Sometimes I write in response to what someone else wrote. It could be a book, blog post, tweet, etc. My response might be supportive, reflective, or critical of the ideas expressed. Occasionally – particularly when criticizing an idea – a comment comes along telling me I shouldn’t attack other people.
I try not to. My aim is to address ideas. I don’t ignore the person who wrote those ideas, and will refer to an author by name, but I strive to stay focused on the ideas the person espouses and (if appropriate) call for a change of mind and heart. I am talking about the wrongness of the ideas held by the author, but some who support the author will see my critique as a personal attack.
This is problematic for a couple of reasons. First, there’s miscommunication. That’s a bad thing for any writer and I have to scrutinize my posts to make sure I haven’t contributed to any misunderstanding.
Second, if a writer/speaker/pastor/leader (or those who agree with her or him) feels personally attacked, it shuts off communication entirely. If what I’ve said is “These beliefs are wrong” and what they’ve heard me say is “You’re toxic” then there’s no incentive on their part to engage.
The corollary is that when I speak even more strongly and actually say certain beliefs/teaching/practices are toxic – and some are – then a person who holds such beliefs close to their heart will find it almost impossible to respond favorably if I then extend an offer to join together in common cause, even something as basic as time together in prayer. I would not blame the person for perceiving my offer as “You are toxic. Now come join me in prayer so God can change you.”
I don’t know the right way to avoid all misunderstanding on everyone’s part, but I do know that I can at least do my part. And I admit that doing my part takes a humility that does not come easy to me.
So I will remind myself of the guidance given by God in Scripture:
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (Romans 12:18.)