Friends and Enemies
I was sitting in a bar in Washington, D.C., listening to another writer talk about the untimely demise of her blog. The blog in question started at almost the same time as The Art of Nonconformity. When I first read her writing, I knew she was going places. The posts were crisp, funny, and helpful at the same time.
In fact, when I read almost any of her writing, I thought it was better than most of mine. Then, after a few months of steady content, one day she stopped writing.
Naturally, I wondered, “Why? What happened?”
After she missed another few posting deadlines, I wrote her to ask what was going on. The answers I heard back were vague. “I’m taking a break for a while,” she said at first, and then a couple of weeks later, she said she needed to spend more time on paid work. I thought those would have been acceptable answers from some people — but coming from her, I wondered if there was another story.
Nine months later, I was in her city and successfully tracked her down. It was great to meet up. We drank beer and talked about life, business, and our mutual friends.
But the whole time I was wondering – what happened with the blog?
That’s when she tells me the whole story. Yes, she had some personal things going on, and yes, the day job got busy for a while. But what really caused her to stop writing was one highly-negative comment an anonymous reader sent in.
I’m not talking about constructive criticism or merely a disagreement. She was used to disagreements and the occasional snarky person – that’s part of the job – but this comment went further. It was a personal attack that failed to contribute anything of value. Unfortunately for all of the rest of us who read the site, she took it so personally that she stopped writing. The world lost the ideas and input of a great writer.
Goodbye, blog. Thanks for all you’ve given us, but it’s over now.
The Personal Responsibility Factor
I know what you’re thinking: How can one negative comment cause someone to stop doing the work they believe in? When something like that happens, shouldn’t we just suck it up and go on?
In short, yes, I know we have a responsibility to keep going and ignore these kinds of things. In the long-term, there is no other option. My friend knows this too, and she’s working on it.
However, rejection and negativity are serious demotivators. This is far from the first time something like this has happened — in fact, I think it’s safe to say that it’s a fairly common experience. So even while I challenged my friend to get past the hurt and return to what she was good at, I also felt angry towards the random person who caused her to put the whole project on hold.
If someone who gives up bears some of the responsibility themsleves, so does the person who influenced the decision. That’s why it’s also fair to begin challenging the people who do this kind of thing… and that’s why I need to do a better job of explaining who my friends and enemies are.
Enemies? Yes, while I wish I could love everyone, I refuse to love people who derive their value from harming others. In fact, I have almost no patience whatsoever for this kind of behavior from these kinds of people.
Friends and Enemies
See, every good social movement has an enemy. You need friends, naturally, but when you set out to create real change, you also need a common enemy.
In previous entries about building a small army and being awesome, I haven’t done the best job of explaining this principle. You deserve my apology, and you can expect to see further improvement in this area. Let’s start here:
My friends are people who want to change the world. My enemies are people who want to stop them.
I’m going to explain it further, but that’s probably a good summary.
Friends – over the past year I’ve connected with all kinds of people who read the site. I don’t like to categorize people, but many of them are artists or entrepreneurs of some kind. Others are fellow travelers or expats, others are students trying to figure out what to do with their lives, and still others come from different walks of life that are vastly different than mine.
I am pro-diversity, and I am not in the business of telling people what to do. As far as I can tell, the common thread among us is a frustration with the status quo and a desire to live life on our own terms.
Enemies – On the other hand, my enemies are critics, cynics, and gatekeepers who wish to keep people from being free. These people add no value to the world — in fact, they subtract value by bringing other people down.
You might think these are easy targets. No one likes negative people, right? Well, let me assure you that these kinds of people are everywhere. You can usually achieve short-term gain by being an asshole, and most people won’t call you on it.
Most people, of course, are not the kind of people who change the world. For those of us who do want to create positive change, it’s time to come off the defensive. This is a wrong that needs to be righted. We can’t allow people to win by shutting us down. They don’t deserve that much power.
As you are recruiting army and pursuing world domination, you’ll need to define who your friends and enemies are. And as we’ve seen here, you’ll need to watch out for people who suck. Don’t let them get the best of you.
As for me, I want to help people who are out to change the world – and I really have no patience for those who are out to stop them.
How about you — what side are you on? Have you encountered this problem before?
Image by AHD
When I decided to go on my 4 backpacking trip, my social circle divided into two groups. Those who supported it, even though it was beyond their realm of possibility, are true friends. Those who only negatively criticized it are something else, not necessarily enemies, but not true friends. If you are going to be loved, you are going to be hated; it comes with the territory. It is when you take on big life challenges, break free from the status quo, and endure tough times when you realize who your true friends are.
Yes, I have. In fact, I was even pursued for a while by somebody who harassed the editor of an online magazine where one of my stories had been published. Even the editor found it upsetting, because this individual lashed out not just at me, but at anybody who’d ever had anything to do with me.
I was actually thinking about this last night, as somebody else I know who writes a very loving blog has been receiving the same kind of lashings of hatred from somebody who evidently has nothing better to do.
In the first place, I learned to see that it was making an impression. And maybe there are people you should be annoying, or aggravating. I’m generally a peaceful person, but would you want to please the kind of person who sends pointless hate-mail? Would you even want to give them the time of day. People like that give out hatred because they don’t have the courage to love.
In the second place, as much as I dislike the idea of enemies, in order to really get out there and make a difference, to really suck the marrow out of life (quoting Thoreau), you’re going to annoy people. People who don’t want to be shown the fact that they’ve been making excuses and would prefer to destroy others’ dreams than make their own work.
I’m all about changing the world.
Yeah, like my own words.
If you see an enemy, just disconnect him from yourself. Unfortunately, this is a bit of a problem considering the enemy is your parent.
Spot on as usual. We’ve cut out quite a few “friends” in the past year. It’s never an easy process but when you spend the next 2 days after seeing them deconstructing their comments and needing to rebuilt your ego it doesn’t seem worth it. We’ve been referring to these “friends” as neg-a-pants. 🙂
We’re trying to surround ourselves with like minded people. People who were in our shoes a few years ago that can give us a boost and people who’s shoes we were in so we can give them a boost. It’s a great way to get places.
“He who knows enough is enough will always have enough.” — Lao Tzu
I’m taking steps to remove these people from my life. In my case, it is my mother/aunt/sister, so I am getting ready to move to another city to put distance between us.
They always seem to drop into my life at the worst time with their negativity and it sidetracks me for about a day. I used to beat myself up over it … “I should be able to ignore the criticism. I should be able to separate myself from my surroundings.” Maybe other people can do this, but I realize now that I simply can’t.
Wow! Fantastic timing on this one. I’m a month into something and notice myself brace when a new comment comes in. From my travels, I know exactly what Kevin is saying too! Personally, I think striking out on your own gives you greater resistance to this. There’s a lot of institutionalized cowardice in the workplace which will grind the thickest skin eventually. I sincerely hope your friend gets back to it soon. Tell her she’ll get a lot of love from over here! Thanks again, Chris!
First of all let me say that I love your site and share your insights with my family and friends on a routine basis. Secondly, don’t fall into the trap of naming your “enemies”. Keep up the good work and live the moment.
Like was said above, you just have to disconnect yourself from it. Is that kind of negativity what you want to spend your life energy on? I have better things to do. Negativity is too tiring. Even more so with those too afraid to step into the light to talk. Be glad you aren’t that petty and enjoy your life.
Thanks, everyone – and greetings from Doha, Qatar (just in transit here this time).
If you enjoyed the post, please hit the “Stumble” button so we can spread the word.
And most importantly, keep adding your great comments. If you have a different perspective, that’s fine too.
DEFINITELY experience this a lot – and not all of it is anonymous. I’ve learned that the primary characteristic of people who do this is that they are losers. Jealous, sniveling, worthless, caught-up-in-their-own-importance losers. They have nothing to give, so they content themselves with tearing down those of us who do. They tend to be selfish, self-centered and angry.
And yes – it does hurt. I’m sorry about your friend’s experience and I’m sorry about mine – a sniping letter the writer fired off out of jealousy and fear that perhaps my light was eclipsing hers. It rattled my cage for a bit, but then I decided that living well is the best response and so I am.
As someone told me, “Take it as a compliment. They only attack the ones who have something to say and whose excellence is a threat.” That’s typical of bullies – to target the best and the brightest, the smartest and the most popular.
Angry? Yes. It makes me angry people do this. Angry – like you said, that they hurt the rest of us who benefit from their content. I have a prayer I say now – “May all you have sent to me return to you threefold.” If a person has blessed me, they get thrice the blessing. If they have not – they get that in spades.
Thanks for posting this Chris.
I’ve had to deal with some unpleasant exchanges. Upon reflection, the whole reason at the time I interpreted it as unpleasant and reacted was because something was reflecting back on me. Something, some insecurity had primed me for the response, some wound to touch, as don Miguel Ruiz says. After recognizing my internal lie to myself, I could move on and, in fact, thank the person to whom I had reacted. Other harsh, pointless criticisms and attacks are just that, pointless, and if I don’t have any associated insecurities, I don’t give it any thought.
So, my point is that I’ve found that when I have reacted, it’s been because of my own issue. Not blaming myself, just an opportunity to heal and grow.
Change for change’s sake is not necessarily good.
You should really think about this line: “My friends are people who want the change the world. My enemies are people who want to stop them.”
This is the sort of thinking used by Mao and Stalin to condemn “counter-revolutionaries” to death by the millions. (The fact that you write about entrepreneurship leads me to conclude you are not a Bolshevik revolutionary 🙂 )
In fact I do feel a bit uneasy with the idea of “changing the world”. My goals, intentions are much much more selfish, and can be more connected with this vague concept of “freedom”. Guess you cannot be free without respecting and supporting other people and maybe the flip side of the real freedom is bringing more good to the world but actually I don’t think much about it… (bit of side note).
There is probably be a bit of influence of buddhism (like) thinking on of this (not that I am a buddhist or going to be), but when it comes to your enemies and discussing the subject in the alike manner I always have this control light in my head. The most praised, heroic attitude toward such people would be showing them sympathy, seeing them as people who are unhappy, who went wrong. The point is this kind of attitude requires incredible mental strenght and can probably be reserved to (true) saints only. Most of us have to save their energy to a more limited circle because trying to show so much compassion would end up in complete disaster (of our life, our psyche of the lives of people whom we love) and never ending guilt. So yes, run away from your enemies as far as you can (washing out the bad emotions on the way) and when you can’t (at the very moment) don’t let them take you down. You can sympathize with them being poor creatures (at least theoretically) but your integrity comes first, without it you won’t achieve anything for yourself and won’t add any value to this world.
It seems to boil down to tolerance and consideration.
Over-simplifying it a little, people who don’t want to change the world should be tolerant of those that do (i.e. hold off from the non-constructive negativity). Equally, people who do want to change the world should be considerate of those who don’t (i.e. don’t turn their lives upside-down in the process).
I think it is fine for people to follow their own agenda until it starts to affect others. Then it is time to be thoughtful.
Love the advice. I’m not being flip, but starting in a bar and remembering the importance of enemies is the kind of bracing advice that usually gets redacted before ever hitting us upside our noggin’ like Homer eating a donut. If you’re ever in SoCal I’ll gladly buy you a beer. In the meantime, keep writing … please!
Forgot to mention that of course the proper recognizing of who your enemy is (a person you should definitely exclude from your life) might not sometimes be that easy. Sometimes we want so much to feel safe that we don’t give a chance. But that’s another story. Let’s suppose that when I used the word “enemy” it was in exchange for properly recognized real sucker…
Hi Chris – The thing I like most about reading what you have to say is that you’re unafraid of vulnerability – your recent post about abundance/scarcity was a nice preamble to the thoughts in this one.
Neg-a-pants is a great word. I made pessiwig up in the same fashion. Pessiwigs in my life have had entirely too much power over the years, freely given by me, enabling me to blame them for my lack of progress. No more. It’s always our choice to be hospitable to them, or not. I choose not. It’s about their insecurities, not mine anymore. Funny how they will look for another host when you make your mind up that your cafe is no longer serving their favorite dish.
I also think oversimplifying the need for tolerance leads to moral equivalence. There are some things that just don’t need to be tolerated.
I feel so so so bad for your friend! I think I’d probably crumble at the other end of my laptop if someone said something really horrible to me (and I’m assuming it’s pretty horrendous for her to have shut-up shop completely).
I’m a firm believer that if I have nothing good to say then I will say nothing (unless obviously my “criticism” is constructive or someone actually asks for my opinion). I will never leave a bad / negative comment as who am I to cause someone else upset or make them second-guess their own opinion – plus if I don’t agree with what is said I’ll just stop reading, it’s not like I’m being forced in to it!
I’m not a fan of the “enemy” word – I prefer to choose the “frenemy” version where everyone has a little bit of good in them!
I hope to change a tiny bit of the world (even if it’s just my bit of the world!) x
Chris, Doha is quite an amazing place isn’t it? I was just there a few months ago.
Fantastic post…you do a great job of putting difficult concepts into words.
The older I get, the less patience I have for negative people. Unfortunately, in my line of work I meet a lot of them and 99% of them don’t understand what it means to change the world from the inside out. To some, it seems unimaginable, while to others it just seems crazy. All I know is that I’m certain my blood won’t let me have it any other way. Change the world, or die trying.
Chris, I usually read your post via email. This one hit my in-box and vibrated until I read it. I am not so sure I have ever read this issue put so clearly, and I am very grateful you have done so.
It seems to me there are those who want only the best for everyone, because they understand they are also included in the term “everyone”. They are the people who work hard for the good of the whole. Then there are those who only work hard trying to tear others down, because they think this is the way to elevate themselves. This second group is also lazy in that they do not want to take the time to learn what they have to share with the world. “Sad”, is what I call this group of people.
I have come across both of these types and most recently the second type when they came onto my blog and copy/pasted a very long post, including images of art work, onto their own blog (yes, there are notices of copyright and requests for permissions). It was the icing on the cake for me, so like you I approached them about this. They removed it, but it also made me think how important it is we hold these people’s hands to the fire. As you say, confront them about this.
I would like to link to your post here, if I may. You have a great deal to say and I know some of my readers are interested in this topic.
Excellent post. Thank you so much for your words and your work. I am eager to hear about the success of your friend.
You’re right; there are some people out there who just want to criticize. There are a lot of them, in fact. Don’t give up. You’re a good writer with a valuable message.
Chris, thank you for this clear statement of purpose and positioning. I periodically find myself wondering why “we all can’t just get along” as the old saying goes. But then I remember that most progress comes from creative destruction and disagreements.
I’m with you on this one – there are clearly many people out there who focus on attempting to enforce their point of view and their standards on others. I don’t want to be one of those people, and I’m ready to join your army and stand against them.
Last but not least, welcome to Portland! I’ve lived in the PDX metro area (currently Hillsboro) for 20 years now, and I still love it.
I guess this is one situation where my experience with abuse comes in handy. No one could ever say something worse than what I’ve already heard.
To your friend: you absolutely cannot take what someone else says about you or your work personally. It is their perception of who or what you are and has nothing to do with you. I’m beyond happy that you are taking on this challenge.
Wow, you are all so incredible. I said on Twitter a few moments ago I am amazed at how much value can be added to a blog post by smart, thoughtful commentors – including everyone on this page.
It’s 11pm here and I’m flying out on the British Airways flight to Heathrow. Please feel free to continue to share your feedback, and I’ll post all the comments as soon as I arrive and get online.
Good night / good morning!
I’ve been around the internet long enough to know that the chance of getting a comment/email like that approaches 100% the longer you are around and the bigger you get.
When I get them, I treat it as a prize. I must be doing something right if people are trying to get attention at my expense.
You just need to go into blogging knowing it is going to happen and be ready for it.
2-3 years ago I had been a mod at a fairly large forum and quickly realized the depths people will go to belittle and outright humiliate others, all to make themselves feel better or to prove themselves right. Many times the target of their vehemence was just there at the wrong time and took the brunt of all that is wrong with the world.
It’s a reflection not on the person receiving the negativity but on the sender.
Have a good and safe flight… I love and miss England so much, so say hello to that great island for me.
I think this is more of a problem when you are in a familiar environment. With your family, at work, at school. Once people think they know you, they can have trouble adjusting when you try to make serious changes. I think, however, that people will accept your change– even your ‘enemies’– as long as you stick to your principals and allow sufficient time.
There have always been assholes.
There are assholes today.
There will always be assholes tomorrow.
Because it’s easy. Anyone can be an asshole and criticize and demean others. No thinking required.
Ah, but to improve the world, that’s altogether different! First, it requires intelligent thought and imagination. More importantly, it requires effort. And probably overcome a few obstacles along the way. And it might take a little time.
Yep – it’s definitely easier to be an asshole.
Great post. This really connected with me as I am trying to not live the boring life that most people want me to lead once I am done college next year (if I decide to even go back). I’m finding that many people don’t support my idea of traveling the world and living a more non-traditional type of lifestyle. I am also finding that many people think that what I am going to do is awesome and they wish they could do it too.
I feel I am pretty hard on myself. If I mess up a sentence when I’m giving a presentation, or if I accidentally say something that offends somebody…etc, I’ll beat myself up in my mind for hours if not days afterwards. We hand out criticism very easily in this country, but don’t receive it well….I always like Robert Kiyosaki’s little rule that there are 3 types of people in the world, those who like you, those who don’t like you, and those who are still trying to figure it out. We spend most of our time trying to make those who don’t like us, like us, while it’d be much better use of our time to focus on those who still aren’t sure…
Well there’s a difference between constructive and useless criticism. One has to be able to deal with the former to be successful. But some people are severely affected by criticism of any kind. I recently criticized the concept of “abundance thinking” on your blog because I think it can be dangerous if taken too far into areas where it’s not appropriate just as “scarcity thinking” is when taken too far. I hope you don’t think I’m one of these negative people. I don’t think I am, but I am critical. As a teacher and researcher that’s a major part of what I do.
You have failed to note the very real problem of extreme sexism and hatred that female bloggers contend with. The most notable and extreme example is Kathy Sierra: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/sfgate/detail?blogid=19&entry_id=14783
However, she is not alone in being attacked by trolls in very vicious and personal ways. Just last week, I posted innocuously to a list serv and someone I’d never met emailed me off list to tell me I was an “exhibitionist whore.” He also emailed the list and made sexual comments. Clearly an unbalanced person, but it was very disturbing, unprovoked and unexpected.
I can list a half a dozen examples off the top of my head like this that happened to other women. Their comments or blogs attacked personally, sexually and violently.
Until men learn that this behavior is unacceptable in any venue, women are going to feel held back. It’s very easy to tell us to forge on and ignore the trolls, but not everyone is that strong. Nor should they have to be.
You read my mind Chris, I’m drafting a post for my blog about the importance of enemies.
A lot of us draw a kind of steely determination from our enemies, as much if not more than we take inspiration from our friends.
Rivalries/competition drive us to succeed in spite of – to better them.
As much as it can hurt, the sting of criticism, you must learn to harness that into a positive force and an iron will to overcome.
Take it as a compliment. If your being mediocre and just getting by, chances are your not going to get much criticism. But if your pushing the envelope and doing great things, then the naysayers will come along.
I like IAD, it’s convenient, quick, clean and has lots of steps to keep me healthy. It is my preferred airport of choice next to HKG…
Enemies is too strong a word in my world. Those are reserved for people who want to do others harm and talk in movie theaters… I find most people are those who want to change the world and those who want to criticize the world. The former would be you and those you inspire in your life and the latter would be those who naysay everything in your life and only complain about the their size of the pie. The world has plenty of the latter and not enough of the former.
I discovered this site in December and have been thinking of freelancing since the summer but not quite sure how to start. It has become one of my goals for the year and I sought advice from friends and family. That’s when I found I have friends and family n both categories and realize how hard it is to shake a friendship of years because you realize they are in the naysay group and not helpful to your cause.
There’s a saying that comes up while playing Mah-jong… translated its something like winning begets winning… something akin to success breeds more success… and I’ve come to realize I want to be around successful entrepreneurs with a passion for changing the world…
Someone once said if someone is critiquing you, then you are doing things right. When following a nonconventional life, once must expect nonconventional criticism and deal with it nonconventionally.
Thanks for the posts and keep up the work… I look forward watching others expand their piece of the pie.
My mantra when things like this happen is: “It’s not about me.” Usually when people are being rude, hateful, ignorant, or otherwise annoying, it’s usually about something in their past or something they are thinking. It’s just spilling over onto me.
I will state, however, that if a bunch of people have the same opinion, maybe it’s time to listen LOL
Having been the target of quite a bit of negative nabobbery in my own lifetime, I came across one rather peculiar insight that might help your friend–and any others going through a similar experience.
The sneaky thing about criticism is that it’s not wholly external. The ugly thing may only be said once–it’s your own mind that plays, replays, analyzes and reinforces it. The trick is to recognize this and steer your brain in a better direction. I have any number of mental tricks to deal with this–my current one is to tell off the mental critic by saying “I’m sorry, I’m way too busy being awesome right now to deal with your bullshit.” And then go off and be awesome.
Something in us as a species loves to make ourselves feel better at times by putting other people down. I remember a lot of such experiences while going through my mandatory 2.5 years of full-time conscription in the Singapore Armed Forces when I was a wee lad of 19. Many of the regular (professional soldiers) treated us conscripts slightly better than indentured workers.
In my blogging experiences, there has been many times when I too wanted to throw in the towel due to the occasional trolls that sometimes put in negative and zero-value-adding comments after my posts.
I’ve learnt to engage them and then to ignore them if they don’t play fair. I also use the delete function in my comments if they go beyond my sense of fair play.
I once saw in a youtube video by Iras Glass who encouraged people to never give up on your dreams as even he struggled to put out quality radio programs 8 years into the job.
That’s why I’m trying to push on with my blogs – never give up so long as I can add value to one additional person through them.
Chris — yes, I’ve experienced this. I’ve written 100 printed editorials and opinion columns, one of which has been published in a book. So criticism is something I’m used to… people have said all sorts of things, that I hate freedom, that I’m a satanist, etc. Real reactionary stuff. Anyway, I didn’t take it seriously because the criticism wholly lacked substance.
In the rare cases where people wrote substantive disagreements, they usually took a healthy/congenial tone. And in those cases, it was hard to take personally or feel bad about it.
I can empathize with your friend though. Reading your post makes me curious to know the specifics.
It’s really a shame that sensitive people are most likely to give up in the face of criticism. Often it’s the most empathetic, reasonable, and insightful people who are the most sensitive to criticism. If all those people give up, we’re left only with the arrogant jackasses 🙂
Chris, I believe that in the past you’ve said you are an insecure blogger. I’m the same way — well, not just about blogging but about everything I do. It’s great to receive positive feedback, and negative feedback can be crushing. It’s necessary to remind myself that my sensitivity to criticism doesn’t make what I have to say any less important. (And, in fact, I’d like to think it makes what I have to say *more* important 🙂 ).
I call the people you describe as your enemies “naysayers.”
Thanks for a great and very thoughtful post. That really got me thinking in regards to what I want to do and how others have been reacting towards it. It also reminded me of a particular note I’ve read before (somewhere) talking about how one should surround himself with positivity. That’s a lot like your “friends” analogy.
“Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.” Sun-tzu
I grew up with gatekeepers. My mother was until late in her life; my dad was right up until the time he could no longer remember who he was most of the time; sometimes my brother still is; both my (ex) husbands were. I was so used to thinking I had to just say “okay” and pick another path. It took a long time to realize they couldn’t make me stop dreaming, and if I can still dream it, maybe I can still do it.
And, hey, I own basenjis. You tell them “no” and they think “pause” at best. They are inspirationally incorrigible.
Couldn’t agree more. To me, there is a very big difference in an individual who gives his views/opinions (whether negative or positive) on a constructive and humanistic level and an individual who resorts to profanity, degradation, or abuse of another individual. I believe in calling the person on it, letting them know I have no intention of listening or putting up with them or their behavior, and then letting it go. I hear alot of people say “It’s not about me” or “I just ignore them”, and while on one level this is true, it is also true that by good people doing nothing evil (negative and destructive behavior) is able to flourish. Look around at alot of the troubles in the world. Would they be allowed to exist on the scale that they do if good people said “enough-we are not going to let this happen without a fight”? I meet more good people than I do bad, but I see alot of these good people who are afraid to take a stand or to stand up to this type of behavior. Greedy corporations that destroy our environments,annihilistic governments that destroy our nations,or on a smaller scale, abusive bosses that destroy our self-esteem did not become that way overnight. They use fear and indimidation to get to their positions of power. That’s why the older I get (and the more I see of the world in which we are leaving to the next generation) the less inclined I feel to “turn the other cheek”.
IMO, if you’re not making at least some people mad, then you’re not making a difference. Your friend should definitely pick up her blog again. Sounds like she was getting to the root of something that the anonymous reader held near and dear. She should keep up the good work, whatever it was.
It is a lot easier to tear someone successful down then to lift yourself up to their level. Unfortunately, a significant number of people take that route. In the end, it’s better to filter out the noise and surround yourself with supportive individuals. Take their constructive criticism and tune out the rest.
To call someone an enemy gives them a certain level of power and influence. Forgive them. Then forget them.
I was raised in a family of critics who act as if it is their duty to point out the error/stupidity in another’s thinking and choices. It’s exhausting to be around. I moved away as soon as I could, and have limited contact, but I find I often carry their voices around in my head anyway, years later. I like what Judy said about learning to say okay and picking another path. And Joann’s mantra: “It’s not about me.” Good one. Thanks for the post and all the excellent comments.
If we have too many enemies we might want to take a closer look at our own attitude. Yes I have a few too many, I know I am somewhat of a hot head and cause a few problems for myself. Not everyone is an asshole but there are a good number.
One of the wealth principles is to fail forward faster. Some relatives have failed once and think you are a fool to keep on trying new things. I will keep on until I hit the mother load. Just learn from failure and get up again and again until you succeed. We will change the world for the better. Keep recruiting your army.
It is encouraging to see a person open their souls to examination by complete strangers with a goal of moving others to help “change the world”. I am sorry that mean spirited or outright vicious comments and acts can still achieve their goal of stopping forward progress. This was true in the 60’s, yet so many things were still achieved by those that continued to act no matter how great the threat. This is the reason civil rights laws were finally enacted, a war ended and ecology became a word average people understood. It took time but today we have a black man as president, women have decent jobs and people actually believe we must work to save our planet. Someday color, gender, religion and wealth will no longer be how we evaluate a person. Till then it is up to each individual to be honest with themselves and face every gauntlet thrown with courage. It is amazing how much easier this becomes with practice. Words can help to change a world and small actions by hundreds, then thousands can achieve miracles. The comments on this blog alone prove the world is full of many caring thoughtful people so when you are really feeling dumped on by some inconsiderate jerk or life in general remember you are not alone you have lots of like minded friends (maybe you just haven’t met them all). Move forward be your best self and know this is the best way to enjoy this life.
Sarah mentioned anti-women threats made by men. That is scary, and I fully support keeping us physically safe. However: stupid, aggressive comments by men have never hurt me as much as vicious, often subtle, and entirely verbal attacks by other women. I’d like to make public my vote for women treating each other with kindness.
This seems like a really good place to share Sheila’s Patent Method for dealing with Criticism:
Ask yourself whether it’s true.
If it is, then youch!, but you’ve learned something, usually something important.
If it isn’t, then you still have a problem dealing with them, but at least you have a clearer idea what the problem is – usually that they’re insecure, maybe that they’re mis-informed.
I also notice that people tend to accuse you of their own faults, like the anonymous phone call which accused my husband of being a coward.
Please pass on a message to your friend who stopped blogging. Tell her that I’ve been a member of an online critique group for science Fiction and fantasy for about 7 years. In that time I’ve had critiques which said I was a genius and critiques which politely said they didn’t like anything about the story, but they thought I could improve it thus and so. I’ve also had three which were simply attacks: “I could care less! Learn to spell!” etc. I notice that none of the three writers had been published, and to the best of my knowledge they haven’t been published since.
So I conclude that your friend is a much better writer than her attacker. That’s why she got attacked.
I have a mantra for dealing with “negapants” people too (love that word!). I say “People are stupid.” It seems counter-intuitive, but it works quite well. The implication is that it takes effort not to be stupid, and most people just don’t want to work that hard. Then I can pity them for missing out, and move on with my life.
I’m not out to change the world. I just want to set up my own private “empire” within it, and live healthy and well there. I want to live as best as I can for myself, my community, and My People. Those whom I am close to, and who share these goals, are My People. Negapantses aren’t.
Linnea, yes. And one of the ways that women are vicious and destructive to one another is by deflecting attention from the nasty things men do by saying something negative about other women.
I would rather suffer through a lifetime of women saying mean things to me, than even once be assaulted by a man. Words hurt, but words don’t maim you, cripple you, impregnate you against your will, or kill you.
More generally: I have learned the hard way that it’s important to look at the structure of what a person is doing, rather than the content of what they are doing. I am another sensitive blogger, but in my case it does not manifest so much by my running away and hiding, but by my getting really enraged and swearing.
And yet, rage and swearing are what is written off as “troll” behavior. A commenter can use the sweetest, nicest language and still be harassing me or threatening me, and yet their behavior will be overlooked or excused because they didn’t “yell” or swear. I, on the other hand, will be written off for reacting to them because I didn’t self-censor.
This trend is especially insidious among liberal types, but it’s about as useful as ignoring reactionary types and hoping they go away–neither works, and both result in bullies and reactionaries gaining more ground. So that I’m left having to make friends all over again, and this country is left hoping that it can cut its budget deficit in half by the time Obama’s first term is over, to say nothing of all the other damage that’s been done to our nation and to our world reputation.
It really is OK to be grouchy and irritable and even to swear in response to a genuine wrongdoing. Otherwise it looks like you don’t care about what’s happening, and bullies are emboldened.
They don’t deserve manners. Reserve those for people who aren’t bullies. That’s what manners are for.
I love this. Thank you. Obviously, yes, I’ve been here. Rather recently actually… still processing. My thing was particularly difficult because the enemy (the behavior really, not the person) was disguised as a friend. When we had a disagreement. It happens. But how we choose to show up in that disagreement drove home a decision to finally… say no to negativity. Ouch.
For today, I am practicing remembering that I can put boundaries in place to love myself better. Yes. But eventually, I need to love to extend beyond me if I am really committed to changing the world. How do I do that? I’ll get back to you. But I realized through my recent experience with my said Negapants, that belittling, punishing or being disgusted with the behavior will never work because that’s what I experienced from Negapants to begin with and it certainly didn’t work for me… why will it work for them?
“It is only through love that you can return anyone to love. And if you do not have a way of returning them to love, they will always be a problem to your society.” ~Abraham, Esther & Jerry Hicks
I said No and just love her from here. That’s all I got for now. Well, and posts like these with commenters like yours. Thank you again. It’s great to see it resonating with so many other people.
Thanks, Chris, for your smart and thoughtful post — looking forward to reading your friend’s restarted blog — and I appreciated your “Friends + Enemies” logline.
I was intrigued when I found that I, by professions and nature, am all three of your definitions of ‘enemy.’
I’m a critic (part of my long-time consultant business),
and a cynic (maybe due to first-born Aries raised in a time of distrust and a dogma-free home? — or maybe just the detective in me)
and I’ve been a gatekeeper for several clients and employers — big-wigs need smart filters: we let the good ones, the world changers like you, in to the gated-ones, and keep the cranks, like the one who shut down your pals’ desire to write, out.
I suspect I’m not actually the enemy of you, or of any creative entrepreneur. But it’s interesting who and how we label. I’m lucky you do have big goals — I have no such goals to change the world. But I am pleased to change the way a world is seen and interacted with, word by word, for one person at a time.
Thanks for the lovely post, and I can just imagine the talk you had with our beloved Naomi on the subject of blog comments… oy vey~!
At my day job, one negative remark can easily outweigh 100 positive ones, which is just crazy when you think about it. Negative comments are much easier to move past when I know I’m doing the best I can and not being flaky or lazy.
I just started my first blog two months ago, so I haven’t had the “pleasure” of a negative comment yet. I’m assuming it’s just a matter of time until someone has to say “You call this good?” or something to that effect. The fact that I think I’m ready for it is why I was able to start posting in the first place. We shall see!
I just started a new blog a few weeks back and received my first negative comments this week. My girlfriend asked me if I felt deterred. I told her I wasn’t because I have a solid amount of hits everyday and many positive comments so far in the early going. People are more apt to comment on a post when they are irked by something than when they agree – not sure why that is.
I take nothing away from your friend, however, as negative comments, especially one that seems to have been so hurtful, are never easy to swallow. I’m happy for her that she is renewing her blog and look forward to reading it.
Chris, when you’re in your fifties, you’ll meet even more nega-pants (great word!). I’m not crazy about the concept of enemies either. What I do is enjoy my friends and avoid people I don’t care for.
I hope your friend gets over the hurt and starts blogging again. Let us know!
I just found you blog today and I am still exploring your content. I like what I see.
It appears to me. That terrorist is a better word than enemy. An enemy may have goal that just happen to be in conflict with our own goals.
A terrorist has no goal but to inflict pain and suffering. A terrorist wins when they change who we are and how we act. Don’t let the literary terrorist win.
Tell your friend, to keep writing, she has a story to tell and friend who want to hear it.
Hey Chris. i received this link via your comment on another article.
I’m happy that what I’ve been going through since I’ve started blogging is just normal after all. I was actually blaming myself for being so caught up in some comments last year. I once even wrote that dementors (from HP) actually exist! They suck the happiness out of you. In the end though, I realized, I’m not really hurting anyone when I’m writing, sharing photos, graphics & whatnot. I guess, I shouldn’t really stop pursuing stuff that I’m really passionate about.
Actually, it’s sad to say, but some a-holes will actually succeed in the long run (not just in the short term). Come to L.A. and work in the entertainment industry for a while and this will become clear fairly soon.
But that doesn’t mean that we have to sink to that level to succeed. I like to think (hope?) that these people are NOT successful where it really counts in life.
As for the hateful blog comments: I’ve seen more and more bloggers post manifestos about this in recent months; something to the effect of “Consider my blog as my living room, and if you say something impolite and completely uncalled-for to my face, I will not invite you into my home again.” They make clear that disagreement and criticism are certainly allowed, but everyone should respect each other and be able to back up their arguments, as you would for any colleague. But personal attacks and hateful remarks for their own sake should not be tolerated, and can’t be held to the same rules of “open forum.” They should be deleted without comment (and if it’s recurrent, that poster should be banned).
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