8 Ways to Love Your (Hateful) Neighbors

I am just back from sitting in a circle of whales. Five fin whales, the second largest whale in the world, galloped and blasted their immensity just feet away from my trembling body.  I am lousy with love. I see it everywhere this week:

Which brings me to the topic at hand: Hate. And specifically, haters. We all have them in our lives.

If you hold to any political position and you enjoy discussing honestly and fairly with others, you have them.

If you are different from others in your family, you likely have them.

If you're a writer and you posit thoughts in an online journal or magazine or blog about a controversial subject---or, heck, any subject at all, you will attract them.

If you're a writer who writes from a position of faith, you're in the worst position of all: you're drowning in them. 

 Why are so many Christians so mean to one another? Why have we so little grace for one another? And let me be more specific: why are so many Christians so mean and graceless online?  

 Nearly every article I've published online has awakened the ire of two or more Perpetually Irate Christians who are trying to Save the World from Apostates. This week, one of my pieces (Yes, the gender piece) has received a lot of spread, discussion and shares---and some astonishing comments. As in, astonishingly hateful. As such things always go, the responses are based on misreading, misinterpretation, logical fallacies and projection of the commenter's own experiences and fears upon the writer. These two men go so far as to cast aspersions on my marriage, and of course on my faith and salvation. 

(One commentator feels sorry for my poor husband whom I'm clearly abusing and in charge of. If you know my husband, you will die laughing at this!!)

These kind of readers not only attack the writer, but they also lie in wait and pounce on anyone who might support the writer's view. 

How do we love these PIC's in our lives? And love them we must. They are our onscreen neighbors, at the least, and even if they're our enemies, we're still called to love. 

Here are some possible ways we can Love our Hateful Readers:

1. Love them by doing for them what they have not done for you: listen respectfully before reacting. Align yourself with their words first rather than against their words as you read. Despite the hate and the hurt, there may be truth and corrective there that you can profit from. IF so, then----

2. Love them by thanking them for their interest and time, and for that helpful piece of advice or corrective. Identify what was helpful. Shower grace upon gracelessness (But only if you can do it sincerely.) 

3. Love them by staying silent, no matter how outrageous the accusations against you. Don't feed their dis-ease by responding. There are many dear people out there with mental and physical health issues whose only social outlet is the internet. Any response at all may prolong both your pain and theirs.

4. Love them by listening between the lines for the real issue, the deep hurt that they're writing from. If the Holy Spirit prompts, respond kindly and with concern, not to the issue at hand, but to their own experience and well-being.

5. Love them by calmly and respectfully inviting further dialogue with them through personal email rather than a public site. But only if prompted by the Holy Spirit and only out of concern for them rather than for a righting of your own reputation.

6. Love them by reminding them you are a real human being with feelings, a family, a dog, and kids you're trying to get through school. In other words, help them re-attach words on a screen with the human beings who wrote them.   

7. Love them by praying for them. Yes, really. They are likely more hurt and damaged than you are. 

8. Love that reader and love your future readers by not allowing the hurtful commentators to steal your voice and shut you down. Too many writers I know have given up on publishing because of the haters. This is the least loving response of all. 

And do you know----like this, some attackers have become allies, some antagonists have become partners, some enemies have become friends? It is true.

One more thing. 

What do we do when other writers are under attack? Don't engage with the pit bull commentator. Write a note of encouragement to the writer herself in the comment thread. Let her know how much you appreciate their words.  Simple words of thanks mean SO much to writers. I have been the  grateful recipient of so many kind commentators. In the midst of the many doubts and hurtful words, those words help keep us going. 

There is never enough love or grace in this world. And do you know who needs love more than anyone? Yup. The haters. 

Go out and love them kindly and well. Onscreen and off. As the Lord has flung his profligate mercies upon us, let us do the same for them.