I’m not a very brave blogger. I don’t like stirring up controversy, preferring instead to keep my blog quiet and friendly. 

Whenever I hop over to some of those more popular and exciting blogs, where opinions are flying thick and fast, I’m seized with a feeling of panic. How would I ever cope with all those highly emotional comments that tell me my opinions and posts are rubbish, and I am stupid for writing them?

In all the time I have been blogging I am fortunate to have had only one not-so-agreeable comment. Do you remember this?

"why the hell would you post a picture of your dead baby online? thats just horrible."

Those words hurt. I decided not to publish this comment, but responded instead by posting the stories Trying to Make the Right Blogging Decision and The Fear and Shock of Viewing the Dead. Looking back, I know I reacted defensively. And I’ve been wondering if I could I have responded better.

Reacting defensively is not productive. It doesn’t open up a conversation in which ideas may be explored. It doesn't even encourage a commenter (and me) to think about things from a different view point. It just says, “I don’t like what you wrote. I’m right and you’re wrong, and as this is my blog, I’m going to delete your comment.” I might feel justified in my choice not to publish the comment, but I am still left with a bad feeling. 

There are lots of not-so-agreeable comments people could stop and write:

“You’re so irresponsible for unschooling your kids. Parents like you shouldn’t be allowed to homeschool.”

“Why should you be allowed to have so many children when the world is already overpopulated?”

“Move on! No one wants to listen to your grief forever. Don’t you think it’s time you picked yourself up and got on with life?”

So what would I do if another adverse comment arrived at my blog? I could just delete it and move on, like before. Or I could respond. It's quite possible to publish the comment and still write a defensive reply though. Is there a better way?

I remember something I learnt from my breastfeeding counsellor days. We were taught that the best way to get critics to listen to us is to first find something we can agree upon. Once we have done this, emotions are cooled and we might just be able to communicate effectively.

“You’re so irresponsible for unschooling your kids. Parents like you shouldn’t be allowed to homeschool.”

You are so right: Children need protecting. I’m not surprised you think I shouldn’t be allowed to homeschool. Unschooling has had a lot of bad press and has been labelled irresponsible by many people.  I used to have misconceptions about it too. But I did some reading and this is what I found out…

“Why should you be allowed to have so many children when the world is already overpopulated?”

The world does seem rather crowded, doesn’t it? I’m always amazed at how fast those population counter gadgets turn over. I was also amazed by something else I once saw on a blog video. Did you know if all the people in the world stand side-by-side we could all fit into the state of Texas? That doesn’t sound right, does it? But apparently it’s true. The world must be a whole lot bigger than we realise. Perhaps there isn’t an over-crowding problem at all…

“Move on! No one wants to listen to your grief forever. Don’t you think it’s time you picked yourself up and got on with life?”

I sometimes think exactly like you. Why should anyone be interested in my grief stories after all this time? But there’s a lot of grieving people in the world. Even though I have learnt to get on with life, I know there are many other people still suffering. Many mothers lose babies and have no one to talk to. I write in case someone stops by who feels alone and in need of some encouragement. I can understand your opinion though. I used to think the same before I experienced grief…

So what do you think? Would my responses open the way for further conversation or thought? Or should I try again?

And if I could go back and answer the original comment…

“why the hell would you post a picture of your dead baby online? thats just horrible."

Posting pictures of dead people is very confronting, isn’t it? I can understand why you think it’s horrible. I used to be afraid of looking at the dead before I lost my own son. Then when I saw him, I realised he was just a normal baby even if he wasn’t breathing. He didn’t look horrific at all but beautiful. I guess I post pictures of my dead baby on my blog because he is special to me, and I don’t have any photos of him alive. I’m sorry if my photo has caused you distress.

Of course adverse comments aren't confined to blogs. They could just as easily appear on Facebook. Or someone could say them directly to us face-to-face. Now that would be more tricky to deal with.

I guess I could call this a communication skills post. It's been a long time since the last one. Perhaps you'd like to join in with the conversation and share how you deal with adverse comments and opinions.

(Having brought the subject up, I hope I don't get any adverse comments!)

This post is linked to the Catholic Bloggers Network Link-Up Blitz


These seals seem to be having a difference of opinion.

Post a Comment

  1. I have been thinking about this myself, lately, Sue. I like your responses - I think they would lead to a positive conversation.

    With me, I really dislike conflict so I usually find it more comfortable to reconcile first before discussing an issue. I think that the trouble starts when hurt feelings develop inwards towards pride and impulsiveness. Then, we vainly serve ourselves rather than reaching out to our neighbour. Instead of putting ourselves in the other person's shoes, we react indignantly and either defend or attack when we should gently minister to our adversaries.

    Quite often, I find that critics think in a way that I used to myself. Sometimes, that makes it easier to understand them and to resolve things by sharing our own journey.

    I guess Christianity is different to most other religions in that we are required to not only carry our crosses, but to also humbly mount them if called to. It's interesting that secular counsellors teach a concept that Christians come to through faith and charity, don't you think?

    Great post, Sue.
    God bless:-)

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    1. Vicky,

      Oh yes! It's so easy to focus on our own feelings. I guess it's a reflex action which we need to control. Pride? Mine has been wounded lots of times! "How dare she say that to me!"

      You make such a relevant point: "I find that critics think in a way that I used to myself." We tend to forget we haven't always held the opinions we currently have. Someone shared and we thought and learnt. Lots of people have been patient with me! I still have to remind myself I have lots more to learn. It's very disconcerting when I hear an opinion and think I will never agree, and then some way down the track, I find myself having to be humble and admit I was wrong after all. I could write a whole post about that!

      We can learn a lot from secular counsellors, applying their methods to our faith situations. I am so glad I had the opportunity to do that breastfeeding counselling course. It really did change my way of relating to people.

      Thank you for all the interesting points you brought up!

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  2. I hate controversy, confrontation, conflict. It really upsets me, it always has. But here is something great that becoming a Catholic, reading about apologetics, becoming a mother and just increasing my faith and love of Jesus has done. It has made me stand up for what I know is right. It has confronted me with the fact that there are only 2 choices - right or wrong. Only 2 ways - Heaven or Hell. It's too important to stuff up and if it means I have to be uncomfortable, if my stomach has to be tied in knots as I disagree or protest against what I know to be wrong, then so be it. All for Him.

    I haven't had any really negative comments on my blog but have had plenty on Facebook, from family members and from strangers on the street. I try to be more like Jesus and recognise every person as a child of God, and yes- some of them are broken and in great need of love.
    So I think your approach is spot on. You have a gentle way of writing and gentleness is what many angry and unloved people need.
    Keep up the good work Sue :)

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    1. Kelly,

      I know what you mean about having the strength to stand up for what you believe. Some issues are just too important. We can't stand back and not say anything. Defending our faith wasn't meant to be easy, and we CAN do it with grace. It is amazing what we can do!

      I really do admire all those bloggers and Facebookers who deliberately post about issues that will get people talking and debating and thinking. But sometimes I can just feel the evil behind some of the responses. I must admit I like a friendly debate, and would find it very overwhelming having to deal with such comments on a regular basis.

      Angry and unloved people... That is a good thing to keep in mind, Kelly! Most times we don't know where the other person is coming from. I can afford to be gentle. I have been very blessed.

      Thank you for your encouraging words. They are appreciated. You keep up the good work too!

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  3. You're definitely much better at that than I am. I tend to react defensively when people criticise, but I have to admit I lean more toward ignoring and not confronting when it comes to dealing with them. Your responses though are perfect for diffusing angry opinions.

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    1. Kellie,

      I have to admit that if I'm criticised face-to-face, and I haven't time to think, I very often do act defensively. Writing gives me time to calm down and construct replies carefully. I admire those people who can think on the spot and come up with the right words instantly. They are very good at defusing situations and maintaining interesting and productive conversations. Like you, I sometimes ignore opinions different to my own if I can't think fast enough on the spot, to avoid being defensive. I don't want to inflame the situation by saying the wrong thing. I sometimes wish I could come back later and say my piece after I've had time to think!

      Diffusing anger... Yes! Anger gets in the way, and makes a profitable conversation impossible.

      Thank you for your thoughts!

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  4. Wow, You're just so darn positive and constructive, Sue. I give you a lot of credit and I have to say, I am a better person for associating with you, being your friend.

    I think that way you approach others' negative com is So amazing b.c you don't just shut him/her down, but rather try to open a dialogue of understanding. Very hard to do when someone is attacking you, putting you on the defensive. Many would ignore or take the bait and get into it, not resolving anything. The main thing I love abt your approach is that if there are those who are non believers, atheists, etc...your very example of kind communication may be all it takes to turn this individual around. You just never know when living kindly as God wants us to will affect someone ( even tho we may want to punch him or cry.)
    But yeah, the fact that someone has an issue abt you not digging yourself out of your grief or posting a shot that he finds offensive, it goes w/o saying that it is your writing and your blog and your life. You post what makes you happy/gives you comfort/what you wish to record. Period. Who does not like it can leave your blog and maybe in the future, he will realize that he was wrong and have a change of heart.
    (And BTW I thought it'd be ridiculous and funny for me to invite you to kevin's play on FB! If either of the boys make it "big" HAHAHAHAHA as if..... you know I will be treating you to a flight from Sydney to NY! My kids do not have any grandparents and so we really take our friends seriously..online and "in person" friends. Family/friends are so important. Gotta share the good stuff ...!)

    Take care.
    Love ya

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    1. Chris,

      We learn from each other. That's what I like about blogging: sharing ideas and modifying our opinions, and growing together. I love having blogging friends!

      We all respond to kindness, don't we? Kind words can change the world. Yes, it's hard to be kind to those who've deliberately been horrible to us, but it's not impossible. I always feel so much worse when I've reacted angrily or defensively. It might take some time but eventually I can't live with such feelings and have to reconcile, as Vicky put it. I think we're all probably built the same way.

      It's my blog... Yes! People can just move on and go somewhere else. But I wonder why some people feel they have to stop and comment on something they disagree about before moving off. They must feel strongly for some reason. As I said, we don't know where people are coming from, what their situation is. I wonder if the person who wrote that original comment ever came back and read the resulting posts. I'll never know because I turned off the anonymous comments function and I wouldn't think anyone would admit to writing such words, by commenting using their own name.

      I like it when you are ridiculous and funny! I feel honoured to be treated like a 'real' friend. My online friends, including you of course, are very special to me too. I have a blog post idea about that... I hope your boys make it 'big'. I want so much to come and meet you all!

      Love you too!

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    2. Chris,

      I hope your boys make it 'big' for their own sakes too! That would be so exciting. xx

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    3. People can just move on and go somewhere else. But I wonder why some people feel they have to stop and comment on something they disagree about before moving off. They must feel strongly for some reason.
      So true....We just never know why someone is carrying such anger or even simple negativity...true.

      Thanks Sue, for your insight, friend.
      have a lovely day!

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    4. Thanks Chris! I always love discussing life with you.

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  5. This is an excellent post, Sue. Most bloggers receive negative comments sooner or later and we have to choose whether to respond to them or delete them. I make this choice depending on the spirit behind the question. If it is done in an ugly, confrontational, in your face manner, I usually delete them because I feel as if the person doesn't really want, nor care, about a response to their words but is kind of like the barking seal in your picture. (Which I love, by the way!! What a perfect picture for this post!)

    I loved the answers to the questions in your post. Yes, I think answers like these open up doorways to discussion :)

    Still, when it comes to the comment someone left about having Thomas' picture up I thought it brutally uncharitable. I think it is the harshest and most unkind comment I have ever seen on any blog. I still have trouble understanding why anyone would write such a thing. Yes, I can see that the person who left the comment had a great fear of death but they did not have to attack you.

    What's funny is that not only do Catholics expose the bodies of dead saints but we also are one of the few religions who have the crucified Christ on the Cross. People may think we are a bit odd but I realize what a blessing it is that Catholics deal with death in this open manner. After all, it will happen to every single person alive.

    God bless!

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    1. Mary,

      I've been thinking about your comment. You brought up a good point. Yes, some comments are so ugly. They are the sort I mentioned that feel evil. Many commenters are just out to upset people and it's not worth replying to their attacks, I agree! It only encourages them to return and continue posting comments that we can do without.

      Mary, I was very hurt by that comment, not on my own account, but because it was Thomas who was attacked. I was very grateful for all my friends who stopped by to support me. I guess, because of the love I received, I have been able to look beyond myself and wonder more about the person who wrote the comment. I am in a much better position than him or her. Maybe they will understand when someone they love dies. You are so right: death comes to us all! I'm so glad we have a healthy attitude towards death. What would we do without our faith?

      Mary, I'm glad you like the seals. I thought if no one likes the post, at least they can enjoy the photo!

      God bless you too!

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  6. BEAUTIFUL!
    I cried when I saw the photo of your little boy. I was amazed that someone had the foresight to take those photos.
    Most people would simply shut down and not want to know, remember, deal with all those feelings.

    When my family went through fear and grief after my brother sustained a serious head injury, we didn’t take photos. I took one and it is the only way we can convey to my brother how awful that time was. He remembers nothing and the photos would probably be a good tool for him now.

    I thank you both for responsibly and politely addressing this issue and for posting about your son. Many of us who lose a child in stillbirth or miscarriage feel we are not even allowed to have the terrible feelings of guilt, loss, anger and sorrow.

    These days many people think it is OK to ‘speak’ negatively to others via social media. I think everyone should consider how they would speak to each other in person and only then begin to type.

    Blessings upon you, Peta.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Peta,

      Thank you so much for your comment on my blog! I really appreciate your kind words.

      Thank you for sharing your story about your brother and mentioning your own child loss. Yes, we do experience many feelings that aren’t allowed to be expressed. Sadly, many people just do not understand. Maybe it’s something that has to be experienced. Anyway, it’s good to share online and connect with each other.

      The hospital where Thomas was born was very good. A nurse handed us a camera has soon as we arrived in the NICU. Unfortunately, we had only one reel of film but we have a few photos so I cannot complain. Thomas was born before digital cameras became widespread! Yes, photos are very important. I am glad I have some of Thomas. It sounds like your brother’s photo helped him fill in the gaps caused by his memory loss.

      Your comment about the social media, and the need to be responsible and polite, is so relevant. We seem to type away without much thought as to how our words come across. Yes, just because we are online and not face-to-face doesn’t mean we can carelessly say anything that comes to mind.

      I always love swapping comments and hearing readers thoughts. Thank you so much! I hope we will chat again another time.

      God bless

      Delete

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