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?
Not quiet here – I agree. And I have a blog that’s a bit controversial . . . even unbelievable to some people. You are right in that online anonymity removes the courtesy of many people. Keep on writing Steve, and you know who I am :0 you’ve turned down repping me, lol.
Quick note. Dan Balow is the author of this well-written post. I write the boring ones on Mondays.
And yes, I do remember meeting you at a writers conference or two over the years.
Thanks for this excellent reminder. Jerry B. Jenkins teaches about developing a thick skin to handle negative and sometimes personal attacks.
I really appreciate you for reminding us of how to respond from spiritually through prayer and using scripture.
I am not a ministry, but I am a writer and I do focus on James 1:26. People are allowed to vehemently disagree with me–I don’t take offense. I know that what I share is new to a lot of people, and new concepts are scary. My concern is that I respond in a way to take the fear away and to allow for a reasonable discussion. Also, if someone is ragging on me and if I can find the opportunity, I take the time to be kind. God loves everyone, and, as one of His beloved daughters, I love everyone, too.
I have a Christian accountability partner on this one. First, I have to pray for the person who attacks me; second, I have to call the accountability partner and talk to her. Third, I don’t respond, just delete the comment from my blog and move on (Regretfully, I am not well-known enough yet to suffer public criticism-jk.). It helps to have someone to whom I can blow off steam.
Great post, Dan. We are held accountable for our words. I believe that goes beyond spoken and includes written words as well. I’ve not been attacked often, but when I have, I try not to retaliate. It only leads down a slick slope and I come out looking ugly. I usually refrain from an immediate response and wait until I can respond in a calm way, if at all.
Your reminder that often, the attacks are not personal is hard to swallow, yet true. Good reminder. I work to speak words seasoned with grace. Not always successful, but that’s my aim.
I hear you, Dan. The day I started a tea party group and made it publicly known was the day I learned just how vicious people can be. And those were the ones in my own party. When I’m debating with one of my Christian friends and we disagree, I’ll often stop and say, “You know, when we get to heaven we’ll probably find out we were both wrong and none of this mattered at all.” That’s how I have to look at it. Politics will always be a contact sport. But Christians need to remind ourselves that the vast majority of these debates are non-issues when viewed through the lense of eternity.
Heather Day Gilbert
Yes–in this day of author’s social media platforms, you learn not to take things too personally. I feel like if my book resonates with some and not with others, I’m okay with that. The ones who don’t like it probably weren’t my target demographic/reader personality.
There is another response…NON-response. I’ve decided I won’t even *like* my Amazon reviews…because then it would be obvious the ones I didn’t *like*. And I’ve decided not to comment on ANY reviews on Amazon.
It’s interesting–I’ve actually been attacked not for my book, but for the COLLEGE I attended. Times like that, in an open forum, I see nothing wrong with defending my position. I got an excellent education there and I still support my university.
I just think it’s good to gear up for attacks (like those 1-2 stars) and have a strategy in place. For me, on Amazon, it means keeping my mouth shut. Easier said than put into practice, but I’m determined to do it.
May I suggest a scripture to focus on when criticism comes: “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
1 Corinthians 15.58 NIV
Walking, talking nerve-ending seeks rhinoceros hide . . .
I do believe this is the first time in history those seven words have appeared in that order….:-)
I will always remember reading this, Dan Balow. Thank you.
Dan, you nailed! We are the light of the world (Matthew 5) and need to represent.
When I’m personally attacked, I usually give myself a time out to take a deep breath and silently quote one of my life verses I’ve memorized (the Spirit usually gives just the perfect one. He’s so Good that way). Once my time out is done, I move forward with how I’m being lead. Whether it be to let the comment go or discuss further with the person. Now I said ‘usually’ for a reason. I’m a WIP.
When I saw the post titled, I giggled. I thought of that one Seinfeld episode about the ugly baby, hehe.
Great, thoughtful post. Loved it and the comments. Thank you!
“I’m sorry, Ms. Harriet Beecher Stowe, your book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, does meet our needs.”, so says the Confederate Publisher. What would have happened to the Civil War if she had been given this message and cowered in a corner? The Union soldier would never have had in his memory the death of Uncle Tom, “Master, you can kill my body, but you can never own my soul.” This book was right for it’s time. It was a book called for such as time as this (Civil War). Abraham Lincoln would not have shook her hand and said, “Let me shake the hand of the little lady who started this big war.” To a Confederate it was an ugly baby, but to the freed slave it was redemption.
Sorry: I meant Uncle Tom’s Cabin does NOT meet our needs.”
” Please, somebody write a good about a black preacher for Don Cheadle. The tv show has been on the air since 1990 and without a doubt, it has been noted as the greatest animated television program for its time. Simpson and Tony had split 24 hours before her 29th birthday party.