I never considered how writers need to have tough skin. How they need to stand behind their work, while still staying teachable to criticism in order to become better at their craft. It’s a delicate balance, and one I’m still learning.
This year, I’ve been writing for more publications, my readership is growing, but it’s come with pesky trolls and negativity. Oh how often I want to quote Bambi at them - “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.”
The other day, I woke to several notifications filling my smart phone’s lock screen and found myself smiling. I’d been trolled! The first time this happened was earlier this year. I wanted to print out their comment and hang it in my room, like businesses do with their first dollar. It made me feel like I’d made it.
I was proud of my reaction and thought, “Oh, good. I can totally deal with the ‘haters’ of the world. Bring it on!” Then came the next barrage of comments on another article I wrote. All I wanted to do was ask those ‘haters’ if they had any sisters or daughters and would they like it if someone was talking to the girl’s in their life like they were talking to me. I composed that message about fifty times that day, until I finally realised I needed to let it go.
It’s not pleasant to have someone dislike our art, but it’s unfortunately becoming more and more common. It’s important to know how to duel trolls.
When I received my first ‘troll’ I asked other writers for advice. I had over 50 replies with differing opinions on how to deal with hate mail and trolls. Some dealt it right back to the ‘haters’ while others cried and struggled against self-doubt, but the overwhelming response was to ignore it.
But I think we have a different call as Christ followers.
"Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.” - Matthew 10:16
How many of us have read this passage, but lost its significance? Let’s break it down a bit…
- God has appointed us to a specific place - “Behold I send you out…”
- He wants to take us ‘tame animals’, who are accustomed to grazing and set us in the middle of of the cruelty, the greed, rapacious and destructiveness of mankind - “…as sheep in the midst of wolves…”
- And in the midst of all this chaos He’s commanded us to be intelligent, wise and prudent, to be mindful of our interests - “…so be shrewd as serpents…”
- But not only are we to be wise, we are to remain pure, like an unmixed wine or metal, our minds are to remain free from guile, without a mixture of evil - “… and innocent as doves.”
If you’re facing trials, or ridicule from people who read your posts, books, etc. I encourage you to approach it with this scripture in mind.
The hard part about a lot of the negative comments is they don’t just attack what you’re writing, they attack our identity. The more we can stay steadfast in the truth of who we are and Who’s we are, the more we can approach these perceived ‘attacks’ for what they really are. (And this is what I feel God is really speaking to my heart.) The people writing these negative comments are just like me.
They’re human beings, who may be having a bad day and so they’ve taken it out on a stranger.
None of us are perfect. We’ve all said something we regret.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not excusing these people. What they’re doing is not helpful or beneficial to the world, but as a writer who’s learning to duel trolls, I don’t want to lose sight of the fact they are someone God cares very much for and because He loves them, I should too.
So how do I duel trolls?
Surprisingly, it starts with humbling myself to recognise where I’ve ‘mixed with evil’ in wanting to approach these comments with as much negativity as I received. Then, instead of ignoring their comment, I pray for the individual - seeing them as a human being in need of grace. Next I look at their comment with fresh eyes: Is there any truth in what they’ve said? Could I have written things with more clarity to avoid this comment? If the answer is no, it’s time to let it go.
My fellow writers, I hope you can take courage from this. To know when to own up to your mistakes and when to let these hurtful comments go. Don’t add them to your life if they aren’t going to bring you closer to God. Instead, remember the individual to our Lord and leave them there.
Charis Joy Jackson is working as a missionary with Youth With a Mission (YWAM) a non-profit organization & is part of The Initiative Production Company. She loves creating stories & is currently writing a novel, which she hopes to create into a seven part series.
Here's to a life lived in awe & wonder.
Welcome to the adventure.