When I began Beliefs of the Heart, a friend suggested I adopt a Comment Policy. His site already had one, and I copied his almost word for word. The short version is: Keep comments short and sweet.
In the last seven years, about five thousand comments have been posted. Out of those five thousand comments, I have only deleted five, from four different people.
- I deleted one comment because it was an advertisement for Ray Ban Sunglasses that had somehow eluded my spam filter.
- I deleted two comments that were both twice as long as the article itself. In both situations, I sent the readers a copy of their remarks with suggestions for making their comments punchier. Both readers edited and reposted excellent comments.
- I also deleted 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 Facebook and show the world what a fool you are.”
When I contacted her to explain my reasons for deleting her comments, she replied, “Are your readers so thin-skinned that they cannot handle a little honest criticism?”
She Couldn’t Admit Her Fault
When this woman posted her comments, she included her blog address, and I checked it out. A month earlier she had written an article on the “toxicity of the internet.”
Her article said 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 responded with one sentence: “How dare you question my heart, integrity, or intentions!”
It’s So Obvious
I deleted those comments five 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 find faults in others while ignoring my own, to spot the specs in their eyes while bumbling around with a log in my own, to preach without practice.
So many faults seem so obvious. I can find myself almost gloating with glee as I catalogue them. But what about my faults, my harshness, my criticism? Am I willing to be as honest with myself?
Only God has full knowledge of the hearts and stories of others, and only God has the wisdom to judge wisely. When I read Pascal’s quote, I felt God graciously but firmly speak to me.
He said, “Sam, Get off my throne.”
P. S. God made us to hear his voice, and even when he speaks a conviction, it brings great joy. Thomas à Kempis once wrote:
When Jesus does not speak within, all other comfort is empty, but if He speaks only a word, it brings great consolation. (Imitation of Christ)
To nurture that conversational relationship with your Father, I suggest you read Hearing God in Conversation. After all, it is not that God is silent; we just haven’t learned to recognize his voice.