The ministry work that I do and the things that I write here on this blog often excite people’s passions- understandably- and I get my fair share of comments from people. Many of them I have had to redact, edit, and delete, while others I have approved. Criticisms are things that I expect because 1) I might be wrong; and 2) my blog is an account, really, of how I see things rather than infallible Word-from-Heaven. However, I have had to delete comments and even ignore some of them for a number of reasons:
1) Some comments have been ad hominem where I personally have been the subject of the critique rather than what I have said;
2) Some comments have included references to sites, individuals, and movements that I do not want advertised on this blog. There are times where I am non-plussed to include alternative voices to my own here but only when it is relevant, helpful, and where it builds up. I often do this when I am critiquing others, though hopefully I critique in a way that is faithful to the original author and his/her intent. But some things (like pro-gay theology, for instance) is a no-go zone and I have to redact out what has been included;
3) I am content to publish and respond to comments that vent frustration; if that frustration is levelled against what I say, rather than my person, then I am fine with that because issues of sexuality and relationships trigger powerful emotions and most of them (sadly) are painful ones. But if the comments stray from the facts and the overall topic, then I must reconsider.
4) The biggest thing, for me, is the spirit in which a critique is made. Two people making identical comments may be doing so with completely different motives: one may do it out of a genuine desire to know (curiosity) while another may do so to undermine me with a critical or negative spirit. They wish to be spear-throwers like Saul rather than curious outsiders or prophets like Nathan. People carry with them a spirit- not just a motive- and if I allow someone’s unclean spirit in their critique of me to penetrate my armour then it will corrode itself into my heart and make me fair game for Satan. Equally, if a person makes a comment to humiliate me for thinking or believing something, that is bullying and I simply will not publish it or even respond to it. Such behaviour does not dignify a response because inner motive is everything. Love builds up but knowledge puffs up and a person’s motives are quickly revealed; given how much bullying I have experienced (past and present) I am quite adept (if I may say so myself) and sensing motives; that is not to say that I pre-empt a motive or falsely attribute it but see how things emerge. Some comments are also left in one-to-one (private) conversation and not every issue needs to be covered because that is just too exhausting (who has the time?).
Sometimes a person says that I am wrong with no input into how or why I am wrong- in instances like that I get wondering what their motive was in letting me know I am wrong. Was it to build me up or prove themselves right? If they cannot explain WHY I am wrong then a disservice has been done to me because it doesn’t help me to speak my mind better. Much of the criticism I have experienced comes from pride and narcissistic attempts to ratbag me because some listener/reader has unfairly personalised what I have said.
Often times false motives are attributed to me. I can understand why that may happen, and I know I have been guilty of it too, but in circumstances like that I expect amends to be made if such a thing is done in error. But if not then I simply don’t allow such comments like that to get through because I want to guard my heart and not have my character sabotaged. If my character is sullied because of my own words and deeds then let it be so; but if it comes from false accusation and slander then that is bullying. Adults get good at bringing others done with things like that because they cannot use their fists to gain control; rather, they often seek to do it with slander and nitpicking (legalism). With some people I know, I only ever hear from them when they’re criticising/interrogating something I’ve said, seldom to support me or lovingly ‘help me see the light’. I feel this as unfair since a proud spirit of legalistic triumphalism comes with it.
Really, criticism needs to be done with the right heart- not for self-justification. I need to remember this in the way I critique others and I confess that I once hurt a LOT of people by doing exactly the things I’ve just mentioned. But here and in other forums I do not let it happen because I need to keep myself safe and that, my readers, is a godly and noble thing to do. I enjoyed last week a 30-comment discussion on this blog on the post I wrote about John Paulk. The bulk of that chat was with ‘gay Christians’ whom I strongly disagreed with. But it was done with civility, something that gave me hope and joy given how rare such traits are when discussing matters of private personhood. But I do need to keep myself safe and grounded.
Having thought through such things I’ve also learned a lot about how to lovingly disagree with others. I need to note that not every battle needs to be fought, but to choose my battles wisely. Not every comment must be responded to. And just as others are, I believe, wrong, I too can be wrong (or so my wife tells me). Christians are very guilty of not loving one another well, of demanding uniformity in the name of unity. That is a terrible danger because God loves and uses all sorts of people and there is great diversity in unity. We all have our unique emphases and differences- and limitations and that is why today I rarely get involved in online forums and debates because of how internecine they can get. They’re also blunt instruments in witnessing to non-believers and resolving internal differences. Wisdom and a discerning spirit really are essential in such a business