“Doop-de-doo, just checking my amazon eBooks…what’s this? A new review? Oh…My…God….”
As soon as we publish our creative works they are open to both praise and to criticism. It takes courage to get something precious from deep inside ourselves and write it down, or record it, paint it, photograph it or sculpt it. It then takes infinitely more courage to take that part of ourselves and make it public for people to judge and – potentially – to ridicule. The final courageous act of the artist or author is to forgive those who misunderstand our work, those bullies who never left the school yard and who continue to take pleasure in hurting others by attacking their work without offering any kind of constructive advice.
No matter what creative field you are in the one thing that is certain is that you will have your share of harsh criticism. And no matter how many people praise your work it’s always the criticisms that stay with you, that haunt you, that fill you with doubt and make you want to quit. But these criticisms are important. I’d never volunteer to be treated cruelly or unfairly, but I accept that this is part of life, that bullies, trolls, and other assorted party poopers exist and will always be there to try and put you down and knock the wind out of your sails.
Stoic philosophy teaches us that it is not what occurs to us that is important, the important thing is how we react to the stimulus. The opinions we form, the actions we take, the attitudes we embody. This is what we can control and this is where our focus should be placed. What has happened has happened, we must accept it, move on and make the best of the situation and not be implicated in the cruelty of the critic. Our critics are important for three reasons:
1. They test our belief in ourselves. Sadly many people quit their creative work or their passion because of bullying and cruel remarks. Others keep going despite the hate, to improve where they can and stay true to their vision. Bullies and idiots exist, we can’t change that, it’s how we react that’s important.
2. They remind us that we are on the right track. No one has ever pleased all the people all of the time and no one ever will. If we are getting strong positive and negative reactions, as an author or artist it means that we are moving in the right direction. Any reaction to our work is better than no reaction at all!
3. They give us the opportunity to forgive. We study philosophy and healthy techniques not just for when things are going well, we study them for when things get tough. Critics and bullies give us the opportunity to practice our philosophy and practical therapies, and ultimately they allow us the opportunity to be the bigger man/woman and forgive.
And so in the spirit of sharing and forgiveness I now present to you my very first 1 Star Review. This review was first posted on an early edition of Greeks to Geeks published in 2010. When I got that review (it was my first and only review) I unpublished the book and didn’t write for 2 years. I’ve since edited, proofed, re formatted and improved the book. I released the second edition in late 2012, I then did further updates and released the third edition in January 2013. But alas, like any nemesis worth his salt the reviewer found the book again and copied the same review on the updated version.
Below is john1411′s review:
To which I replied:
And there you have it.
From reading some of this man’s other reviews (24 out of his 26 reviews are 1 star and filled with bile and venom like this one) I have discovered that he is teacher and a social worker. I’ve never gotten on well with male teachers as any one who’s read my books will know, and I’m sure I said something early on in Greeks to Geeks that has rubbed him the wrong way. As he rightly points out, unfortunately anyone can write a review whether or not they’ve even fully read the text.
I don’t usually like to fill my blog with spiteful and hurtful comments but I am determined to turn negatives into positives and difficulties into lessons
According to Albert Ellis, founder of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, which is heavily inspired by the teachings of Stoic philosopher Epictetus, we must separate the actor from the act. john1411 is not a bad man, nor an evil man, for such a thing has never existed. Every human being is capable of performing acts of kindness and cruelty and we must acknowledge that. At any moment any human being has the capacity to reinvent themselves, to choose how they will conduct themselves from that moment onward, either ethically and humanely, unethically and inhumanely (or like most of us) a bit of both. When you are harmed – or you perceive that you have been harmed – you have a choice to make, you can either:
B. Retain your dignity and your sense of peace and continue to treat the person with the same respect and kindness you would like to be treated with yourself. To turn the other cheek.
I do not know john1411 personally, he writes his reviews anonymously, but I can tell you that during his life he has displayed love and kindness, he has felt weak, vulnerable and lonely, he has felt loved and strong, he has experienced guilt, remorse and regret. He has been dumped, bullied and ridiculed, he has also ridiculed and bullied others. He has most likely laughed at some of the same scenes in some of the same comedies as I have, we probably even love some of the same songs. I know this because he is human, I can see the john1411 in me and I know there is a little Rohan in him.
Focusing on our differences pushes us apart, focusing on our similarities brings us together. When you judge a person’s innate human dignity and soul by their actions you judge yourself as well by the same standard. Are you good when you do good? Are you suddenly a bad person when you do bad?. Judge the action, condemn the action, punish the action but do not judge the human for the human is capable of the full spectrum of action at any given moment. While we should not condone or encourage terrible acts, and while we should not put ourselves in dangerous positions unnecessarily, we should always keep a little part of ourselves that is willing to forgive that bit inside each person that makes them human. That bit that is nameless, shapeless and blameless, that we all have inside.
Thankfully I’ve been around a while with my writing and music, I’ve heard just about every horrible thing you could imagine along with all the good, but I do not like or condone these kind of reviews, especially when I see them posted to aspiring writers who may be very sensitive to that sort of thing. But at the same time I do not condemn john1411, he is human, fallible and capable of causing both pain and joy. What I hope to achieve with this post is to share with you some of the downs that come with publishing your work, and to give hope and solidarity to others who’ve received similar spiteful criticisms of themselves and their work. It’s not the end of the world, retain your dignity, do not stoop to their level, continue your important work and from the bottom of your heart forgive the fallible, vulnerable human being that they are.
john1411, I forgive you
Who can you forgive today?
Thanks for reading. Take care, peace!
ps. Below is the review on Amazon. Please do not engage this reviewing in conversation. I’m happy enough with my response and don’t want the thread to spiral into petty argument If you wish to do something you can click “No” for “Was this review helpful” or you can “report abuse” as the review breaches Amazon’s terms due to his use of “Spiteful Language”: http://www.amazon.com/review/R38U65M6QJE98H/ref=cm_cr_pr_cmt?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B009B7VZBG&linkCode=&nodeID=&tag=#wasThisHelpful
This post if part of Bloggers For Peace! Click the banner to get involved
- Searching for my Troll – My one star Amazon review
- Marching towards Forgiveness . . Yep, a Long Slow March
- Forgiveness is a four letter word
- Forgiveness: It’s About You
- On Forgiveness
Click the book titles to visit their Amazon pages, read the reviews, and sample or purchase the books.