by Toni Birdsong
Mean people will always be part of life’s equation. And yes, this reality can multiply when you decide to go public with your biblical values online. Take it from us: With a name like “@stickyJesus” we’ve been in our share of cyber clashes . . . and emerged with God’s glory in tact.
God’s Truth will always bring out the toxins of this world. No one knew this better than Jesus—a magnet for persecution but a master at maintaining His cool. Thankfully, He taught us how to respond when the bullets fly and how incredible things can happen when we choose His ways over our own.
So here you go—18 ways to help you deal mean people online:
- Step away from the keyboard. When you are attacked, never respond immediately. Give yourself time to pray. Ask God to fill your heart with His thoughts and His words. This may take one minute, five minutes, or even a few hours. (Read: Prov. 29:20)
- Re-read your post or tweet. Did you express yourself clearly? Could you be to blame for the misunderstanding? (Read: Psalm 19:14)
- If you are wrong, say so. If you’ve misspoken or communicated in haste admit it. Don’t delete previous comments or flee from the conversation. God is bigger than your missteps. Truth transforms moreso than appearing right. (Read: Prov. 17:9)
- Ask God for new eyes. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you supernatural eyes to see what your critic is going through. Open your mind to the Holy Spirit’s lead and ready yourself for God to turn a harsh encounter completely around. (This is SO much fun!) (Read: Prov. 15:1).
- Don’t take it personally. Treat your critic as a smart and capable person. Picture God’s hands lovingly creating that person, sculpting, and molding them. Remind yourself that God loves that person deeply and that them showing up in your digital stream could be a divine appointment. Realize and respect that they have a journey you know nothing about and that pain likely fuels their anger.
- Be realistic. Although your words can prove very impactful, don’t attempt to change an angry person in 140 characters. If the Holy Spirit leads, ask your critic to take the conversation to a Direct Message or email.
- Model self-control. When you are online you are on a public stage. People see you being attacked and they see your response. God’s power in you is able to love even difficult people and give you self control. (Read 2 Timothy 1:7)
- Remember where you are. This is not your home—it’s a war zone. Don’t allow the language, actions, and words of this culture to surprise you or mortally wound you. Hurt, lost people hurt other people but healed people (YOU) can actually heal other people. Stay in the game—in His power and in His name! Never forget the enemy has come to destroy, not just annoy. Satan’s guns are loaded and gunning straight for you.
- Check your attitude. It sounds cliché but ask yourself: How would Jesus respond to this person? Learn to delete your words and upload Christ into the conversation. (Read: John 8:31)
- Show respect. Instead of lashing out, tell your critic that while you don’t share his/her opinion, you respect their right to say it.
- Pray for your critic. If the context is right, tell the person you will be praying for them. Add a smiley face (the smiley face covers many sins and seems to disarm quickly online) . (Read: Proverbs 18:21)
- Seek first to understand. Instead of drawing battle lines, listen. Ask questions that dive deeper such as: “Tell me more, I’m listening” or “wow, sounds like you’ve had some pretty tough experiences in that area.”
- Use the word “I” and not “you” when responding. Use phrases such as “I understand” “I am listening” “I see it differently” “I hear you” “I’m trying to understand.”
- Be positive. Turn a negative comment into a positive. If someone says to you: “Life sucks and so do your sappy tweets. God doesn’t care about anyone.” Come back with: “I hear you, friend. Sounds like things are especially tough for you today. I’ll be praying you up big time! Bless you! ”
- Use gentle humor or light sarcasm. If appropriate, lighten up the heaviness with humor like: “Wow, guess I hit a nerve. Here –> \_/ <— this cup of coffee is on me!”
- Circle back. Once you’ve diffused a person and connected in a positive way, circle back in a day or two to say hello and connect with your new critic-turned-friend. This small, caring gesture can go a very long way.
- Be kind but don’t compromise. You can be kind and lend an ear to an angry person but that doesn’t mean you change your biblical perspective just to win someone to your point of view. God’s not so crazy about lukewarm Christians. (Read: Revelation 3:16)
- Don’t get abused. If a person shows no sign of mellowing, continues to curse profusely, or seems threatening, block or defriend them and move on. Let the Lord deal with them on His turf. (Read: Prov. 25:26)
No doubt, a conflict online can shake you up and rock your world. Going public as salt and light in a world feasting on a diet of reality TV and moral mediocrity isn’t for sissies. Expect a few zingers now and then. But also expect God to meet you in the fire, protect you, heal you, and build your heart even stronger for the next opportunity to show a difficult person the love of Jesus Christ.
How do you deal with mean people online? What have you learned from those encounters?
Post/Tweet this today:
Being salt and light online isn’t for sissies. When you get knocked down, get back up—in His name, for His fame. #LiveSticky