The need for loving commentary (@headphonaught)

I have a confession to make and this time it doesn’t involve an obsession with something pretentious: I love reading the comments. Not the comments on my posts because nobody cares enough to tell me what they think of what I write, but more the comments that appear on posts in articles … usually opinion pieces … in papers such as the Guardian.

Commentators, it is fair to say, want to be heard … they want to get their point over and everyone else can run and jump, they will get their point across!

As much as I get pleasure from reading the running battles between two sides in whatever argument that has blown up over someone’s opinion … I take considerably more displeasure when I read it levelled at people I care about.

I don’t know Vicky Beeching although I follow her on Twitter. I think she’s a wonderful lass and someone I am glad my two teenage daughters can look up to. Her recent announcement about her sexuality doesn’t change my mind one bit: I am glad my daughters have a strong woman-of-faith to look up to.

Reading the comments on her recent posts about her ‘coming out’ has, I’ll be honest, broken my heart. I really don’t get how some people can say what they say, in good conscience, and call Jesus their Lord.


Now … before you call me a Liberal Fascist who only wants his way in this world, please listen to what I have to say: I have no issue with anyone having an alternative point-of-view, my issue lies is in the way it is expressed.

Putting aside the fact that the written word is a poor communicator of meaning, the way we speak to one-another and, God-forbid, those who are not part of the Christian faith is, at times, utterly deplorable.

How can we point to the God of Love and say what we say in these comments, in the manner we say them? How can we demonstrate that we are Salt and Light in this bland, dark world if we behave no differently from those we are called to be an example to?

We are meant to be ‘in’ this world but not ‘of’ it, and yet it some folks demonstrate by their words and actions that they are, most definitely, ‘of’ this world with no intention of ever being ‘in’ it.

This is heartbreaking.

Are we not told to love our enemies? Why is it, then, that the only love we show those with whom we disagree is the love that would have them change – “I love you so much I want to correct your failing” – a love that is conditional on their acceptance of your particular point-of-view?

The Lord told us to love our enemies. The only condition here is that they are our enemies but then He did instruct us to love our neighbours too, so I guess He has all our bases covered. We have to love everyone and express this love in our thoughts, words and deeds.

In case you’ve forgotten what love is … or are like Foreigner and wanna know what love is … well here you go:

“Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, 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.”
1st Corinthians 13: 4-7 (NIV)

Are your comments loving?

If you do not express yourself with patience or kindness, or you are rude, self-seeking, easily angered or love to keep record of other’s failings; then you are not commenting in love.

It is as simple as that.

It is as simple as that if you wish to comment on Vicky Beeching’s announcement.

It is as simple as that if you wish to comment on the perceived failings of Mark Driscoll.

It is as simple as that if you think a UK hotel chain are wrong for removing the Bible from their rooms and making them an ‘ask for’ provision.

I’m not singling out any one particular group – this is for everyone. We need to focus in removing the plank in our own eye before we seek to remove the speck of dust from someone else’s eye. We need to ensure our words are befitting the status we have as Followers of Jesus.

This doesn’t mean, however, that we cannot disagree with anyone and must accept everything in muted, impotent resignation. By no means. We must approach each and every comment as if we were having a face-to-face conversation, and we must ensure our conversation is clearly loving.

In a recent article in the always-fantastic blog ‘Brainpickings’, Philosopher Daniel Dennett unpacks his approach to criticising with kindness:

How to compose a successful critical commentary:

1) You should attempt to re-express your target’s position so clearly, vividly, and fairly that your target says, “Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way,

2) You should list any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement),

3) You should mention anything you have learned from your target, and

4) Only then are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism.


The post, which reference’s Dennett’s book – “Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking”, makes for compelling reading and should be held up as the way we should approach, in love, those with whom we disagree.

Let’s not jump straight to no4 but look to learn from those we disagree with and, who knows, we may find some commonality after all.


About headphonaught

Follower of Jesus. Husband. Father. Son. Photographer. Co-host of the Something Beautiful podcast. Advocate for independent music & awesomeness. Founder of the weareallghosts netlabel and the circumambient podcast.