I’m a pretty defensive kid.
Seriously, there are times I feel like I’m almost managing to look like I’m handling criticism well, but inside I’m squirming. Pride is my vice of choice, and my bruise-able little ego rails against being corrected like it’s the worst. thing. ever. I’ll call myself out, sure, but being called out, um, sucks. If it’s me admitting my faults in a way I can control, I’m all for transparency. If it’s you pointing out a flaw I’d thought I’d managed to successfully disguise, I’m a cornered wildcat. A calmly manipulative, use-my-debate-background- brain-and-sales-training-to-argue-you-into-submission wildcat. This is possibly not my greatest metaphor. Bottom line: I hate being found out. I hate falling short. I hate to be criticized, constructive or no.
You’d think that’d be something I’d grow out of eventually. We’ll see.
The only thing that is perhaps harder for me to handle is when someone or something I love is criticized. In this delightful circumstance, my natural defensive nature is suddenly validated because my anger is righteous. I’m defending whomever cannot defend his or herself, or the thing that has no voice, or the wronged organization or misread text. I am the Lorax, I speak for the trees! I will stand up! I will feel justified in my name calling! I will hurl sarcastic, biting insults with assassin-level accuracy and I will feel no shame!
And blogs are such a problem.
There isn’t, in my opinion, an effective way to respond defensively to a spiteful, ignorant, or justplainwrong blog post. Blogs are personal platforms – they’re pure opinion, completely subjective, and nearly impossible to argue against. If I don’t like what’s posted, I don’t have to read it, so any defensive comment can be easily dismissed as petty, lame, impotent. I can try to respond with opposing evidence, but if I’m defending from a Christian standpoint, I’m two short steps from being accused of being arrogant, boastful, prideful. I can try to gracefully accept the criticism of the thing I love, and respond with a kindly “I see your point, and I’m sorry you feel that way. Godspeed,” but that feels so darn close to affirmation that it makes my skin crawl, especially when I think the criticizers are just plain wrong. I can read cleverly crafted comments by others who share my viewpoint and perhaps lack my defensive blinders, and pray that they are correctly interpreted, read with love, understood, only to watch them be dismissed or shot down because this, admittedly, isn’t their platform. None of these options satisfy the desire in me to yell, to point a finger, to tarnish a reputation with a fatal blow of scathing wit and somehow convince everyone in the internet universe that the blogger in question has no idea what they’re talking about.
What are we meant to do, friends? How do we communicate love in the face of attack? Take it, turn the other cheek, say nothing, walk away? Defend the truth with fiery swords of justice? What does radical love look like in the face of ignorance, hatred, or libel? Do nothing, do something… stay silent, speak out? How do you phrase love without getting caught in a trap starting a comment war? I wish I knew.
There are days I wish so badly that Jesus were here, physically, humanly here. Jesus would know what to do. The Holy Spirit in me that knows what to do, well, He has quite the defensive, stubborn filter of my faulty human mind and heart to get past.
I know you don’t fight fire with fire. I know the only answer is love. I’m just stumped as to what love looks like sometimes. I wish I were better at grace.
(Not your job to have the words, kiddo… not your job to save the day… not your job to fix it…)
At least we know it doesn’t matter. At least there are voices that will yell truth as loudly as others will yell hate. At least criticism gives us the opportunity to grow. At least we serve a God who loves our floundering, helpless little selves.
Today I’m resting in the knowing that all things work together for good, that each of us has a story full of ugly that colors our opinion and we’re all doing the best we can, that Jesus loves the stubborn socks off of meanypants bloggers AND frustrated commenters, that what He’s doing in this city is soooo much bigger than anything any of our words can touch. I’m resting in the knowing that He holds the injured in the palm of His hand and whispers to them words that are true. I’m praying for the folks I want to defend today, simply that they’ll hear Him.