I write about sex in marriage. Talk about a sensitive and potentially controversial topic. Even the idea of publicly discussing sex in Christian circles can trigger everything from raised eyebrows to scathing rebukes.
Yet I’ve always believed that if God is willing to bring up sensitive issues, so should His people. How can you address sensitive topics responsibly? Here are four quick tips.
1. It’s not merely what you say, it’s how you say it. Christians can be entirely right about the content of what they teach, and entirely wrong in how they treat others in getting their point across. Presenting truth doesn’t excuse us from commands to be loving, kind, gentle, patient, and self-controlled.
Ask how you’re presenting your points. Are you solely concerned about the issue, or do you consider the people affected? Do you invite conversation or lambaste anyone who doesn’t agree?
If your readers see you as caring about them, they’re far more likely to listen to what you have to say. Keep them in mind as you write.
2. Some react negatively because you poked a personal wound. Sometimes a reader’s hostile reaction isn’t personal. Rather, you unintentionally touched a raw wound.
For example, if I address how most husbands need the emotional connection of sex, I’ll get angry reactions from higher-drive wives whose husbands don’t seem to want sex, from wives whose husbands have been demanding or abusive, from husbands who’ve been refused for years and rant about how I’m too soft on wives, etc. Rather than feeling attacked, I try to show compassion for their difficult situation.
We should present our topic as fairly and lovingly as possible. But if someone freaks out about something you said, remember it may not be about you at all.
3. You don’t owe anything to false teachers. We bloggers know these commenters as “trolls”—meaning people who troll the Internet for articles on a particular topic and leave comments that promote lies and hate. At first, I tried to engage these readers, but nowadays I can spot a troll, or false teacher, pretty quickly. And I don’t put up with it.
It’s not that a writer’s skin isn’t tough. Challenges, debates, and discussion are fine, but if someone promotes false teaching or personally attacks other readers, it’s time to draw a line. Our readership relies on us to present truth and encouragement.
Adopt a comments policy explaining you’ll delete remarks with egregiously wrong or dangerous teaching. Don’t allow false teachers to soil your ministry by giving them a platform.
4. Find a supportive community. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to find a community who’ll support you when difficulties arise. My marriage author friends provide everything from encouragement to prayer to wisdom. And they laugh with me, which is healing in the face of trouble.
When it comes to writing, people who do what you do are not opponents; they are allies. Befriend them and gain strength from one another.
We can’t dismiss our obligation to share God’s Word boldly (Acts 4:31) and to help struggling people (Psalm 34:18) simply because it makes some in our midst uncomfortable. Your readers, many who’d never leave a comment or contact you, will appreciate your courage to address sensitive topics.