The ancient Greeks thought that the best way to discover a person’s true character was to serve them a couple glasses of wine. As inhibitions fell, underlying personality traits would shine forth. This is the philosophical underpinnings of the modern-day business party — get people to let down their guard and loosen up, so that you can see what they are really like.
The Waiter Rule is another tool employers commonly use when evaluating potential hires. Interviews are conducted over lunch, where the applicant’s treatment of the wait staff can be closely observed. His kindness to the girl refilling his water-glass tells much more about his true character than his courtesy to a prospective employer.
For years, psychologists have used inkblot or Rorschach tests to analyze personality types. The patient is shown a series of nondescript splotches of black on white and asked to identify the shapes. If every inkblot looks like a monster with fangs, there is likely an underlying problem.
Wine, waiters, Rorschach tests — each of these methods have proven helpful at revealing what a person is really like.
When a post my wife wrote a few weeks back went unexpectedly viral, we discovered a new way to find out what people are really like — by reading their blog comments and associated discussion boards!
The anonymity of the internet is the electronic equivalent of a couple of drinks. People tend to let their hair down when they are online. Some let it way down. And then, much like a waiter, the blogger is put at the mercy of the commenter.
But angry, hateful replies reveal more about the person leaving the comment than about the post they’re attacking, especially since hurling abuse at a blogger is even less risky than being mean to a waiter: a blogger isn’t going to spit in your food.
If you are reading this, you may already be familiar with my wife’s blog 25 Ways to Communicate Respect to Your Husband and my corresponding blog 25 Ways to Show Love to Your Wife. We wrote these posts the same week we celebrated our silver wedding anniversary, to commemorate the 25 happy years we’ve spent together.
These articles have enjoyed immense popularity/notoriety, with well over three million views and 400,000 pins on Pinterest, not to mention the 1000+ comments they have generated. We’ve passed through as many of these comments as we could, both good and bad.
The positive replies were full of kudos and encouragement. The negative replies were full of indignation and outrage.
We normally edit out curse words, but a few of the dissenting opinions were so vile in language or imagery that they couldn’t be cleaned up adequately to publish. The discussion boards were even worse, enough to make a sailor blush. While it does not bother us that some readers disagree with our ideas, we’d prefer that they do so in a well articulated, intellectually honest, and mutually respectful way.
What we found most striking about the negative responses — once we moved beyond the foul language — was the vehemence and venom with which many were written. Pure, undiluted anger. You could almost sense the writers’ blood vessels about to burst as they pounded out their comments on their keyboards.
Whenever you give a two stimulus and get a ten response, there is eight of something you don’t know about contributing to the reaction, especially when literally hundreds of thousands of people think the stimulus/blog is terrific. It made me wonder more than once what is smeared on the windshields of some people’s lives that makes such a beautiful thing appear so ugly to them.
The next thing that seemed almost universal to the negative responses was that Self is clearly on the throne. Positive responders seemed to understand that putting your partner first is the bedrock of a healthy relationship. The dissenters made it abundantly clear in tone and just as often in words that their marriage is more about what they get than what they give.
Of course, no one likes to be considered self-centered, so some of them tried to get partial credit as a caring person by slipping in the old, “I respect my husband, but…” Then they’d list all the ways they refused to show it.
If somebody tells you, “I’d love to come to your party, but…,” you can be fairly certain that they aren’t coming.
The last thing we couldn’t help but note was the hypocrisy displayed by many of these writers on virtually every level possible. If asked about “hate speech,” I’m certain that every negative responder would decry it. Yet many of them had entire websites dedicated to mocking and attacking Christianity in the most abusive ways they could come up with. Many insisted that women should be free from oppression, then proceeded to cuss out a sweet stay-at-home grandma who was just trying to celebrate her silver anniversary. They argued that women should have their own voice, but repeatedly and systematically tried to block my wife’s blog on Pinterest. They insisted that women should make their own choices, then venomously berated my wife for making hers, calling her life “worthless” and her choices “disgusting.”
The message they sent was clear: “Don’t let a man abuse you… that’s our job!”
What is amazing to me is that, through it all, my wife has maintained her serenity. I asked her whether she were bothered by all the angry comments, and — here again — her response speaks volumes to her character.
So that is what we have committed to do. We are praying that their hearts and eyes would be opened and their lives would be blessed.
Jesus said, “Bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you.” (Matthew 5:44)
If you have been following this blog and understand the concept of unconditional love, we invite you to join us is praying for those who need it most. Pick a name or two from the negative responses and lift them up in prayer over the next week or month or year.
If — on the other hand — you hated these blogs, feel free to send us a railing reply. We’ll be happy to add you to our prayer list!