticed how much of public and private discourse so quickly moves from a simple disagreement to a personal attack?
I was attending a sporting event not long ago and the people sitting around me in the stands seamlessly moved from displeasure how their team was performing to calling the players, coaches and referees all sorts of names that had nothing to do with how they performed.
Of course, anonymity (and sometimes adult beverages) is the key to bravery in personal attacks, so I doubt many would be so brave to confront someone in-person.
Anyone who has a message board or comment section to their blog knows the pain of responses that get personal and move from, “I disagree” to “You are an idiot and I hate you” within a few words. In most social media interaction, we often need to remind people to keep it civil, because they simply can’t control themselves.
This bravery in our expression of opinions is most prevalent in the world of politics. I am waiting for the day, maybe in the next presidential election when one candidate will simply lose it and call the other a “poo-poo head” and the other reply with “what you say, you are!”
With the tendency for name-calling so common, enter the aspiring or even experienced author. An editor telling an author that their manuscript is not very good has always been comparable to saying “your baby is ugly.” But now we have the joy of exposing books to the opinions of everyone in the world directly and they might tell you that your book does not meet their needs and maybe is best for someone else…but done so with pointed, angry language that will ruin your day. It is pretty hard not to take things personal when someone comments and…makes it personal.
But it is not personal. It is simply part of the territory that goes with being a public figure. Anyone in any kind of public endeavor will be exposed to harsh critics, insensitive comments and people who cannot control their tongues. The world of “platforms” now exposes authors to the kinds of attacks that were previously reserved for politicians or athletes. Being a successful author is just as complicated.
So, what can you do?
First, pray for your readers who are nice to you and those who persecute you. Every day, pray that readers of your material will be blessed, will draw closer to Christ and that God will use what you write for his purposes.
Second, dwell on a Scripture passage that has particular meaning to you. Post it in front of you where you can see it constantly. Pick a new one every week or two. This will keep your perspective focused.
Third, in deciding how you reply to something, use Scripture as a guide instead of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In other words, just because you have the right to say something, we still need to watch what we say!
James 1:27 which identifies genuine religion being characterized by caring for widows and orphans has caused entire ministry efforts to take root. But the verse before that in 1:26 is just as pointed, “If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless”. I am not aware of any ministries set up around that verse.
So, it isn’t personal. We just happen to be living in a fallen world.
But personally, I am looking forward to the new earth and a new way to communicate.
How do you deal with personal attacks?