His message slid into my Instagram DMs like a knife in my heart.
“That’s one ugly baby.”
I re-read it, as if maybe reading it again would make it hurt less.
Perhaps it was spam, and the person’s account was hacked. But, when I read it over and over again, I realized it didn’t matter. Hate is hate, whether it comes from a bot, spammer, web troll, or just a mean-spirited stranger.
My instant response
I’m gonna be honest here: the first thing I did was shake with fury, and think about all the nasty things I could say to this person who was trying to inflict hurt on me. I thought of all the ways I could “put him in his place.” He looked like a teenager, so I wanted to tell him how immature he was, how he’s probably a little punk who has no friends.. and a whole host of profanity that I’ll keep to myself (you’re welcome).
You guys, I can get scrappy if I need to – haha! And being in Mama Bear Mode only amplifies that immediate rush to react in anger. And if you’ve read about my struggle with infertility, you know why I love my son so fiercely.
Take a deep breath
So, instead, I took a breath and turned to Google in hopes of finding some inspiration to cool my jets. After all, the Google machine knows all the things, right? Surely the Google-verse could inspire me to pull myself off the ledge of hitting send on a retaliatory reply.
My search: “How to respond to a hateful comment”
It yielded some good suggestions – and plenty of entertaining, but not appropriate responses.
So, I took another deep breath, channeled my inner PR gal and started off with a “thank you.” Take it from me, it’s the ultimate zinger, and gets them every time 🙂 Here’s how I responded:
Hi, Thanks for your message. We haven’t met, but I’m sure you’re going through something right now that’s causing you to lash out by being hateful to others – even strangers, like me. I’ve learned that when people are rude, it’s often because of a personal struggle that they are facing. So, I don’t take your hateful comment personally. I hope you have a better day, one in which you can be kind and lift others up!
Boom. And then I blocked him, ha! I thought about not blocking him, but, I figure there’s no sense in back-and-forth discussion with this guy. He gets my point.
Don’t show them your “goat”
My amazing, God-loving grandmother always told me growing up about how to respond to haters, “They’re trying to get your goat, Whit,” she’d tell me. “Don’t show them where it is!” I love that woman. And I hear this advice in my head so often, especially because acting out in anger is a real stumbling block for me. Anyone else have a short fuse?
I’m sure this guy had expected me to respond in anger. That’s our first tendency, right? But, I started thinking about what this person’s life was like, behind his Instagram account profile. He was probably never taught to be compassionate. Maybe he grew up in an abusive home. Perhaps a parent had inflicted hurt so deeply in him that the only way he knows how to cope is through inflicting hurt on others. Just maybe, he needed someone to show him what compassion looks like.
Let’s think about our children
And then I started to think about what my son, Roman, would say if he were old enough to read my response. As a parent, I know it’s my job to lead by example. Though, admittedly, I fail daily in this department (as I said, fury gets the best of me sometimes!). If he were able to read, I hope he’d be proud of his mama.
That’s what moved my heart to not hit “send” with words of spite.
I believe that the way we talk to those around us – our kids, our spouses, our friends, and strangers, too – is a direct reflection of our heart condition. When Satan tries to slither in by speaking hateful words to us on social media, it’s our opportunity to showcase the reflection of our heart condition.
MLK, Jr. said it best: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
May you choose light in the darkness today. Keep on shining, friend. And shake those haters off.