If someone would have told me a year ago that the majority of my online haters would be Christians and not Atheists, I would have rolled my eyes at them. It seems like common sense to assume that Christians support other Christians and that Atheists are the ones who do all the tearing down...unfortunately this has simply not been my experience.
While I definitely do get an Atheist insult here or there, the vast majority of my mean comments and DM's come from "Christian" accounts. I can't help but wonder how many other people are also experiencing this in the online space. No one likes to be bullied- especially when the person doing the harassing is supposed to be on your "team" or claims to be a part of a kind and loving initiative!
What can we as believers do to support and also help our fellow Christian brothers and sisters treat one another better? Here are 5 things I have learned from interacting with all the online hate:
Pray- It sounds so simple or cliche, but prayer is vital whenever you face anything! Our knee-jerk reaction to drama is to lash out or run and hide. Yet both of those reactions put the pressure on US to handle the issue. God desires for us to take any and all of our issues to him. He promises to help us. Psalm 145:9 says, "The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made." When we pray we allow ourselves to let go of some of that initial negative emotion that fills our hearts when someone is mean to us.
Ask a Clarifying Question- The online space can be a breeding ground for arguments because of misunderstandings. Tone and visual cues are totally lost when all you have to work with is a screen and some words. Instead of immediately taking offense, ask the person you are interacting with a clarifying question. Ask them to elaborate on their thoughts with scripture. The Bible talks about the value of discussion between believers. Not every difference of opinion has to become a debate- aim to have a thoughtful discussion instead.
Assume the best- If we are going to assume anything about the other person let's assume the best. It seems like we live in a time when everyone is fearful of their neighbor, but the Bible says we are supposed to love our neighbor. Instead of looking for a reason to be upset or angry with someone, we should look for the good in them. Let's give them the benefit of the doubt for as long as we can until proven otherwise.
Establish boundaries- Sometimes we give Christians or fellow believers more allowance in our lives because we figure they are safe, considerate people. Ideally, they WILL be safe and considerate people who hold themselves to a higher standard... but sadly this isn't always the case. It is healthy and important to recognize when someone is overstepping. Boundaries allow us to keep ourselves and others safe both mentally and physically. If someone cannot speak kindly and respectfully towards you, it doesn't matter what they call themselves. It is okay to remind someone who bears the name of Christ that they are called to act like him- not just take his name.
Stay accountable- Know when to walk away from a conversation. If someone is not acting like a Christian or respecting your boundaries online even after you express your feelings to them, it is wise to walk away. It is not un-christlike to remove offensive comments, restrict, or even block an account that repeatedly attacks you. The devil loves to see two people claiming to represent Jesus fight and argue publicly. There is nothing more toxic for our ministry work or our witness than to put bad attitudes and insults on display via social media for all to see.
Have you experienced hate from fellow believers online? How did it make you feel? How did you handle it? Tell me in the comments below!