What I learned from my first hate mail.

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I wrote a post on my blog a few days ago that got quite a bit of coverage. It was retweeted so many times that I lost count. I went from receiving a few hits a day if I was lucky to literally thousands. Now I’m not used to writing posts that get so much exposure and so two things went through my head when I saw how well it was doing.

1. Crap, I need to keep writing posts that connect with people just as much or even more than this one. I addressed this in my post the following day.

and

2. This is nice, having so many people like what I write. I could get used to this.

It didn’t take me long though to realize that whenever your writing gets exposed to a lot of people that inevitably there will be people that don’t like what you write.

Just like this guy,

“Paul Robinson knows little of God this is exhibited in the above letter. God neither has anthropomorphisms nor anthropopathisms. The address is too puerile to deserve refutation. William Ball was right to ban this scurrilous attack on the person of God.”

I had a choice to make. Either I ignore his comment, I reply with hate and anger or I reply with grace… Oh and visit dictionary.com.

I replied and I hope I chose grace. But it got me thinking. How do I deal with people that not only don’t enjoy what I write but actually hate it? I didn’t want to ignore his comment because that would mean I wasn’t prepared to engage with someone with a different opinion to mine. I didn’t want to reply with hate because that only exaggerates the differences we already had and most likely leave him even less willing to engage with people he disagrees with in the future.

So I chose to reply with respect. The whole point of my post was that we don’t need to be afraid of our identities being destroyed by people that disagree with us. That if we attack people that attack us our identities can’t be too strong to begin with.

When we have haters our job is not to change them. It is to show them something different that maybe they’re not used to. To show them that their impression of you is wrong. What they do with that is up to them. If we spend too much time controlled by trying to control what others think we neglect our real task which is to keep working at making stuff that matters. To connect with each other. To produce good art.

I’ve also received gracious comments from people who disagreed with me but yet wanted to engage me. This gave me hope that we can learn and grow from people that we disagree with. There is a real emphasis put on being right today thanks to Twitter and Facebook but not much on being open and listening to others. So much of our identities are placed in the things we believe in and very little on the fact we are all really just the same, with a few tweaks here and there.

What about our identities is so fragile that we need to defend ourselves in a way that does little credit to anyone?

Let’s disagree wholeheartedly.

But let’s disagree wholeheartedly, well.

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