How We Can Handle the Haters

Peruse any disease forum, any social media platform, and we find a lot of wounded souls who are victims of bullying. Disease forums are heavily moderated and therefore comparatively light on the insults, though some seep through. But bullying comes in many flavors, and the worst of it can be found on Twitter. I do not participate, nor will I ever. Although it’s good to have a safe space like this one, we cannot be sheltered from nastiness in other venues, both cyber and physical. It’s easy to retreat, feeling defeated and helpless, convinced that isolation is the only solution. I got tired of that thinking and wanted more ideas. Then I heard Sally Kohn interviewed on “Fresh Air.”

Finding common ground

Ms. Kohn is a LGBTQ activist, pundit, and former liberal foil for Sean Hannity. In her book THE OPPOSITE OF HATE: A FIELD GUIDE TO REPAIRING OUR HUMANITY, she discusses her experiences seeking out the trolls that threatened and verbally attacked her on Twitter during her tenure at FOX. She cajoled a fair number of them into talking on the phone, and what ensued was a study in compassion and connection. Kohn asked her harassers why they called her terrible names and wanted her dead, and the answers are sometimes surprising. One woman said her therapist told her to participate more in social media as a way to deal with her personal issues, admitting that what she was doing probably wasn’t what her therapist had in mind. Others told Kohn that trolling was a way to chill and none of it was meant personally. At this point, Kohn tells the reader that when she needs to chill, she reads a book or takes a nap. But although she couldn’t relate to her troll’s chill methods, she was determined to find a personal connection. Once the trolls got the friendly treatment from Kohn, they opened up about their personal lives. Kohn found common ground with most of them.

The impact of kindness

Time and again, Kohn checked her own arrogance and hate at the door. She is self-aware enough to own the pre-conceived notions she possessed about people whose political and social views clashed with hers. She also discovered that she could have a profound influence on her haters, some to an extreme. Her kindness prompted one hater to not join a skinhead organization. It’s food for thought as we struggle with our own demons, those on the inside and those who inhabit the bodies of others.

People with MS can feel marginalized

Read any thread on this site and we find lots of people with MS who are marginalized by parking lot bullies and insensitive family and friends. If you’re anything like me, you are easily inspired by a strong, deeply compassionate person who can model a better approach to haters than the status quo.

It is hard to imagine being kind and patient towards someone who denies your pain and suffering to your face.

You’re just making excuses to get out of doing something you don’t want to do.

Why don’t you stop trying to get attention and pity and act normal.

I’m not bringing your grandchildren here anymore for visits. You’re a bad influence.

Why are people cruel and how can we possibly find a calm place when they are?

People are scared. They lash out because if they stop, pain and fear will overtake them. Hating keeps the scarier emotions at a distance.

Kohn cites one overriding reason to be kind in the face of hate. It’s one more opportunity to practice our humanity. And as unbelievable as it seems, we set an example for the haters, an example they might follow. You don’t have to forgive them. But you can inspire them to do better with somebody else.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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