The irony of this post is not lost on me. Writing a blog post about why people should read blog posts before they comment on them is perhaps not a winning strategy.
But I’m going to try it anyway.
Some, if not most, comments are fairly innocuous. But there are always at least a few that are very divisive, mean-spirited, and incredibly off topic. I know this is typical of all online interaction and not exclusively our own experience, so I tend not to take these comments personally.
But I do find it troubling that Christians are just as likely as non-Christians to post these kinds of comments (if not more so). I think that really hurts the witness of Christian people in the world. I don’t think we should be known for being people of thoughtless outrage.
So this is a trend we need to reverse. For the sake of our Christian witness. And even just for the sake of being decent, kind, likable human beings.
Here are 6 reasons why you should never comment on a post before reading it.
1. Everyone who reads the post can tell that you didn’t.
When you comment on a post without having read it, it’s pretty obvious. People who’ve actually read the post can tell almost immediately.
And that’s because when you haven’t read what the person has written, you often begin arguing against a claim that the author never made. Or your comment is just completely out of left field and has nothing to do with the post at all.
Commenting without reading is the modern version of judging a book by its cover. You might find yourself getting upset with someone who’s actually arguing a point with which you would totally agree. And everyone can see that but you.
2. You shut down real conversation.
Real conversation can only happen when you listen to people. And since we don’t engage in a verbal conversation online, listening means reading.
If we want to engage in meaningful conversations around important topics of life and faith, then we need to be willing to listen at least twice as much as we speak. Too often the exact opposite is true.
And because of that, we miss out on so many valuable opportunities to learn, to grow, to be challenged, or to gain a fresh perspective.
If we want to engage in meaningful conversations around important topics of life and faith, then we need to be willing to listen at least as twice as much as we speak. Too often the exact opposite is true. Click To Tweet
3. You add to the noise.
When we shut down real conversation, all we’re left with is noise. Unproductive, repetitive, clanging noise. We just continue to shout down our favorite echo chambers so that we can hear the lovely sound of our own voice.
Followers of Jesus should be deeply concerned about how they contribute to the unhelpful noise of a conversation. When we insist on shouting past each other rather than listening to one another, we create chaos. And God has not called us to chaos.
We serve a God not of disorder, but of peace (1 Corinthians 14:33).
Followers of Jesus should be deeply concerned about how they contribute to the unhelpful noise of a conversation. When we insist on shouting past each other rather than listening to one another, we create chaos. Click To Tweet
4. You fail to take the writer’s ideas seriously.
When we speak without listening (or comment without reading), we devalue the contributions of another person’s ideas. We fail to take seriously their thoughts, their experiences, their expertise, their unique perspective. And when you think about it, that’s actually pretty rude.
If someone has thought deeply about a topic, done research, composed their thoughts into a post, and sent it out into the world, what they’re hoping for is a meaningful interaction with that content.
When we react in meaningless ways to someone’s meaningful thoughts, we devalue them as a person. We devalue their contribution to important conversations.
5. You frustrate others rather than challenging and building them up.
All of this can be pretty frustrating. When people shout at you without listening (or type at you in all caps without reading what you’ve written), it can be downright demoralizing.
Recently, I wrote a post about how Christians should be able to agree to disagree on the age of the earth. I believe that there are faithful, bible-believing followers of Jesus on either side of the argument. So there’s no need to unnecessarily divide the Church over it.
I posted that article to Facebook, and it didn’t take more than a couple of hours for commenters to begin questioning and attacking each other’s salvation and basic levels of intelligence. Which was literally the exact opposite of what the post was about.
Now, it’s totally appropriate to disagree with what someone has written. I think it’s totally within the bounds to respectfully express that disagreement. When I publish a post, I am making a public statement. And my hope is that it will generate a public conversation.
But it’s just so frustrating when the conversation isn’t actually a conversation but rather an online shouting match.
Commenting without reading, and speaking without listening, always lead to a greater amount of frustration. A conversation is an invitation to connect. We frustrate people’s desire for meaningful interaction when we don’t want to listen.
6. It’s just a foolish thing to do.
At the end of the day, when you post your opinions and criticisms on someone’s post without having carefully read and considered what they’ve written, it’s always just a bad look.
The Proverbs have a term for a person who opens their mouth and says unthoughtful and unhelpful things: a fool. The sages of old are always quick to categorize people who are quick to express an inflammatory comment as fools.
“A fool’s lips walk into a fight,
and his mouth invites a beating.
A fool’s mouth is his ruin,
and his lips are a snare to his soul.”
Relationships are never built stronger when you speak without listening. And you never have all the information when you comment without reading. So your point is never as salient as you’re hoping it will be.
So the next time you’re tempted to comment without reading, you may want to consider these words.
“Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.” (Proverbs 17:28)
Growing up, my dad used to tell me, “It’s always better to keep quiet and have some people assume that you’re stupid than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”
Not exactly a saying I’d put on a coffee mug or t-shirt, but there’s nevertheless great wisdom in my dad’s somewhat blunt proverb.
When in doubt, it’s always a wise move to refrain from commenting. Especially if you haven’t taken the time to read, listen, and understand.
Can we all promise not to do this anymore?
Let me leave you with the words of James.
“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” (James 1:19-20)
Let’s resolve to listen to each other, think before we speak, and seek to be life-long learners and grace-givers rather than bible-thumpers and pulpit pounders.
If you aren’t willing to listen, you don’t need to say anything either. Just keep scrolling.
It’s okay to disagree. It’s not okay not to listen.