One of my responsibilities at Chabad.org includes approving reader comments. Yup, you know when you post at the end of an article, well an actual person has to read that comment, see if it meets our posting guidelines, make edits if necessary and push “approved” to post. That would be me.
For the most part, approving reader comments is a fairly easy and enjoyable part of my work. It is great to see the feedback on pieces, watch readers interact with one another, and witness how people’s lives are uplifted, inspired and sometimes even transformed through something they read.
But then there’s the flip side.
Every so often some reader feels the need to write something outright mean. Now, we have our rules, and if a comment is racist or offensive in some other demeaning way, we won’t post it. But if the comment is saying that the author is immature or irresponsible or flat out wrong…as long as the insult is written in a fairly respectful way…it will get posted. Because if we like your opinion or not, you have the right to express it.
And guess what? Some of those comments hurt.
Yes, I am here to tell you that I am a real person with real feelings and your words can hurt me very much. I know I am writing to the few. Fortunately so many of you offer such kind words of support and encouragement and even praise me in ways I don’t feel I deserve. And while I can rationalize and intellectualize and tell myself over and over that I should just ignore those mean comments, I can’t. And I don’t think any honest or caring person could.
What amazes me is that people feel they can type a comment and push “send” with words that I would venture to guess they would not say to my face in a million years. And yet, that is exactly what they are doing. It doesn’t help that I not only have to read them but that I have to approve them as well! But that aside, please know the power of the words you write.
I have a friend who is a celebrity with a very popular blog. On her Facebook page she has tens of thousands of friends. And yet, as of recent, she has stopped responding to comments. Here is someone extremely talented, educated, accomplished and famous, and yes, comments from those she does not know and will probably never meet get to her also. Why? Because when someone says or writes something mean, it hurts. Regardless of who it is.
There is a beautiful concept in Chassidic philosophy that our mouth is likened to a bow. When we open our mouth, our tongue shoots forth arrows. Those arrows can be love arrows (think cupid) or arrows that can kill. And reality is that we are more likely to believe the bad than we are the good. When someone says something nice, there are two possibilities, she means it, or she doesn’t. We all know we sometimes say things for the sake of being nice, even if it is not completely truthful. “You look so nice!” “It is so great to see you!” The average, friendly person is going to say many “nice” things. But when someone insults you, you don’t think, “Hmmm, I think she really must like me and just didn’t say so…” Uh, no. She meant what she said.
So when I get those flattering and nice comments, I do believe them. I really do. After all, I don’t think you would waste your time to write a comment just for the sake of it. But when I get that mean one, I really believe it. Because I know you wouldn’t have taken the time to write that comment if you didn’t really feel the need to share your annoyance, disappointment or even anger. But more so, when I see your comment, I wonder how many others feel the same way and just didn’t take the time to share their thoughts. And so I start to doubt and worry and the worst part…that negative comment manages to outweigh the positive ones.
Why am I sharing this? Is my goal to make you feel badly if you ever posted a not so nice comment? No (ok, well maybe). But it is more than that. It is to remind you and me and all of us, that every time we open our mouths or push “send” that we are connecting and communicating with real people who have real feelings. We need to recognize that it isn’t easy for anyone to expose themselves and share of their innermost thoughts and feelings. Does that mean that everyone needs to agree? Of course not. Does that mean there is anything wrong with respectfully sharing a contrasting belief or opinion? Go for it! But it does mean that no one should hide behind that keyboard, on either end, and pretend as if those words are not landing on real hearts. They are.
So before you push “send” think about the power of your words and how what you say will be felt and heard by those that read it. Ask yourself how you would feel if someone said to you what you are about to say to another. Remember, those words are arrows. It is up to you if they are love arrows or arrows filled with poison. Your words. Your choice. Please choose wisely.
COMMENTS THAT HURT
October 9, 2012 by momsfirstscreenn