Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Hater Is a Heart That's All Mixed Up

Some of the authors I interact with are, as a consequence of the work they do, regularly confronted by angry critics. Often these critics haven't even met my author friends; they've just heard second- or third-hand about something my friends have supposedly said or done, and they just go off. One of my friends calls these folks haters. And last week he bought a shirt that reads "I [Heart] Haters."

Another friend of mine, this one a computer programmer, has a slogan that keeps him sane: "No matter what you do, there will be critics." I think there's a distinction between critics and haters that's some mix of a degree distinction and an ethical gulf: critics critique, based on an opinion that is at least assumed to be informed; haters hate, based on almost nothing.

Critique is a healthy exercise, I think, a corrective against the self's intuitive logic and self-satisfaction. That doesn't mean that critique isn't occasionally annoying, of course; critique causes us to reconsider what we're doing regardless of how much prior consideration we've already given it, and so it can introduce a high level of inefficiency into our best-laid plans. But a world without critique would probably not be a very enjoyable world. The book of Judges prefaced some truly awful stories with the line "Everyone did what was right in their own eyes."

Haters, however, append or even supplant legitimate critique with a layer of accusation and vitriol. People who offend a hater have sinned against them, in their eyes, and they deserve to be punished for it--sometimes through public humiliation, sometimes through loud, sputtering rebuke. Haters allow their rage to overwhelm their intellect, and so even reasonable concerns for truthfulness, integrity, precision, whatever the complaint may be, are replaced with venom. Haters make even the ridiculous look smart by comparison.

Better than hate is silence. Proverbs 17:28 tells us that "even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent"; Ecclesiastes 3:17 calls for "a time to be silent and a time to speak." The best rebuke is a silent rebuke, because the air is filled with the uncomfortable recognition that whatever was said has at least not been received and has perhaps been rejected.

Better than silence, in many cases, is good humor. G. K. Chesterton acknowledges that "the insane explanation, if not conclusive, is at least unanswerable." So he encourages us to "be chiefly concerned not so much to give it arguments as to give it air." If someone is wrong, even painfully wrong, what is right will eventually reveal itself.

6 comments:

Bunny Wilson said...

Awesome post - thanks!

heather said...

Thanks for distinguishing between critics and haters--too many times, people get them confused.
And critiquing is pointing out both strengths and weaknesses for the purpose of improving the entire endeavor of art or theology or cooking or whatever the endeavor may be.

Eric said...

I've got my share of critics and haters so thank you for this post!

David A. Zimmerman said...

Hey Eric. Thanks for posting! I get hate by association, mostly, but I also get a wee bit enraged when my associations are catching hate--particularly from the ill-informed. I have in mind to eventually write about responding to critique in love, but first I need to learn to love consistently, I guess.

My word verification word: miscurve.

Eric said...

whoa! i just read your short bio at the top of your blog and realized which "Dave" you are...lol. I'm Andy's SoCal bud (Two World Collision, Catalyst Community, etc) working with him on the Coalition. =)

Bless ya!

David A. Zimmerman said...

Yeah, I saw from your bio you were with TWC. I assumed Andy had sent you here, actually. It's his "I Heart Haters" shirt I was blogging about. Good to meet you Eric!

My verification word: bongbo