Trolls on the Bridge: How to Keep Negative Feedback from Shredding Your Heart

I recently read this quote by Allen Arnold and it resonated deeply. “If God is pleased with your latest creation but the world ignores it, how do you feel? The answer reveals who you are creating for.”

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Excellent question. I fall into this trap far too often. I hope people like what I’ve written. This new blog was a step out of my comfort zone. Will people read it? Will they like it? This doesn’t even have to revolve around writing. This could be about any situation. The secret fear is, “Will they approve what I offer? Will they approve of me?”

So many of us say we are living, breathing, creating, and doing for an Audience of One, but the truth is, when our creative offering is ignored by the masses, we suffer hurt. Disappointment. We may even feel insignificant or devalued. Such a reaction tells us the true condition of our heart.

What’s worse? Not having our creation ignored but having it, or perhaps even our very person, attacked. Ouch.

ecclesiastes 7 5Let me stop here and say I’m not talking about constructive criticism, although for some, any kind of criticism feels like destructive criticism. Wearing our feelings on our sleeve about something we create isn’t healthy. One of the best pieces of advice I heard early on when beginning my writing career came from Tamera Alexander. She said, “What you create, whether it be your book, your story, an article, whatever it is…that thing is not your baby. It is a product. You are not what you create.”

Great advice, and an excellent way to keep the sting from burning too deeply when criticism need be applied. And trust me, it will. No one is born the expert in their field. No one.
Constructive criticism is intended to build up. It’s based on love and wants the best for the other person. Destructive criticism wants only to harm. Its intent is to destroy, and is usually birthed out of jealousy or fear. So when you’ve been hit with negative feedback, it’s important to take a step back and analyze the source. There are four types of feedback sources.

  1. Lovers  

flatteryThese guys love everything you produce, say, and do. They love you. More of you 24-7. Of course, they would never dream of giving you negative feedback so they aren’t pertinent to our chat today, but beware. You should still take their gushing praise with a grain of salt. Don’t let it give you a big head. “…a flattering mouth works ruin.” (Proverbs 26:28)

 

 

  1. Critics

More or less, critics are people who are educated in the creative product you’ve released. They have opinions that are subjective but carefully thought out about why they do or don’t like something, how aspects could be improved, etc. Good critics should be about the product, not the person behind it. Constructive criticism from a critic can be extremely valuable. Just remember their opinion is subjective.

  1. Trolls

trollAh, here is where things get messy. Trolls will hit you with all kinds of negative feedback. They don’t like your product because blah, blah, blah. Some criticisms may seem legit, some utterly ridiculous and hurtful. In the midst of their barbs, it may become apparent to you these guys have never even read or used your product. What?!

Trolls are internet drama feeders. They love stirring up fights because they find it amusing. They will go after your creation, and possibly, after you just for the shock value of it. As a friend of mine recently put it, “Trolls are just looking for a goat to cross their bridge.” Someone to torture. Someone to mess with. Although it seems they are quite hostile towards you, they are probably indifferent. They really don’t care about you at all, one way or the other. They are just looking for some drama-induced excitement in their too-dull lives. feed the trolls

Word of advice: Don’t feed the trolls. Do not engage with them. Don’t try to make them like you. They are out for one thing: drama. You feed a troll, and they’ll keep hanging around the bridge. Starve a troll, and they’ll look for some other place to feed.

  1. Haters muppet haters

As a recovering people pleaser, this one hurts, but it’s true. There will be some people that hate you. There I said it. Let it sink in. They will hate you for no other reason than that. It’s usually based out of some sort of jealousy, but perhaps not. Maybe it’s a wound they are struggling with and you’re an easy target. Whatever the reason, there will be people that don’t like you. They will say the meanest, most nasty, soul-cutting things to you. You’ll have a choice in that moment whether to believe what they say about you and your worth or reject it. (Remember this: a lie can only harm us if we believe it.)

john 15 18You are not what you create. You were lovingly fashioned and knit together by God, designed for a purpose before you ever drew a breath. Haters spew venom because they have no love nor light. Trolls linger on bridges, but none of it changes one thing between you and the Author of Life.

Press on. Pray for those who hurt you. Love with abandon, even those trolls and haters. They must hurt deeply to have so much acid spill out. Here’s a thought: every time you’re confronted with hurtful feedback, instead of lashing back or wallowing in tears, as we all so often want to do, bow your head and say a prayer for that mean person. Talk about agape love in action.

After all, trolls need Jesus too.

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Radical Love, Radical Forgiveness

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. ” (Matthew 5:43-45)

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I don’t know about you but loving my enemies can be a tall order sometimes. People can be hurtful. Even downright mean. It’s easy to want to defend ourselves or our loved ones, to right the wrong, or inflict the same kind of hurt we have suffered. After all, the world tells us to destroy our enemies. We must claw our way to the top. Curse those who oppose us. Fight for our own. Leave no survivors.

But the world’s way is not God’s way.

Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness.” (1 John 2:9)

Pursuing God, pursuing wisdom, pursuing love is never something we fall into accidentally. Loving those who hurt us takes a deliberate effort—it’s a choice to follow God, to yield to Him, no matter the cost to our pride or want-tos.

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Not long ago, I was reading from one of my favorite books Embracing Obscurity and was reintroduced to the amazing, courageous story of Rose Mapendo.

Rose-Mapendo-–-Power-of-Forgiveness

“A Tutsi Congolese, Rose was a victim of intense mistreatment during the genocide in the Democratic Republic of Congo at the end of the twentieth century. After her husband was tortured and then executed, Rose was taken with nine of her ten children to a death camp where she spent almost a year and a half suffering in unimaginable conditions. Abuse. Starvation. Thirty-two women and children in a single prison cell—with no toilet. Rose wrestled with God. Why did He make her Tutsi? Why did He make her a woman? Why did He allow her to become pregnant right before this nightmare? She was gripped by hatred for the four men who guarded their cell. (Who would possibly blame her for despising them?) But during her time in the death camp, Rose came to peace with God’s sovereignty and chose to forgive the four men who guarded and mistreated her and the others.”

“The time came for Rose to deliver. On the filthy concrete floor of her prison cell, in the dark, having to cut the umbilical cords with a piece of wood, Rose gave birth to twins. And as if forgiveness wasn’t enough—this is unimaginable to the world—she named her babies after two of the prison guards. She wanted them to know she was not their enemy.” (Embracing Obscurity, author- anonymous. B&H Books. 2012. pg 132)

forgiveHer forgiveness and love made a deep impression on those running the death camp. Later, when the order came to kill all the people inside, the commander couldn’t bear to see Rose’s beautiful spirit snuffed out. He had Rose and her family transferred to another prison situated in Kinshasa. Later she was sent to a protection center in Cameroon. Rose and her children now live in Arizona where she is active in her church and helps other refugees heal from the emotional, psychological and spiritual effects of abuse. mark twain anger

Forgiveness is never in vain. Refusing to offer it is like strapping someone to your back and dragging them around. Who suffers more…the one tied or the one doing the dragging?

Forgiveness and love heal. They transform. They birth freedom. By all means, learn from the past but don’t stay chained to it. Forgiveness in the present rewrites the future. 

When we love Jesus the way we should, loving those difficult, mean people grows a little easier. Forgive and watch God transform hearts.

Usually that transformed heart includes our own.

” Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” – 1 Corinthians 13:4-8