Finding Love in the Comments Section

a woman on a laptop sitting next to a dog
Oh man, the last two weeks have been a whirlwind of activity. First I published my blog on being overweight in the church here at Boundless. Within 24 hours it had over 30 comments and 1,000 shares. After that, the Washington Post published an extended version of that same blog last Monday. And then everything fell to pieces.

If I initially felt the Boundless comments were perhaps a little harsh or lacked a gracious tone, the comments on the Washington Post article were enough to make me doubt my salvation, worth as a person, and motivations for seeking marriage. The article, it seems, hit a nerve.

According to some commenters, I was praising the fat acceptance movement and flaunting my weight—others argued that I was obviously filled with self-loathing and lacked healthy self-esteem. Many said my religious beliefs hindered my ability to love and accept my body, while several claimed that I wasn’t holding tightly enough to Scripture. For some the solution to my problem was simple (diet and exercise), and for others my weight was the least of my problems, with self-centeredness and a whiny disposition topping the list.

I fell down the rabbit hole (or rather, black hole) of internet comments, and I couldn’t escape. The article then spawned some response blogs, radio spots, and a few online forums dedicated to tearing apart my argument, physical appearance, and overuse of gifs in social media (I still maintain that there is an appropriate gif for every interaction).

Thankfully, the hate and vitriol found in the comments section was balanced with the dozens of people, mostly strangers, who contacted me to share their stories and offer encouragement. But despite a number of people coming to my defense online, I realized a very important lesson as I hastily wiped away tears in my cubicle: I can’t please everyone.

While I’ve always known this, I’ve never had to live it in quite this way. Even though I freely speak my mind and often take on the task of telling a close friend a hard truth, I try not to ruffle too many feathers. But this article ruffled enough feathers to stuff a down California king duvet, and I had to decide what I was going to do about.

Friendship is Born at that Moment

Did I still believe in my article? Yes, every word. And while a few people offered valuable truths in comments or through Facebook messages that I wished I had done a better job of conveying, I still stood by my piece.

After I reached this place of decision, I took comfort from a new friend who passed on words of wisdom to me: “In these kinds of moments, I put on my best Prince William face and, if I don’t believe an apology is truly needed, politely double down.”

So here I am, doubling down. And I do so with much excitement for the conversations being spurred, much anticipation of what’s yet to come from those who are wiser than me, and much thankfulness for those who reached out to say “me too.”

C.S. Lewis, whom I adore, writes the following in The Four Loves, and I find it hugely comforting:

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.

I write because I love. I love words and ideas and stories. I love you, each of you, and I desperately want you to know you’re not alone. I love people who are hurting, and I love those crazy outliers who break the mold. I love talking about tough things because I think that’s where healing takes place. And I love myself just enough to open up about my struggles but not quite enough not to have passing flashes of regret or embarrassment over what I wrote.

Love compels us to live boldly and vulnerably. And with that love comes a risk of being hurt (which I was), misunderstood (which I feared), and even isolated (which I felt). I’m not great at love, and I fail in this a hundred times a day, but I hope when you read what I write, that’s not what you come away with.

I hope you know that you are loved. You are not alone. You are precious. You are valuable. You are worth interest and time and effort. You are uniquely gifted and created. And it is an honor to write for you, one that I don’t take lightly.

Love is so costly because it demands we take down our walls and bare our souls and compare deep wounds that have yet to heal. But it’s worth it.

“To love is to be vulnerable,” so let’s be vulnerable together.

About the Author

Joy Beth Smith
Joy Beth Smith

Joy Beth Smith hails from Charleston, SC, but she’s left pieces of her heart in Lynchburg, VA, Nashville, TN, and Chicago, IL. Joy Beth is passionate about connecting with other singles, and with the abundance of faulty theology surrounding singleness, marriage, and dating, she hopes to contribute to the ongoing conversations revolving around these issues. Joy Beth enjoys writing, reading, and coffee drinking, and you can often find her lurking in the corner of a local coffee shop pretending to read while shamelessly eavesdropping.