David, who describes himself a church planting missionary in Thailand sent me a great question the other day. I figured there would be others interested in the answer, so here it is:
As I looked over the letters I couldn’t help but notice that EVERYONE had ONLY positive comments to make about the site. But, I was wondering, why don’t you post the negative letters that you receive? One of the things that I really enjoy about the site is the feeling that you are trying to be “honest” in your approach. As a word of constructive criticism please let me say, you make yourself look much less “honest” by not also sharing the letters from folks who are against what this web-site is all about.
Here is my response: Thanks for your email and your input and I do appreciate your perception of what weâ€™re trying to do here and your concern. Let me try to answer you as honestly as I can.
The Letters we use in BodyLife are designed to encourage people on the journey or help them see how others are finding encouragement on the Lifestream site. I have never considered running negative letters there because people Iâ€™m want to encourage already hear the negative voices from people around them. That section is really meant to â€˜build upâ€™ people with positive encouragement to pursue the work God is already doing in them.
That said, I do not often receive negative email about my site. Most of the negative comments come secondhand and thus they are unusable. The negative comments I do receive directly usually fall into two categoriesâ€”(1) vitriolic rants by people who are incredibly destructive, and (2) honest questions or struggles with something Iâ€™ve written or espoused. Let me tell you how I have handled both of those. I respond personally to the first group, assuming they are someone who has been badly burned by some Christian experience, and with gentleness reach out to their concerns. Most I never hear back from, but occasionally some engage an email conversation that opens some real doors in their heart to see past peopleâ€™s failures to Godâ€™s reality. I donâ€™t consider posting those anywhere because I donâ€™t know who they would help.
I also respond personally to the second group, but if I think their concern would be shared by a number of others, I post that exchange (anonymously, of course) on the blog, with my response to show how I processed it. So that is where you would find the negative comments or struggles with my content. More often, however, differing viewpoints appear in the comment sections of the blog. I do not delete negative responses unless they are intellectually dishonest or resort to false accusations or name-calling. In the 21 months Iâ€™ve had the blog I have only deleted one comment due to these concerns.
So the disagreeing dialog is there, it just isnâ€™t in the BodyLife â€œSharing the Journeyâ€ section, because I want that to be encouraging to others just embarking on this journey. Perhaps that will change in the future, who knows? This is (or better said, I am) a work in progress and what we do here will continue to unfold. Please be assured that I deeply appreciate people who take the time to let me know how we might do this better or more honestly. And those suggestions often shape what I might do in the future.