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Handling Haters: How to Graciously Respond to Online Negativity

Handling Haters: How to Graciously Respond to Online Negativity

It's been challenging having a Facebook page the past couple of years. With presidential primaries, the election, and it’s aftermath, I’ve seen a lot of harsh, cynical comments and opinions expressed.

With so many "in your face" type comments, it's been tempting to withdraw, quit, hide, unfriend, block or whatever it takes to create distance from the verbal and visual battering. But perhaps there is a better way forward.

Training Grounds

It reminds me of years ago when I worked for a Christian ministry where I was assigned to respond to negative correspondence received. From criticism on the music played or how congregants were asked to sit down during the service, to a wide range of accusations, disapproving comments were funneled to me for reply.

I began to understand how the bitter words written in the letters were more revealing of the heart of the writer than the subjects addressed.  

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Considering how words could impact someone's faith, I was motivated to prayerfully reflect on each letter before replying. Verses such as Proverbs 15:28 instructed me to ponder how to answer each person. Proverbs 15:2 reminded me to keep wisdom in mind when answering.

Also, remembering how a gentle answer turns away anger (Proverbs 15:1) and how it's the kindness of God that leads to repentance (Romans 2:4), helped to keep me on the right track.

Rather than reacting defensively to the critical words and accusations, I had the opportunity to aid in the repair and restoration of a pain filled heart.

Facing the Chatter

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So in light of the ongoing Facebook conversations and debates, below are 3 ways I'm choosing to stay involved online:

1. Care Unconditionally

These online discussions have provided me much insight into how family and friends are coping in today's culture. Individuals have opened up about their priorities, beliefs, concerns, hurts, and more. When tempted to withdraw, my desire to be there to for support is stronger than my desire to stop the chatter. This candidness has brought into light new thoughts on how to reach out to friends with the love of God, remembering how 1Thessalonians 5:14 instructs me to encourage the fainthearted and be patient with everyone.

2. Choose Prayer

Angry words may simply be an indication of a genuine need for prayer. Through observation, it seems like people are often unaware of how their heart may have been hurt or hardened over time. James 5:16 states that earnest prayer can accomplish much. So rather than roll my eyes and sigh at more sounding off, praying for the disheartened has become my choice of response.

3. Use Words Graciously

In the midst of intense rhetoric, I try to make the most of the opportunities to speak encouraging words into family and friends' lives. Colossians 4:6 directs me to let my speech always be with grace, as if seasoned with salt, so that I'll know how to respond to each person. God can work through gracious comments and posts to bring comfort, hope, and peace to individuals facing daily challenges.

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Heart-to-Heart Check-ups

Online debates and discussions have encouraged me to examine my own heart, checking my words to hear what's coming out of my mouth. Proverbs 4:23-24 advises me to watch over my heart with all diligence, to put away a deceitful mouth, and set devious speech far away.

Likewise, 1 Peter 3:15 directs me to always be ready to give an account of the hope within me, with gentleness and reverence. As a Christian, I want my words to draw individuals closer to God rather than offer another reason to turn away, especially in these debate-filled Facebook days.

Image Credit: ©Thinkstock.com/Uber-Images

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Lynette Kittle is married with four daughters. Her writing has been published in numerous publications including Focus on the Family Magazine, Decision, Today’s Christian Woman, KirkCameron.com, Ungrind, Start Marriage Right, Growthracand more. She has a M.A. in Communication from Regent University and also serves as Soul Check TV's associate producer.