Thursday, 5 October 2017

Duelling Trolls: How To Be Serpents & Doves

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.

Doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt, but as I looked at the most recent posts literally belittling my existence, I couldn’t help wondering if I’d actually get along with the person in real life.

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.


  1. Great post Charis. Thank you. I'm really sorry to hear of the negative feedback. You've done what Jesus asked us to do - not to retaliate towards our enemies with hate but to respond from a place of humility and love. Reminds me of Phil 2. I would say that hate male is a form of persecution - so good on you for tackling the trolls in a godly manner. Thanks for being a great example to the rest of us and for following the way of love, which is after all, what our Christian walk is all about. Good on you Charis.

  2. Wise words and a great reminder to pray - even for trolls. Thanks, Charis.

  3. Thanks, Charis - reflected my thoughts well. In fact I was just thinking the other day about how we should deal with some of these responses (especially as many won't be able to hear anything positive we respond with, or gentle even confrontation), and I was reminded of Jesus' words about praying for our 'enemies'. I wondered how often we actually take time out to pray for some of these people and whether we really believe it might make a difference? :)

  4. Well Charis, I'd like to commend you on being just you....a lovely Christian young woman who even has a heart for such troll babies. (After all, they are really acting like spoilt children!}

  5. So I can be grateful the only comments I get on my (infrequent) blog are spam! You've addressed an increasing issue, Charis, that there's so much vitriol and abuse out there in cyber world. I've stepped back from social media, thanks for tackling this head on.

  6. Charis, thank you :-)
    I couldn't have expressed this issue better myself. I know it's very unchristian of me, but I do have an intense dislike for trolls. I cannot fathom why anyone would say hurtful things, just because they can. I've been hurt twice on social media, but the time that hurt the most was when I was verbally abused as well as in print for my strong faith, love of Jesus, and merely wanting to share His love with others. These days I realise that this person is just one of many who need understanding and prayer. I shall focus more on my own mistakes of which there are many, and yes, learn when to let go.

  7. So sorry to hear you've been receiving those comments, Charis. On the plus side, it means you're taking ground for the Kingdom, but as you say, it's not easy to receive that kind of hate mail. I really admire your response. I'm not sure I'd be as gracious as you. It's easy to rant about people who've harmed you, but as you say, God loves them. I heard of a book once called 'Hurt People Hurt People' and I often wonder if those who are so single-minded in speaking against Christians have actually been hurt by Christians in the past. Good on you for encouraging us to love those who persecute us. And I pray you'll get a hundred-fold more messages of encouragement than the negative ones. You go girl!

  8. Thanks for your comments, encouragements and more! I'm so glad this post has encouraged and challenged all of you. May we all continue to pursue grace and love to every person in our lives!

  9. This afternoon, I really needed to hear this, Charis, so thank you for the encouragement on how to 'Duel with Trolls'.

  10. Thank you for the insight in what it looks like to approach such comments humbly, as I think Jesus would. I never really thought deeply about it before :)