How to Handle Trolls, Bullies, and Modern-Day Pharisees! (4 Ways to Respond Rather than React)

Blogging is weird.

I recently wrote a post about tattoos, and it went viral (at least on my website). In fact, at this point, it’s the second most-read blog I’ve ever written. I didn’t see that coming.

Sometimes I write something that I consider to be pretty good (of course, I’m biased), and I’m lucky if my wife and mom read it.

Other times I compose something fairly light-hearted and fun, and it goes crazy in the blogosphere. Go figure.

Regardless of what I write, you’d be surprised at how often I get an extremely mean comment or two (or twenty). For some reason, people think they can get away with verbal bullying and downright rudeness on that thing called the interwebs.

Way too often, stuff that might get you punched in the face if you said it to someone within range of a fist gets verbally vomited onto the comment section of a blog or Facebook.

Okay, so you don’t like what I said. Fine. You disagree. I get it. You don’t like what I wrote, and you probably don’t like me. I can deal with that reality.

However, are rude, unkind, and mean words ever acceptable?

Nope.

Troll Anger Words

Even so, a woman screamed at me by using all caps and lots of exclamation points and wrote this comment about my tattoo blog: “TATTOOS DEFACE THE TEMPLE OF GOD! YOU ARE A LIBERAL COMPROMISER AND NOT A TRUE MAN OF GOD!!!!!!”

Ouch.

I wanted to respond, “Seriously? Do you wear makeup? Do you wear jewelry? Do you have pierced ears? Do you color your hair? Are you overweight? Just to be clear, that’s definitely not the way God made you, and perhaps those things deface the temple?”

However, I didn’t respond and I didn’t challenge her. I’m sure it wouldn’t have made a difference to someone acting like a modern-day Pharisee.

Without a doubt, we live in a culture in which we hear verbal ugliness all the time. Have you watched any political debates recently or listened to talk radio? But my momma (who might be the only one reading this right now) taught me this: If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all!

Troll Anything Nice

Wise words.

Here are some prudent words from another wise person: “The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Proverbs 12:18 (NIV)

Words can cut others to shreds, or words can heal.

I’m for healing.

So how should we respond to trolls (a term used to describe people who troll the web looking for a fight), bullies, and modern-day Pharisees?

4 Ways to Respond Rather than React

  • Listen first. There might be something you and I can learn. Even non-constructive criticism can be helpful at times if we listen with a humble heart.

Troll Bench

  • Refuse to over REACT! In fact, under react. Only a fool is quick to quarrel. Adding my mean words to their mean words never ends well. Even if my response is kind and my explanation rational and reasonable, trolls love to fight, and they tend not to listen or care. Consequently, I often choose not to respond or to comment on their comment. It’s just butter! (A reference to this post).

  • Ignore or delete the harsh, bad-mannered, or unjust comments. If someone’s words were harmful to me, they’re probably damaging to others too. My website and my social media accounts are mine. I’m responsible for the content (what a concept), and if I don’t like something, I can delete it without shame. That’s not censorship; it’s boundary maintenance. I don’t limit the other person’s right to free speech, but I protect my own boundaries.

Troll Listen Pray

Ask any author or blogger—putting your stuff out there is risky. People can be ruthless, and civility is a disappearing art. I try to be as transparent and genuine as possible, but sometimes that bites me in the buttocks.

It’s okay. Life goes on. And maybe, just maybe, God uses the humble and often flawed words of this broken man to bring a bit of healing to others who are perfectly imperfect, just as I am.

So I write on.

Thanks for reading.

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28 thoughts on “How to Handle Trolls, Bullies, and Modern-Day Pharisees! (4 Ways to Respond Rather than React)

  1. As I read, I realize how quirky we are as humans. We grow up with a bag full of rules and expect that others know our rules and abide by them. What folly. Christ gave us the basics. Love the Lord your God with all your heart. Love your neighbor as yourself. Then repeat. Then repeat again.

    You remind me that when we express ourselves, no matter what the subject, our comments are not going to be approved by by everyone. It takes courage to write and speak. It takes strength to know that God’s opinion and love is what counts. Bless you as you continue to do what God has called you to do.

  2. Hi Kurt,

    I am continually blessed and challenged by your blogs! I don’t comment a lot, but I read all of them usually! You continue to help me see God’s grace and love in a whole new light! For that I am sincerely grateful! I have found it so freeing to let go of judgemental attitudes and accept His Grace and extend it to others!

    Write on “Kurt” with His Truth and Strength! We love you!

  3. We love you, Kurt! I don’t know why the internet, which is really just another tool for us to use, encourages folks to think it’s suddenly okay to stop keeping a civil tongue (or typing fingers). I suppose the bigger problem is in some not keeping a civil heart. In all likelihood, that lady would have kept the incivility in her heart anyway, even if she never expressed it to you. The internet gave her a path to get it out, and maybe there’s good to be found there. Maybe she’s reading this now, rethinking her actions. Maybe she isn’t, and has left for good. Hopefully, though, SOMEBODY (my All-Caps) will read this blog and think about what they can do to make their own heart a bit more civil. We desperately need more civility. That’s one of my top prayers. Don’t be discouraged – you win way more than you lose.

  4. Thanks for your four point plan to respond to “assaults via comments.” I needed that for a future blog, web page or social media site.

    I bet it works for verbal attacks too with practice. I hate confrontations so this was very helpful. Talk about an avenue ripe for developing self-control!

    Praying that any negative attacks are already forgotten as soon as your finger contacts the delete button!

    God bless you! Love your blog!

  5. I liked your Tattoo blog and I like the way you handle the mean comments. “Listen, pray, chill, delete” is VERY helpful. I had a lady go off on me on our neighborhood site because I said I’m in favor of VRBO’s (vacation rentals by owner). I followed your advice and did not respond to her mean spirit.

    Thanks Kurt!

  6. Blows me away and is sad that you got harsh feedback on the tattoo blog. I loved it, and I don’t have tattoos. Partially because I’m chicken, but also because I grew up in a church where tattoos, piercings, jewelry (unless part of your clothing) was “a sin”. Not that I still believe that; it’s just old habits and… stereotypes can be hard to overcome. But now I think of it as having been “an infant in Christ” then, only able to handle milk, but now being mature enough for solid food. I guess tattoos are their “unclean meat” or tax collector. Most people have problems controlling their tongue, but as “Christians”, sad that they’re forgetting to love as Jesus loved. Blessings to you. Truly enjoy the blogs.

  7. Pastor Kurt. This may not apply to this article, but, I find that there are way to many “Christian Bullies” in church leadership and leadership teams. They talk behind peoples back (Gossip), are prideful and refuse to admit when they have crossed a boundary line and have hurt people with their comments, think they know what’s best for other people and make decisions as to what they are going to do…, and the big one for me is, “They are always right” and fail to admit when they are wrong… “Self-Righteous – Always Right People”

    This has been my experience with some people I serve under and with in church. I just don’t get it. I have good boundaries and know what is inside my fence or property to own for myself. And when I tell these people they have crossed over my boundary line and are hurting me with their negative and rude attitude, things get really out of whack and the simple real offense gets shoved aside and things get way out of hand.

    Unfortunately, the church leadership seems to be OK with this kind of behavior, and is condoning it within their leadership ranks. There’s even Passive-Aggressive behavior by some on the team. They’ll say one thing just to pacify the moment, then turn-around and do whatever they want, because they are always right and know what’s best anyway.

    I guess it all gets down to the fact that we live in a fallen world, and even more to the point, we are a fallen people and have sin in our lives. I thought Christ came so we may be free indeed… This freedom doesn’t give us the license to injure and hurt other Christian Brothers and Sisters we serve with…

    1. So true. So sad. That being said, ultimately, we can only be responsible for our words and our attitude. VERY grateful for God’s grace and mercy. He loves us…broken as we are…and so much, He keeps working on our character. Thanks for adding to the conversation, Ben. You are loved.

  8. Your momma was right and you learned the lesson well. Glad you are helping move that message along because there are way too few parents that have taken the time to pass along those words of wisdom. Love having a Pastor that tells it like it is and is someone we can relate to. God Bless you! I know he already has. 🙂

  9. Kurt,I read your blog and enjoyed it. You always write from your heart. I am sorry some people think they have a right to trash someone. Words do hurt,but keep on writing as most all of us enjoy your blogs. My mamma said the same words as you and it is a good way to live :0)

  10. So sorry you had to endure hurtful comments on your blog, Kurt, but it can, and does, happen from time to time. Personally, I thought your post on tattoos was fun and light-hearted. It’s so good to be able to read things that make me chuckle and put a smile on my face.
    Thanks for the blessing of your writing!

  11. Brilliant! Sorry you got bit by a religious spirit. Glad you know you are loved and know how to fight those battles correctly!!! Proud of you friend. Many blessings to you as you bless others.

  12. what a timely post…and VERY well said. Thank you for the reminders which I FEEL I need every day..I have printed out this post and will put in a spot for reflection.

  13. Thanks for the encouragement, Kurt. And thanks for continually sharing your insights and the thoughts God places on your heart. The messages in your books and your blog posts are ample evidence you are a follower of God.

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