FAIL Month: Over-Reaction Fail

June 4, 2010

Have you noticed that Christians can kind of overreact sometimes?

…Just once in a while.  Some television personality will make a slightly insulting comment about Christianity, or an organization will kind of make fun of Christians, or an artist will make a mildly blasphemous piece of art or music.

And some Christians will kind of, sort of overreact. 

Now, I just called Christians out on something that a lot of us do.  I know what you’re thinking already.  Some of you are thinking, “Overreact?  Christians don’t overreact at all!  HOW COULD YOU SAY THAT AND BE A CHRISTIAN?”

I see all the things out there that you do, people that degrade Christianity.  I get emails on a semi-regular basis from people making pretty amazing accusations about my life, thoughts, motivations, spirituality, maturity, and awesomeness.  It doesn’t matter how many I get, they mess with me a little bit.  I want to react negatively.  But it never does any good.

There’s a lot of ways that Christians can react to haters.  I’ve come to think that more than almost anything, people are defined by how they react to criticism.  There’s a lot of good ways.  And then there’s the ways that just reinforce all the negative stereotypes, the reactions that trip us up, make us failures.

Here’s my list of ways to fail at reacting to criticism.

Get really offended…all the time.

There’s no better way to react to criticism than to take it extremely personally.  Really, when in doubt, make a federal case out of everything.  Christians should constantly be acting like they are just finding out there are non-Christians out there somewhere.  Everything all non-Christians do should shock and offend the delicate sensibilities of any Christian.  Just to be safe, a Christian should probably be offended by most other Christians too.  Your list of offensive things should resemble the length and detail of the list of items banned by airlines.  The more often a Christian gets offended, the easier it will become to stay offended for long periods of time, when high-endurance offense is necessary.

Being offended should start to bleed over into normal relationships too.  Some people say there’s something called “constructive criticism.”  That sounds like an oxymoron to me, and I don’t tolerate oxymorons, or any other kind of morons.  I only listen to someone when they have a constructive compliment for me.  Honestly, I figure anyone would have a hard time coming up with constructive criticism when there’s so many more constructive compliments they could give me.  But I digress…

React immediately.

Are you really mad, yet?  Mad, like you’re to the point of hysterics?  Like if people saw you in the street, they’d point at you and wonder if they should call the police to report an escaped mental patient?  Good.  Have you had time to think out a well-qualified statement of response?  No?  Good, fire away.  Any pause to think about what to say is only a sign of weakness.  Best to fire from the hip.  Shoot now, ask questions later. 


There’s nothing like a good old fashioned shouting match.  Whether people are discussing abortion, war, gay rights, immigration, or anything slightly controversial, a point is always better served loud.  Better yet, throw together a hastily made sign with an equally offensive slogan to prove your point and go protest at some event so everyone will know what a genius you are.

It’s tough to get offended by something on the internet, because you can’t yell at people as in the good old days.  Still, when answering a critic online, it’s best to just tap the caps lock key…and punch the keys really hard as you type.  It’s kind of like slamming a phone down.

Has anyone noticed you can’t give a cell phone a good satisfying slam?  That’s unfortunate.  If a guy can’t berate some peon subordinate on his cell phone while on a crowded public bus, and then punctuate his anger with a good loud slam of the reciever, than I don’t know what we can count on anymore.

You’re going to hell.

This is the ace in the hole.  This is the final strike.  While reacting in anger toward your adversary, remember that you are taking the moral high ground, and thus you are the winner.  The best way for someone to come to your side is to remind them that God hates them, and He will continue to until the person shapes up.

Remember, you don’t have to limit yourself on who you say is going to hell.  Is there some Christian who disagrees with you?  He’s going to hell.  Did that inconsiderate woman cut you off in traffic?  She’s going to hell.  Is that kid crying annoyingly because he dropped his ice cream cone?  He’s going to hell.  Chances are, if someone is doing something you don’t like, they are going to hell, and should be informed of that fact in one way or another.

The hell card is another one that only gets better the more you use it.  Don’t be shy about it.  Paint with it in broad strokes like an artist creating happy trees across a landscape.  If one person is going to hell, chances are anyone remotely like them is going to hell too.  Everyone loves broad generalizations and stereotypes, so please help keep them alive.

Throwing the hell card down also absolves you from any thoughts you might have that your adversary makes a good point.  Why would you take someone seriously who’s going to hell?  They’re decieved by the devil.  Satan is clouding their judgement and they just can’t see how amazing you are in every way.  Plus you are reinforcing all the stereotypes people have about Christians being intolerant and judgmental.  Win – win.

That’s my list of ways to over-react and I’m sure there’s a lot more.  What other ways can people fail at reacting to criticism at work, home or church?

28 responses to FAIL Month: Over-Reaction Fail

  1. There the Christian favorite of email chain petitions. If the government is going to to pass a law that is mildly unbiblical or a TV show (that no Christian watches anyway) is going to be mildly blasphemous there is a very good chance that someone somewhere out there will be composing a chain email that includes lots of outrage and few facts. It will probably include instructions to send it on if you love Jesus and your country.

  2. Unfortunately, we can’t limit this to only Christians. It seems that the angry, loud, “you’re going to hell” overreaction is how we now debate issues in the US. The worst part is that we are dishonest about it, and try to pass this off as an intellectual debate.

    And it’s so easy to get caught up in the storm. Only when I have no opinion on an issue do I seem to be able to listen to both sides without getting drawn in. Most of the time it seems to devolve into name calling…

    BTW – “I don’t tolerate oxymorons, or any other kind of morons” – pure awesomeness!

  3. You can overreact by:

    – The Prayer Blowoff: Ending your spiritual tirade by saying “I’ll pray for you!” Not the best closing argument – especially if you don’t mean it.

    – Say, “God resists the proud” while beating your chest like Tarzan and swinging off bell tower rope into the narthex. (The ladies are safe, I don’t believe Jane did it.)

    – Separate yourself from anyone that is not like you by only praying blessing on your family and church friends and using Scriptures to explain away the rowboat oars protruding from your own eyes.

    – And of course, do the laughable, endlessly quote scripture to people that do not believe in God with a take-it-or-leave-it attitude.

    – Make excuses for Christian celebrity failures by saying, “well they’re forgiven and you’re not. Sorry!”

    Lately, I have had some intense debates with guy over on and This person is very intelligent, well educated, and better versed in the Bible than most Christians I know.

    Without love and power, how are we ever going to make a difference?

    And yes, I am waiting to see how badly WBC will get pounded on 20/20 tonight.

    • I checked out some of the comments being made back and forth. It’s always challenging, but the supreme challenge is to dispel the thought that Christians are always in attack mode toward people who completely misunderstand Christian beliefs.

      • I hope that my comments were “receiving” and not opposing. I am sure lots of folks are searching.

        The Internet makes it tougher because my challenge was always, let me pray for you NOW or come to church with me Sunday – or shut up.

        A true experience with God ends a lot of debate.

        I may have to add an 11th to my Series on the Top Stupidest Things Christians Do. ;o)

  4. I’m at my best when I’m muttering my condemnations. Especially when it’s criticizing other Christians for doing things that I’m ashamed not to be doing myself.


    Me – I can’t believe she’s serving communion in gym shorts and a t-shirt.

    My wife – Why don’t you serve then she won’t have to?


    Me – It really makes me mad when there is no helper present to receive my kid at his classroom.

    My wife – Why don’t you serve then maybe someone could always be there?

    Oy vey!

    • How dare she?! 😉 I’m that way too. I sometimes think my calling and spiritual gift is to point out problems. It’s someone else’s job to solve the problem. Kind of like speaking in tongues and interpreting tongues.

  5. Laughed out loud multiple times. Especially while reading the “hell” section. 100 points.

  6. Margaret @ Single and Sane June 4, 2010 at 9:39 am

    “…you can’t give a cell phone a good satisfying slam.”

    First of all, I hadn’t thought about it, but you’re right.

    Second of all, the cell phone companies are all going straight to hell.

    And back to your point, we do overreact a lot. If we think “Happy Holidays” is a form of religious persecution, then God have mercy on us if we ever have to risk our lives for the Gospel.

  7. I believe “You’re going to hell” is going to be my new go-to response… Really, I don’t tend to publicly react to things, but I’m a very reflective thinker which might be worse because if I go off on a tirade it’s because I’ve really thought about it. :)

  8. Very good. I think as Christians we need to be careful how we react. There are instances where I will not watch a show because it is a total cage fighting knock down of Christianity. I have observed how people have gotten upset at movies like The Golden Compass or Avatar. And while I would not personally want to see those movies (Avatar because of the video game look to it)I am not offended by them. Athiests and non believers are going to have their movies like we are going to have our movies. I think we need to make more of our movies to reach the secular world. I can think of different situations where we’ve overreacted as a Christian body like Harry Potter or even towards our own (if you’ll remember) years ago, Amy Grant. I think there is a time and a place for boycotting or not watching, but I think we have to be careful of how often we use that card or we lose our credibility.

  9. But I also think we shouldn’t let the pendulum swing so far the other way, we wear an ‘anything goes attitude.’ I vote for a balanced attitude.

  10. another way to over-react? Write up a heated and mean-spirited blog post. Maybe throw in a little sarcasm and snark and call it “satire”. Maybe write up a “how not to”…

    =) great post, Matt! I like how the exclamation points on “Yell Really Loud” turn into “1”s, because it’s nice to know I’m not the only one who does this. Seriously, I do that ALL.THE.TIME!!!11


  11. LOUD NOISES! Another way to over react is to have the silent anger and never get near the bloody sinner ever again. We’ll justify it by using Psalm 1. “Blessed is the man who does not stand in the way of sinners.” Or the verse in 1 John. “Friendship with the world is hatred to God.”

  12. One of the most fascinating social phenomenas today is the way people slash and burn each other in the comments section of blogs. Of course anonymity can plays a big part in it. But just like when we are tired and we let down our guard (our Christian sensibility of how we should act even if our thoughts/hearts are elsewhere) I think the distance of the web allows us to “let down our guard” a little too easily without consequences. That might be a bad thing, but it might be a good thing – in that it can make more apparent our need for God’s mercy.

    Once I just had to respond to such a slash and burn comment on one of my blog posts – in fact, I made it into a post:

    I don’t know if my response was ultimately any better than his comment, but it felt good to “unpack” both the verbiage and the meaning of what he was saying. I guess I wrote it in part for him, but maybe I wasn’t as nice as I could have been. But maybe being nice would not have got through to him. Of course, I never found out.

  13. Tucker,

    I know what you mean. I love debating, but I try to keep my comments calm and Christian. I don’t always succeed, but I do most of the time. I called one person out on the behavior. I think I made a small difference there, or should I say, God made a difference there, but yes, I’ve deleted people from my profile family or not who have let Mr. Nasty loose on their comments. I tell people all of the time…I don’t care if you disagree with me, but have some class when disagreeing. I suppose that is too much to ask nowadays, huh?

    What I find interesting is the amount of people who go out and attack someone who has a different viewpoint in a nasty manner and in their words is a demand to be nice. The hypocrisy is amazing. I know I have my faults (me??? Really???), but I know all of my faults. I readily admit them. So why can’t they see their own hypocrisy?

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  15. Busted. Again. Drat.

    How about start using big words to show the other person how much smarter and therefore superior you are?

    I have an Otto “Don’t call me stupid!” button. It doesn’t matter if the subject is Christianity/Christians, politics or any other source of disagreement. If someone implies that me or anyone who agrees with me is stupid, clueless, ignorant, uneducated or illogical or any other synonym, they press the button. And then that whole “Love your neighbors/Love your enemies” philosophy which I am trying so hard to instill in me and my kids gets temporarily set aside to “help” the person review their statement’s viability. Fortunately, God graciously slaps me up side the the head with his holy 2×4 to get me to stop and shows me how to handle future situations with his grace. By the time I’m dead, I’ll be perfect ;-).

    Respectfully disagreeing without name calling/denigrating is my goal.

  16. I have nothing constructive to add to the discussion, I just wanted to tell you that I am excited that you made a Bob Ross reference. Really.

  17. It’s very true it’s better to not react immediately. I can always tell that as long as my thought bubbles could peal paint off the walls, I’m probably not ready to respond. I have that happen sometimes with my student’s parents too, and for some reason it always seems to be the Christian ones. The continual less for me is that kindness trumps blustery over reaction every time. When I do make the right choice, and don’t go with my innitial knee jerk reaction, the outcome is amost always that we can move past the conflict productively. When I choose the other way I end up stewing over stuff for a long time. Life is too short to be cronically bent out of shape.

  18. One of my personal favorites is doing any or all of those and when someone disagrees with you, hitting them with “if you disagree with this, your argument is with God, not with me.” It’s like getting into a slapping fight and then jumping into a giant, God-shaped bunker. Unfortunately, God is rarely in there with you, but don’t let that slow you down.

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