Has this ever happened to you? Have you ever had someone take one brief glance at your life and work and decided it was up to them to let you know what was wrong with it? Has anyone ever jumped to hasty conclusions about you and then assumed the absolute worst? And has anyone ever used Scripture against you in their judgement?
This kind of scenario has happened to me twice in my life. Once in college, and then again just last week. Twice have I had someone actually sit down and write a list of grievances against me, and then either read them to my face or send them to me in an email. Both lists were for very different faults, which I must admit is slightly depressing. But my first accuser, all those years ago, at least knew me fairly well, and there was just a lot of misunderstanding that had occurred. My last week’s accuser was a complete stranger who had stumbled onto my blog, and after a cursory reading of my ‘About’ page, made some super-sized assumptions, and decided it was time someone stopped me.
This stranger realized, looking at my creations, that the patterns I have based my dolls on came from a book they recognized. In other words, they knew the patterns were not my own. So they had words with me.
I will not post the entire message here, but here are some of the phrases that were used.
Reappropriation of intellectual property without permission.
Bad form for not crediting the original author. (Pretending I had developed all the patterns myself)
Blatant disregard of copyright laws.
Placing myself in danger of countless lawsuits, etc.
And my favorite-
A willingness to bet that all of my other work was stolen as well.
This person was kind enough to tell me that they thought I had a lot of talent, but hoped in future, that I would develop enough as an artist to no longer engage in theft to make a little extra cash.
And then it was all tied up with a neat little Bible verse, and sent to me in plenty of time to ruin my whole day.
“Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.”
There were tears. There was angst. There was self-justification, anger, and confusion. There was a lot of time spent asking my hubby for help in how to respond to these accusations. My first reaction was of course to defend myself- to make a long list of all the reasons they were wrong and I was right.
I mean, clearly they hadn’t read my blog all the way through, or they would see where I have not only credited the creative minds who have inspired me, but also worked for the greater part of a year to alter those inspirational techniques and patterns and make them my own.
They hadn’t followed me on Pinterest, or they would see how I have been in contact with the author of those books.
They couldn’t have taken a look at my shop where I clearly do not pretend to have developed the original patterns myself. (although there are many new patterns that I actually have developed myself)
And I am certain they have never taken a look at my email inbox to read the sweet and generous permission I received from the author in response to my frantic email, making doubly sure that it was okay to be doing what I was doing. She reassured me that everything was indeed above board.
I did write this person back, as charitably as I could have, (I think) and then tried to lay it all to rest. But it is difficult. Those words continue to rankle in my soul, to make me doubt myself, to make me burn with anger.
I say all of this, not to declare my own righteousness or to cry aloud “How dare they say that about me!” And as tempting as it is to run this person down and wrap myself in the comforting blanket of the commiserating outrage of my friends and family, I am trying to look at all of this from a different angle.
The fact is, what I do here in this little corner of cyberspace, I do publicly. And the fact is, I am terrible at dealing with personal criticism. Of course, that message was a little more than criticism. It was more like a defamation of my entire character, which in times past was a much more serious thing to do. People didn’t used to drop the term ‘thief’ so lightly. But laying that aside, I need to remember that this strange thing called the internet is remarkably public. I need to be prepared for any and all kinds of comments and opinions. I always figured that in starting a blog about sewing and cooking, I would be fairly safe from criticism and hateful words. But having been on the internet for most of my adult life, I should know better.
People will say what they want to say. They will take things personally. They will read into things way more than they should and put a spin on words that were never meant to be spun. They will make a controversy about the most benign topics. They will think it is their duty to tell you what they think you need to hear. And yes, they will rarely do any research before they accuse. This is the world we live in. And full disclosure, I am not entirely innocent of such folly myself.
In the meantime, if I want to continue using the internet as a great way to reach a lot of people, I must learn to develop a thicker skin. It’s a package deal. These things will happen. And painful and unjust as those words were, they were a good reminder for me to be careful in all that I write and say and in all the work I do. I should strive for integrity, remembering at all times whom I represent.
But above all, I must remember the Merciful One to whom I am finally answerable, and be at peace.