When I began Beliefs of the Heart, a friend suggested I adopt a Comment Policy. His site already had one, and I copied his policy almost word for word. The short version is: Keep comments short and sweet.
In the last twelve years, readers have posted about seven thousand comments. Out of those thousands, I have only deleted six, from five different people.
- I canned one comment because it was an advertisement for Ray Ban Sunglasses that had somehow eluded my spam filter.
- I deleted two comments that were twice as long as the article itself. I also sent both writers a copy of their remarks with suggestions for making the comments punchier. Both readers edited and reposted excellent comments.
- I erased one comment because it made the writer look foolish, and I felt sorry for her.
- I also removed two different comments from one reader because they were nasty. She called one reader a “moron with an elbow for a brain,” and she bullied another commenter, saying, “Why don’t you include your full name, you coward, so I can post it on Twitter and show the world what a fool you are.”
When I contacted the “nasty, bullying” commentor to explain my reasons, she replied, “Are your readers so thin-skinned that they cannot handle a little honest analysis?”
She Refused to See or Admit Her Fault
When this woman posted her comments, she included her website address, and I checked it out. A month earlier she had written an article criticizing the “Toxicity of Social Media.” (Literally four weeks earlier!)
She complained that people behave badly in many places: “Humans act with hostility everywhere, in bars and churches and airports and their own kitchens.” But she added, “The anonymity of the internet seems to draw out our worst possible denigrations. We mingle constructive criticism with bullying, oppression, mud-slinging, and verbal-violence.”
She ended her article with this hope: “Let’s create safe environments for meaningful dialogue between people who disagree.”
I emailed her again, complimenting her on the toxicity article. I also asked (I hope graciously) how she reconciled her article with publicly berating one reader as a “moron” and taunting another reader with threats of public exposure.
She refused to look inside. Instead she wrote: “How dare you question my heart, integrity, or intentions!”
It’s So Obvious
I deleted her nasty comments years ago, and I’ve wanted to write about it ever since. But something about the interchange nagged at me. I wondered, How could someone be so oblivious to their own hypocrisy? A few weeks ago, a friend posted this quote on Facebook:
Truly it is an evil to be full of faults; but it is a greater evil to be full of them and unwilling to recognize them, since that is to add the further fault of a voluntary illusion. (Blaise Pascal)
I immediately knew what haunted me about my interchange with the nasty comment writer: she was a mirror of myself.
It is so easy to see the faults in others (they are staring us in the face), but we ignore our own. I scrutinize (and meditate on) the specs in their eyes while bumbling around with a log in my own. I preach without practice.
So many faults are glaringly obvious. I find myself almost gloating with glee as I catalogue them. But what about my own harshness, criticism, and foolishness? Why am I so unwilling to be honest with myself?
Only God fully knows the hearts and stories of others, and only God has the wisdom to judge rightly. When I read Pascal’s quote, I feel the voice of God speaking graciously but firmly.
He says, “Sam, Get off my throne.”