Anonymous Part 3

Did you hear that people were paid to make up comments on Amazon? As though using corporate funds to mess deceitfully with another person’s marketing isn’t bad enough, there are people who form essentially anonymous accounts to leave critical and even nasty comments. It’s heartbreaking–not the criticism but the pains taken and inflicted because those letters could stand for anyone in a haunting and disturbing fashion.

Let’s not lose hope and let’s not leave writing. Let’s ponder this a little together.When God created the world, He allowed for a variety of human shapes. Faces are commonly so unique you might be able to pick out a baby picture of a celebrity. So that when God created the world and mankind within it, when He established that it was not good for man to be alone and instituted society as well as its building blocks, recognizing the other was a natural feature. Could there be strangers in paradise? I don’t know, but that stranger would use external things–like words and facial expressions–to communicate.

I don’t think it is a stretch to say society works by means and those means include externals like words and facial expressions.

On one hand, I’d love for words to stand alone. On the other, when they seem a front for a surge of scorn or hatred, I am reminded that out of the heart of man comes “evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander” (Matthew 15:19 ESV). Minds can bear evil. Hearts can spew evil. Bodies participate and even seek evil. Our words do too.

False witness and slander, sure, are legal words, but reputation is as much a matter of word-of-mouth as anything else.

I think it is unnatural to offer anonymous criticism. It is otherworldly in a very negative sense. It distances the exchange from reform or any form of response! Just about all it can do is cause harm.

I’ll admit it. I think family and friends are the first circle who ought to provide criticism. They can try to know the individual well enough to respond to a piece in a way that can heard. In publications, next there are editors and, through CPH, doctrinal reviewers. Authors cannot write in such a way that they can perfectly edit themselves so there are systems to help.

Please, if you are burdened with an urge toward perfection, know that God calls people to love and serve you, no matter your faults. If you have sinned, seek forgiveness. If you suffer, may Christ take that suffering and join it to His own. It stinks to be a sinner in a world full of sin and sinners. It is a very real thing to be “sinned against” and exactly what all that includes is less revealed than those sins we commit from our hearts.

Anonymous forums are dangerous territory. As my friend would say, “Gird your loins.”

I wonder what else we could learn to say to ourselves. Maybe, “I’ve started [or added] to the conversation” or “This book just isn’t what that person wanted it to be.” To add a lightening note, as a wise Facebook meme once reminded, “Not everything can be pizza.”

If you have any sage advice, or words of comfort to share, please do so in the comments.

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2 Comments

Filed under Writer Troubles, Writer's Life

2 Responses to Anonymous Part 3

  1. Myrtle Bernice Adams

    I have never posted anonymously (that I remember) nor have I created a fake profile for commenting, but I do have the opinion that anonymous commenting could, in theory, have a benefit of adding to the discourse without any judgement you/your reputation might be carrying.

    We are so quick to tar and feather, these days, and once labeled this, that, or the other, it seems that what is said is less important than who said it.

    For example, I have seen, on more than one occasion, someone’s remark castigated because the commenter is a known reader of Forde. I saw nothing inherently wrong and a whole lot gospel-y stuff in the comment, but the commenter really stands condemned for not also condemning Forde.

    I read On Being a Theologian of the Cross. I think it is a particularly helpful book in that it adds to the discourse using analogies that are creative and apt (i.e., the addict). I am not saying that everything Gerhard Forde has written is meet, right, and salutary, but no one is perfect, not even Martin Luther. No one is capable of writing everything “right” all the time.

    I like to consider Philip Melanchthon in this regard. He really went over to the other side in his later life, but his contributions to the Book of Concord were not stricken and condemned.

    I want to believe, even in our online world, it is possible to have words pondered and weighed on their own merit, rather than any notions about the author, but I am not sure we are there yet.

    An effort such as this one, a blog that says “Hey, let’s share words and see what we can learn and teach” is blooming awesome! It gives me hope. However, I still have to keep the boundary on my things I read to avoid the comments because I am sure to see the very base nature of humanity instead of the blessing of the life we can live in Christ.

    Recently, I heard the word generous used in a new and interesting manner: It was used saying that you will assume the most generous reason for the responses and behaviors of others. I know that might sound like how folk use “best construction,” but I like all the connotations of generous being applied in that manner. It is, I think, a difference between trying to make the best judgment on a matter and starting from a place of understanding rather than judgment. I know, that might not make much sense. I need better words to describe what I heard.

    All that is to say that I believe there is a discrete place for anonymity in commenting until such a time when there exists in the online world greater generosity.

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