Recently I’ve been bothered by posts on social media by people I respect that have disparaged the songwriting abilities of certain Christian artists. “Listen to other Christian artists besides X and Y,” others have posted. These posts left a bad taste in my mouth, and I’ve been trying to figure out why. It’s no different than writing negative reviews of books or movies, is it? I guess not. Except I find reviews ripping up fiction hard to stomach as well. Here’s why. Many Christian artists, whether singers, songwriters, authors or filmmakers, see their work as their mission. Their talents are gifts from God to be
used in His service. God works through us to speak to our audiences in our “mission fields.” Even those who take a more worldly view of their work still pour their hearts and souls into their writing, whether it be songs or novels.
As a writer I know the power of words. I have felt the sting of verbal abuse. I endeavor to use words for building up, not tearing done. Of course, that doesn’t mean our work is perfect. My craft certainly isn’t and my storytelling abilities frequently fall short. But my desire for God’s light to shine through these stories never falters and God never fails.
I also don’t criticize the songwriting abilities of these popular artists because I once wrote a novel in which the heroine was a singer-songwriter. I penned lyrics that appear in that novel. I asked my editor what she thought of them. Her response was the equivalent of “don’t quit your day job.” It’s easy to criticize others for which we ourselves have no aptitude. It would be like me critiquing Itzhak Perlman’s violin-playing.
In some regards, I fault social media itself for this phenomenon. It’s easy to be critical when negativity is the norm. It’s easy to whip out a snarky post that will garner lots of likes. The object of the post probably won’t see it. Likely won’t see it. Maybe won’t see it.
But what if she or he does? I know I’m not the only writer who has to work to rebuff voices in my head telling me my writing sucks. I don’t need any help in that department. That doesn’t mean I don’t welcome constructive advice in a more private forum, I do.
Social media is a beast that feeds best on negativity. The very seams of our society have been ripped apart in the last few years because of the extraordinary political divide in our country. Under the veil of the first amendment, folks spew their versions of “truth,’’ with no shame across a multitude of social media platforms. Some days it has taken every ounce of will to keep from retorting to those who expound on political beliefs that are far from my own. Especially when folks assume I share their beliefs. But I’ve quelled the kneejerk reaction and scrolled on by. It is possible, you know, to let it go. To not feed the beast.
My point is that a song that doesn’t speak to me very well may speak to another. It may be just the message that hurting, lost child of God needs to get through the day. To put down the razor and pick up the phone to call a pastor or a suicide prevention hotline. The novel I closed because I couldn’t stand the author’s head-hopping and backstory dumps (something only writers are likely to notice), may be the story that brings another reader back into God’s fold. God’s the one doing the work, and He can work through any song or story—however flawed.
Yes, if a story is truly bad, this ought to be shared, but it isn’t necessary to rip the author to shreds in the process. Or tag him or her when you post the negative review. I don’t have to imagine how that feels. I know, having received my share of bad reviews. This is a clear case of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Tearing others down shouldn’t build us up. It shouldn’t make us feel superior or smug. If you’re planning to post a negative comment or review, at least take the time to examine your motives first. Is it simply not your own taste in music or fiction, or is there really something wrong in your opinion with the song or the novel or the movie? There’s a difference between snarky or glib comments and observations that offer solid reasons for giving a negative review. Personally, if I don’t like a book, I close it and move on to the next one. If someone asks me, I say it wasn’t my cup of tea.
Those of us who are Christians are called to be Christ’s ambassadors. To set the example. Nonbelievers are watching and judging. Above all else, remember the fruit of the spirit includes love, forbearance, goodness, gentleness, self-control and kindness. Be kind. That way when the shoe’s on the other foot, there’s a glimmer of hope others will treat you with the same kindness, gentleness, and self-control. Remember, the view from the high road is much grander.
What are your thoughts on writing negative reviews? Feel free to leave a comment, especially if you disagree!
I don’t generally leave a bad review. I might just say it wasn’t my style or something like that but most often just don’t post negatively.
Good for you, Connie!
I agree with you.
If I don’t like a song, I turn the volume down until it’s over. If I pick up a book and begin reading and it doesn’t grab my attention, I put it down. I can usually tell by the second chapter, if it’s to my liking. If it’s not, I put it in a box to give away. However, in either scenario, I’m not going to trash talk the author or artist.
God made us all different, with different interests❤
Absolutely agree, Gail!
Love it, Kelly! I refuse to leave bad reviews because as a writer it can look like sour grapes. But I encourage others to leave honest reviews even if that means that they didn’t like it. Honest is good, hurtful is not. Thanks for saying what so many of us are thinking! <3
You’re welcome Amy! It’s good to hear from you!
I don’t give negative reviews as I have yet to read a book that I have not enjoyed.
Good for you! I love it.
I never have left a negative reviews, I’ve always love reading your books.and a lot of others author I love to read. Stay safe. God is with us.
Thank you, Barbara. I’m so glad you like my books. Stay safe!
I never leave a negative review. If for some reason, I don’t like a book, I don’t review it. What I might not like might be just the thing another person needs to hear.
Same here, Pat!
I absolutely agree and I believe is goes back to sit coms with live audiences in the 80’s and 90’s. The better the “zinger”, the more the audience oohh’d and ahh’d. The “zinger” was always some type of insult or put down and somewhere during that time it became an artform. These days when relating a story of an unpleasant incident, people strive to be the most clever, the most biting, the most insulting to which the listener most often says “Good for you!” For Christians, our instructions are clear” “Let no unwholesome word come out of your mouth, but if there is any good word for edification according to the need of the moment, say that, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” Eph. 4:29
That’s so true. I despise unkind humor too. I don’t watch many sitcoms these days because the humor doesn’t appeal to me. That’s a great verse to remember. You can never go wrong living by Scripture!
I am like you,I scroll by things I don’t agree with in social media. When it comes to reviews, I have in a few occasions pointed out things I thought made it hard for me to enjoy a book completely. BUT I always put positives with it. A few times, I was asked to review books that weren’t a good fit for me. So then I will say that I think the book would be a better fit for another audience. I try to treat others like I would want to be treated.
I agree that sometimes you that it’s possible to offer constructive feedback while being kind. It’s not even hard to do!
I, for one, never leave any bad reviews for anything. If it was not something I liked, I just pass on reviews. I don’t see putting bad,negative,or bashing reviews for anyone no matter what! Pretty much all books that I read are all great,so I leave excellent reviews for them. Authors work so hard on the books that they write and spend tons of hours on them, so I find rude reviews very mean,personally.
I was taught growing up that if you didn’t have anything nice to say,then don’t say anything at all. So, I believe that’s how it should be with reviews.
I love your attitude, Cindy. I too grew up with that rule.
The Golden Rule seems to have been forgotten in the midst of the current trend to “cancel” people with whom one does’t agree. Also polite manners seem to be a novelty on the 21st century social platforms.I suggest that we should pray for those whose consideration for others is soooooo apparent.
Oops, I meant “unapparent.”
LOL. I knew what you meant!