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Monday, October 11, 2010

Hate Mail

Two dogs in hallway, one with paw on letter

On Friday, we talked about Fan Mail.  It’s Monday. And Monday is a good time to tackle the hard issues.  So today we’re addressing a more difficult topic: hate mail. 

I’ve written about Dealing With Negative Feedback before.  But hate mail is different.  Hate mail isn’t constructive, it’s destructive.  It’s one thing to disagree with someone.  It’s another thing to tear them apart.

Every writer who says something slightly provocative or controversial is a target for hate mail.  And hate mail can come in many forms – including blog posts, anononoymous comments, emails, and letters.  Hate mail never intends to start a discussion.  The goal is to silence.

Let me give you a hypothetical. 

Hate-Mail Helen reads Chasing Superwoman, and she thinks I’m evil.  She posts on her blog that I’m an unfit mother, declares that I’m not a real “Christian” and she even attacks my children.

Should I respond?

As I see it, here are my options. 

1.  Ignore Helen.  I don’t have to engage.  Hate-Mail Helen probably just wants attention.  And she doesn’t want to have a dialogue.  So I shouldn’t respond.  Instead, I can seek support from people I respect and trust.  At the end of the day, I don’t answer to Helen. 

2.  Respond directly. I can also confront Helen. I can call her on the carpet – and I can even take an army of bloggers with me!  We can post thoughtful yet pointed comments on her blog.  Or I can write her a private email, explaining that I’m really not Evil Mommy (it was just a joke in the book), and she shouldn’t be so judgmental. 

3.  Respond indirectly.  Maybe I won’t post a comment on Helen’s blog.  Instead, I’ll write a few of my own posts to address Helen’s comments. I’ll talk about how deep my faith is, and how my kids are really well-adjusted and obedient (at least most of the time).  We can even poke some fun at Helen’s comments – just to show how silly they really are. 

4.  Write a response, but don’t send it.  This may be my favorite option.  The lawyer in me really wants to respond to Helen.  But I know there’s probably no point.  I know it’s wrong to strike back.  But I really want to have the last word.  I want to set the record straight, even if no one will read it.

I’ll have to admit, I really don’t like any of these options.  Probably because I really don’t like hate mail.

How would you respond to Hate-Mail Helen?

10 comments:

Heidiopia said...

I would probably craft a well-thought out response and then shelve it. :) The high road is always best, but it's even better when you've been able to put your thoughts down.
Enjoy your day!

Wendy Paine Miller said...

Susan,

I'm dealing with this exact thing, but in response to a cutting comment my husband's sister said to my face last weekend.

I was floored and it niggled at me the entire way home.

I also have been weighing my options. It helps that my husband is on board to address the situation with her.

I'm highly sensitive though. The comment, made in anything but love, dug in deep.

I have had to let God get in and wash those wounds.

Some people just don't get it. They miss the mark with other so much and they are a mess inside. Those quick to judge others remind me of another grouping of people Jesus became furious with.

Know what I kept wanting to scream on the car ride home? Wooden plank. Wooden plank.

I've been praying, working on forgiving, letting it go and leaving it where it belongs. In the past.

I hope God gives you resolve with how to deal with your difficult person.

~ Wendy

Richard Mabry said...

Other than asking LawyerMommy about the possibility of suing the commenter for slander, defamation of character, and a bad choice of hairstyles? I'd probably take a Pepcid Complete, talk to a few supportive friends, and remember my mother's admonition to "consider the source." Then I'd try to move on and ignore the whole thing. I'm not going to change the commenter, and I've learned by bitter experience not to engage these people in dialogue.

Laura said...

Good advice, Susan. I've found ignoring to be an effective tool, but I love your idea to write a response and not send it. Very therapeutic! I can't imagine anyone responding to your book with hate mail, but I guess it takes all kinds...

@kelybreez said...

I would probably write a blog post that responds to her with all of my options, thinking out loud to all of my readers different ways I might respond, so that I could respond without responding, knowing the hater will probably read it and get all the things I wanted to say to her.

This would be a brilliant strategy, by the way.

Julie Cragon said...

I love Richard Mabry's response, "I'd probably take a Pepcid Complete, talk to a few supportive friends, and remember my mother's admonition to 'consider the source.'"
By the way, I just started your book and love it so far.

Laura said...

I'd have to go with #4, too. It helps you vent, but it's pretty innocuous.

It has to hurt, though. I can hear my mom saying, "Just be the bigger person. The Lord knows your heart and that's all that matters!"

If you decide to take an army of bloggers along, let me know! :0)

Graceful said...

I have to deal with this every month when my newspaper column publishes -- I get one or two regulars (sometimes 3 or 4) who leave condescending, demeaning comments on the newspaper site. Not exactly hate mail, but certainly not a warm fuzzy...or anything remotely constructive.

I used to get in a knot over it...I'd rant and rave about why athiests were reading the Saturday religion column anyway! Didn't they have anything better to do with their Godless time?!

But then I let it go. Now I look forward to seeing them every month -- I am disappointed when my athiests don't show up! But I never respond...I figure it's kind of pointless (although at one time I was a non-believer, so it clearly wasn't pointless for me).

Good points here, Susan!

Amy Sorrells said...

Susan--sorry for the delayed comment to this post. I keep thinking about you and praying for you, regarding this. Your thoughts are so wise, and I know I'd be a pile of moosh if/when I get hate mail. (Actually, I've already had someone tell me "how dare I" write the book I'm writing, and it isn't even contracted or anything!) So, please know you're being prayed for and you're making a difference for working mamas--even this one! A wise boss I once had said you know you're making a difference if you get people riled up. Indeed, Susan, indeed! Go now, and keep making a difference!

Rachelle said...

Susan, this has been one of the most difficult aspects of my job lately! Hate mail is so hurtful. I go through all the same posssible options you do... and I admit, I don't always make the right choice. I don't know if this will ever get easier!