Recently a client of mine received a one-star review from a person who had obviously created a Google account with a fake name for the sole purpose of leaving the scathing rant. It was clear to us, based on the facts noted, who this person really was. I can only surmise why he felt it necessary to hide behind a pseudonym (even a different sex and race), but my guess is that he did not want a public record of his mean-spirited, error-filled temper tantrum to be connected to his real online presence.
Now let me just say before anyone gets upset that I know I can’t predict what Jesus would do. Maybe there would be times when he felt a one-star review would bring glory to his Father. But looking over the tone of his life and ministry, I think that highly unlikely.
Most of my clients are small business owners who provide a service. They get up at 5 a.m. and work 12 hours, six days a week in hopes of helping the community and creating financial security for their future. They employ people and solve problems you can’t solve for yourself. Their businesses are their babies and certainly the lion’s share of their identities. So when a negative review or comment pops up on Google, Facebook, Yelp, or the like, they are hurt. Every single time, it’s a matter of he-said, she-said and the facts are not perceived as the same from both sides.
My first book was published more than four years ago and it has only been in maybe the last year that I stopped having a physical reaction every time I got a new Amazon or Goodreads review. When I logged in and saw that one of the review numbers had clicked up, my heart began to race and my palms to sweat as I clicked on the book to see a stranger’s opinion of my work. The one that made me cry was a personal attack, stating to the world that I was patronizing, and that if homeschooling was what I had described, she wanted no part of it. That negativity drained the positive energy from the hundreds of good reviews and notes about how I had encouraged and helped other readers. When I realized how a one-star review can affect an author, I backtracked and deleted every poor review I had ever given. I simply did not want to be responsible for crushing someone else’s spirit.
So why shouldn’t a Christian leave a poor review if they think they have been cheated, or feel the need to warn others about a business or product that doesn’t perform as promised? (I won’t even get into Christians publicly berating other Christians because that is clearly forbidden in 1 Corinthians 6.) Is it your duty as a citizen to warn others when you don’t get what you think you deserve?
Does God really need your help to protect the world from a poor service provider or poorly-edited indie book?
If you think you must leave a negative review, ask yourself these questions first:
- Have I brought this situation to God in prayer?
- Have I done everything possible to solve the problem one-on-one (Matthew 18:15). Even if it’s not a church setting, this is obviously the cleanest way to resolve any conflict.
- Am I just having a hard day or hard week? If life is tough at the moment, it will color how you respond to everything. Is your instinct to write a rant coming out because you’re mad at your boss or your spouse? After reading hundreds of reviews on behalf of myself and my clients, it’s pretty obvious when someone is just taking their frustrations out on their keyboard.
- Does my public duty to warn others override Philippians 2:14 (Do everything without complaining or arguing.)?
- Have I considered how my words will affect the author, service provider, or business owner in light of Philippians 2:3 (Do nothing out of selfish ambition or empty pride, but in humility consider others more important than yourself.)? Am I writing this review in humility?
I know we could do dueling Scriptures over this topic, but what do you think? Is it ever appropriate for Christ-followers to leave a public trail of negativity and criticism?
Traci Matt is the author of best-selling homeschooling titles, as well as devotional books for the mother of the bride and the mother of the groom. Watch for her first children’s fiction book, The Time Traveling Truesdales, coming this fall. If you like The Magic Treehouse and The Boxcar Children, you and your kids will love this new series!