But after those first thoughts take a mental lap, I stop and I think about it. What kind of person leaves a comment that is meant to hurt? Who unloads on someone they've never met with the intention of insulting her or making her feel dumb? I think we all know the answer, but it's an answer that's easy to lose sight of. I think the kind of person who does that is the kind of person who more often that not, needs love the most. It's the person who's own tank is so empty, they are fueling up on the empty fumes that come from lashing out at others. It's the kind of person that feels so hurt, or jaded, or alone, or unloved, that they in turn make themselves unlovable.
It makes me think about how Jesus told a group of people that He didn't come to save the healthy but the sick. What He meant by that was that He didn't come to help those who felt that they already had it all together on their own and who didn't see any need for a Savior. He came to help the rest of us. Those of us who know what a mess we are in on our own. Those who realize we are not God's gift to creation. The ones who are hurting, imperfect, and in need of Savior.
Sometimes people are ugly because people are hurting. Sometimes things are said or written in a moment of frustration or a result of the overflow of pent up pain. Sometimes people are so used to building up walls of protection that they have become prickly all over, criticizing and tearing down wherever they go because they have been criticized and torn down. But it's exactly people like that who Jesus reached out to—like the lady who had been married five times and was living with a man who wasn't her husband, or the tax collector who had unfairly cheated people out of money, or the thief dying on the cross for a crime committed, or a diseased man dying of leprosy. None of those people sound very lovable to me, and if I had to guess, I would say that each of them probably had their moments of coming across as acidic and easy to swallow as a sour lemon. But still Jesus loved them. Just like He loves me, faults and all.
So if that's true, and I know it is, then my first and last reaction to an ugly comment can't simply be to take offense. To do so would be to miss the point, because even though the words might be aimed toward me, I am not the underlying issue. So instead, I've made a decision to pray for each and every hurtful commenter that comes my way. Now that doesn't mean I will leave it posted, because I don't think it is generally edifying to leave something non-constructive up in the comments. But even it if is removed, I will pray for that person and ask God to allow he or she to be loved fully and completely by Him.
It may sound like I'm inviting all the criticism you can throw my way, and really, I promise you I'm not =). I'm actually quite sensitive to criticism most of the time. But something I learned from my grandfather is that you've got to pass the praise to Jesus and pass the criticism as well. He can handle it, and as long as I'm trying to please Him, those things don't really matter anyway.
You may not have a blog, and you may not get negative comments, but all of us have to deal with people who are hurting and who consequently hurt us out of the overflow. Comments are actually a really small deal compared with many other situations, but I feel like the truth behind the hurt is still the same. Hurting people need to be loved desperately, and that's hard to remember in the heat of the moment. But the more I can remember it, the less time I will spend feeling steamed and the more time I can spend passing them right along to Jesus.