Most hate mail I simply dismiss. You’re free to write me and bless me out all the live long day if it’s going to make you feel better to get it all out, but know, I rarely reply. The few times I’ve actually responded where when I got a sense the sender actually wanted to dialogue further, once they got all the name calling out of the way.Share
I do find hate mail upsetting, but probably not in the way the sender intended. I am not moved or upset at the actual words themselves. What’s disturbing is witnessing someone being so controlled by their own anger and pain that they are helpless to stop themselves from lashing out.
Trolls in comment boxes are one thing. That’s usually just your every day, garden variety sarcasm mixed in with a dash bullheadedness. It’s helps to remember behind every trollish comment is a real, live human being who has taken the time to read (however incorrectly interpreted) what you’ve written and felt compelled enough to respond. They may be looking for actually dialogue or just to vent. I won’t begrudge anyone that.
But when the comments, and in this instance hateful emails, exhibit a twisted underlying darkness it’s helpful to again recognize behind those words is a very real, live human being in obvious pain.
Don’t reply to the words. Respond to the person.
I met newly ordained Fr. Eric Sundrup, who writes for the Jesuit Post, a few weeks ago at the Catholic Media Conference. During a panel discussion we were asked how we handle trolls and vitriol we encounter online. How do we not let it infect us and disrupt our spiritual well being.
Fr. Sundrup was the one that reminded us that it’s a human being we are encountering online, not just some automatically generated words floating at us on a computer screen. Someone put them there. And it’s always best to respond to those particular someones carefully. (Read more.)