Definitions of Enemy, Hater and Critic

Before I get any further into this series, I think I should define what I understand as an enemy, hater and critic.

Enemy: The dictionary defines an enemy as one that is antagonistic to another. I actually don’t see that definition suitable for what I believe is an enemy. The dictionary definition of an enemy actually sounds more like what I would call an annoyance. I, however, define enemy in these three ways:

A person, group or entity that is intentionally committed to opposing you, no matter what the circumstances.

A person, group or entity whose sole goal is to win by beating you to a loss.

A person, group or entity that uses violence against you.

Hater: According to the Hip Hoptionary, a hater is: A jealous person, or, one that cannot be happy for another person’s success to the point of only picking out perceived flaws. I like that definition as I think is quantifies a hater well. However the problem is that another person’s motives are impossible to judge (e.g. ‘jealous person’). They are speculation at best. Therefore here are my definitions of a hater:

A person, group or entity that is only ever negative about you, regardless of how many times you have either reached out or tried to more thoroughly explain yourself.

A person, group or entity whose intentions are not sustainable peaceful engagement, but rather quick bandwagon insults that are thrown as they turn and run away.

A person, group or entity that uses lies, name calling, exaggerations, insults, etc to either ‘expose’ you or launch a grenade hoping you will blow up. Haters are also known to drag in your family, friends or others you know who are not directly involved, as either pawns, or targets of their hatred.

Critic: The dictionary definition is: One who forms and expresses judgments on the merits, faults, value or truth of a matter. That about sums it up. Though I do believe there are two types of critics under this definition—constructive critic and obstructive critic.

A constructive critic is one that engages with you forthrightly (e.g. seeks out your responses in dialogue before going public), allowing you to be a part of the discernment process, before a public judging of the merits, faults, value or truth in a matter. The outcome is secondary in this situation.

An obstructive critic is one that publicly creates their own judgment on the merits, faults, value or truth of a matter first, and then retrospectively ‘attempts’ to include you after-the-fact. The outcome (judgment) is paramount in this situation as it sets and dictates the tone for the relationship there onward.

These are my working definitions for Enemy, Hater and Critic.

What are yours?

Much love.

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  • I really appreciate this post as I, myself, am trying to hold on to the freedom that Christ has for me when it seems to scare so many others. I want freedom for all of us – to be able to talk and not judge. We have all been wrong about so many things. We have to allow each other to mess up, and still love throughout the whole messy process. Thanks for a great post. I think I just might go and re-read it!

  • Geoff G.

    I object to the idea that constructive criticism can only happen in private. Certainly, receiving criticism is often bruising to the ego, but nobody ever said that life was about validating your self esteem. If we’re putting ideas out in public (in articles, books, blogs, etc.) then we need to be prepared for those ideas to be challenged in public as well.

    After all, you’ve been issuing very public rebukes to the evangelical community in an effort to criticize their approach to dealing with GLBT people and hopefully help lead them to a more authentic Christianity.

    It’s probably less useful to try to draw distinctions between constructive and obstructive critics as well. Heading down that path, we end up with trying to diagnose methods and motives in other people, which is often futile and largely irrelevant in any case.

    Good arguments exist independently of the people who advance them. If a critic advances a good argument, it must be addressed, regardless of whether the critic is “constructive” or “obstructive.”

    I’m also not sure that I’m seeing the difference between an “enemy” and a “hater.” To be sure, there are people and groups out there that will always object to who you are and what you are doing for no apparent reason. It’s probably not worth trying to engage with these people since they’re generally beyond rational arguments.

    On the other hand, some particularly sneaky 🙂 enemies or haters will retroactively apply rational arguments to throw a cover over their emotional attitudes (GLBT people tend to assume that conservatives making political arguments against them do this all the time).

    If that’s the case, then you’re still obliged to engage with the enemy or the hater on the grounds of their arguments: remember, good arguments exist independently of the person advancing them.

    In fact, now that I think about it, this whole post may kind of be leading in a non-constructive direction since it really seems to be an exercise in ascribing motivation (on the basis of tactics, yes, but it’s still concerned with motivation).

    Maybe a better way to approach the problem of criticism is to look at the arguments themselves, rather than critics. Fallacious arguments (including threats, ad hominem, etc.) can simply be dismissed out of hand. Good arguments can be examined and tested further, and perhaps adopted.

    The nice thing about this approach is that it demonstrates respect, even for one’s ostensible enemies. And from time to time it may even turn an enemy into a friend.

    • pm

      When does the struggle for identifying descriptive words/phrases become name calling except by the inclusion of intent, attitude and internalization of an individual’s motivation? The complex dynamic between opposing points of view should be all-inclusive so as to not miss any factor that might assist the participants in fully understanding and framing a contextual reference point. Only mutual respect holds in check through self-regulation the tendencies of the heart so as to avoid going from exploring into explosive attacks of an enemy, hater and obstructive critic. Separating the heart from one’s words as a process of hiding behind ‘logical arguments’ with its associated merits seems to be an exercise best practiced inside an ivory-tower-group-think. In practical terms, defending one’s thesis is great among those who focus on academia. Learning to love, grow and explore past the societal limitations or internalized filters involves the whole heart. Such wholeheartedness transcends these limitations by offering a vulnerability that engenders a trust relationship among opposing factions. This is how transparency works to effectively elevate the conversation.

      • pm – Wow. I totally agree, at least in my life, what you said is dead on: “Wholeheartedness trascends these limitations by offering a vulnerability that engenders a trust relationship among opposing factions.” You hit that dead on to where my thought process is at.

    • I don’t know that constructive criticism has to be done in absolute private. Geoff. There’s a big difference between approaching someone in person, in e-mail, on their website/blog, on Facebook and asking for details or clarification vs. going public with major criticisms and THEN seeking details or clarifications from the source of your criticism.

    • Eugene

      “…remember, good arguments exist independently of the person advancing them.”

      Yes, it’s true. But it’s equally true that a bad person exists independently of the good arguments he/she is advancing. Yes, you have to be ready to address the arguments, but, no, you don’t have to talk to the particular person – especially considering that his arguments may serve only one purpose: to demean you. You refute one argument, he has another, you refute the second one, he has the third… and in the end he thinks he won. 🙂

      • Eugene – So, so true. I find that what you said is especially true in purely academic circles. Most of them think it totally normal and acceptable to write a critique, then expect a critique of that critique; then they write a critique of your critique of theirs; and it keeps going no where. I can’t enter into that battle of attrition; as life needs to be lived. I personally don’t see that process as any amount of normal or practical in working towards reconciliation.

      • Geoff G.

        I’m impressed by the response to my little stream-of-consciousness so I’ll just say this:

        Yes, people with bad motivations do exist out there. But bad people can and do change. I had thought that was a big part of the whole Marin Foundation exercise.

        Yes, people may well seek to demean you. But what does that matter? Do the Gospels say that it’s fine to refuse to engage if you feel demeaned? Is the message of Pride that we ought to seal ourselves away in some gay ghetto because some in the outside world want to demean us?

        Of course not. On the one hand, Christianity teaches that we should humble ourselves. On the other hand, Pride tells us that we should not allow others to define our own sense of value. In both cases, we are encouraged to engage with those who would demean us.

        If that means we have to refute one argument or three or ten or a hundred, then that’s what it means. Take them apart, one by one.

        And here’s where it’s good that this process happens in public: others will see that our arguments are better. They’ll see that we don’t need bullying tactics, and our opponents do.

        This is precisely what’s been happening on the political front with respect to GLBT issues for my adult life: by presenting rational, well thought out, honest arguments, over and over, we are now reaching the point where public opinion itself is swinging in our favor.

        Bullies do love it when they think they’ve won a skirmish. But it’s winning the war that counts.

        • Eugene

          On one hand, it’s true. People can change.

          On the other hand, it’s a matter of priorities. How long would it take Andrew to change someone like Robert Gagnon? Would it be the most productive use of Andrew’s time and effort?

          Similarly, some gay people may think that there are more important things in life than bridge-building with strongly anti-gay Christians.

    • Geoff – Thanks for your words! Here are some thoughts of mine in regards to what you said:

      I don’t think that constructive criticism needs to be done in private, and think Jon’s thoughts above are dead on! As you said, public thoughts/ideas/criticisms deserve to also be publicly addressed, whether or not the critic reaches out first. But there is a constructive way to do such a thing. The recent example that comes to mind was from someone who commented on my blog a few posts ago. She didn’t agree with much of what I had to say on a number of topics, however she asked questions through her criticism in a way that was engaging and wanting to know more. If nothing else, like Eugene (most of the time), wanting more clarity through open-ended criticism is all good. I have no problem with that. To me, those examples of criticism are very constructive.

      Here is my one caveat – when a public figure with a significant following (or through an org/site/etc with a significant following) claims themselves an unbiased critic and yet goes on the offensive through their bias filter without any other imput, that is not constructive – especially in the light of said person/entity knowing how to get a hold of the main subject. There is no excuse for that, and reveals the true intent of the ‘criticism’. This is not just about people doing that to me, but I hold myself accountable to those same mediums of engagement. If I know how to get a hold of someone, I want their version of the truth to be represented in my thought process/worldview, just as much as I want to project mine. In my opinion, it can’t be constructive, nor taken that way, if anything is represented only by one side. That is why in my book I included a not only a whole chapter, but numerous examples throughout the book, on belief systems (theological, social and political) that do not line up with mine, with no judgments attached of right/wrong, but rather as legitimate to another’s perspective/worldview. I try to do the same on the blog and in my everyday life. I’m just trying to live out what I would like to see lived out. Doesn’t always work out though…but a process I am working to make an everyday reality in my life.

      I totally agree with your understanding that whether constructive or obstructive, a good argument must be taken seriously. Unfortunetly, in our world today, the person behind the argument has a whole lot to do with the actual argument. I don’t see them as independent of each other, as much rational sense as that independentness makes. Regardless, I take all criticism very seriously. I know you can’t see me in my everyday life outside of this blog, but those closest to me know how much serious weight I place on everyone’s criticisms.

      I’m all about trying to learn how to peacefully and productivley engage enemies/haters. The difference to me between an enemy and hater is that an enemy uses violence, a hater does not. I would not say I have any enemies, because no one has physically tried to harm me/take me out (although I have gotten a number of death threats in the mail over the years).

      I am seriously trying to learn what it means to respect those who totally disagree with me. It’s not an easy process. But I’m truly trying to learn in real time. I want to, like Jesus did, uniquely dignify even those who wanted to kill him. As far as I know, no one wants to kill me, so the dignifying process should be a whole lot easier for me. And I’m trying really hard to bust my hump to make it a reality – especially for those in the Christian world, as I have all day for those in the LGBT community.

  • This post highlights the major problem with all debates about gay people and Christianity. The key words we use can have subtle differences of meaning/intent. Heck, you can’t even say words like “gay” or “love” without 10 different people hearing 10 different things.

  • Enemy As you said.

    Hater is a tricky one. It’s a contemporary slang word. How many people know there is a Hip Hoptionary or why “hater” qualifies to be in it? It can be a code word for whatever category of “other” that young people despise. Evangelicals are often dismissed as “haters” no matter what they say because “hater” is used as an insult word for “people who are not like me and disagree with me”. So a lot of people who use hater are haters too by your definition (a person, group or entity that uses lies, name calling, exaggerations, insults, etc to either ‘expose’ you or launch a grenade hoping you will blow up.)

    Critic The dictionary definition is fine.

    Constructive criticism The dictionary definition is fine again – criticism or advice that is useful and intended to help or improve something, often with an offer of possible solutions.

    Obstructive criticism is not in the dictionary. Is it a corporate speak neologism? Is it a variation of “destructive criticism”? Either way, does it help to use any jargon words or phrases in a divisive “culture war” debate?

    • There’s tons of jargon used in the culture war, by both sides of the coin.

      • SO TRUE! That is why, for me, I have tried to ‘elevate the conversation’ away from lexical semantics and onto broad applicable principles and things that can be implemented in daily life. I’ve learned so much from you, Jon, about how to do/think through such things. You’ve had such a huge impact on me…thanks.

        • Phelim McIntyre

          Andrew – you don’t “elevate the conversation” by using pro-gay theologians and attacking those that join up the Scriptures. You play in the sand box with a “love means you don’t have to admit your a sinner” attitude (to quote Andy Comiskey’s review of your position) so while you say “neither do I condemn you” you fail the last test of the love of Jesus which challenges the person to “go and sin no more”.

    • Eugene

      “Obstructive criticism is not in the dictionary. Is it a corporate speak neologism? Is it a variation of “destructive criticism”?”

      Oh, please…

      You surely know the difference between obstruction and destruction. And the term “obstructive criticism” seems more appropriate to me – at least as the antonym to “constructive criticism”.

      • Eugene,

        I only found “destructive criticism” after Googling “obstructive criticism” (I wanted to check if AM’s definition matched others because I had never encountered the term before). Judging by my search results, both terms are fairly obscure – but d-crit seems to be used more widely. Why make a difficult conservation even more complicated by using words/terms that aren’t in the dictionary? Yes, I can guess what is meant by “obstructive criticism” by it’s component words but I would never have guessed Andrew’s definition.

        True, both sides in the culture war use jargon – and jargon is one of the main reasons both sides talk past each other.

        • Eugene

          “True, both sides in the culture war use jargon – and jargon is one of the main reasons both sides talk past each other.”

          No, Joe, when something as simple as “love” can be understood differently, you can’t blame it on jargon. The sides talk past each other only because their stances are irreconcilable – which makes them enemies. The gay community surely can understand the meaning of “Love the sinner, hate the sin”. They just can’t accept this “love”.

          • There are two different problems/challenges here:

            Words in common usage (love etc) which have multiple meanings and further clarification is required.

            Terms that are only used by one side and are typically never explained because they also work as code words/phrases to separate “us” from “them”.

    • Joe S – Obstructive criticism is not in the dictionary, nor have I ever heard it used before (outside of me using it). Though I thought it was very relevant because I believe I have noticed two clear types of criticism:

      1. Those that critique by advancing dialogue and seek clarity (which I label as constructive); and

      2. Those that obstruct an advanced dialogue and do not seek clarity but rather just want to push one-sided worldview/perspective.

      To me the latter is not in the least constructive, and actually obstructs the purpose of understanding/bridge building, which is why I call it obstructive criticism.

  • Eugene

    Here are my definitions:

    Enemy: A person or an organization whose goals, interests and worldview are irreconcilably antagonistic to your own.

    Hater: A person who persistently expresses his/her negative attitude towards a person or a group of people in a tangible way.

    Critic: A person who expresses a reasoned judgment.

    Constructive critic: A person whose reasoned judgment either helps you attain your goals and interests or guides you towards common goals and interests that don’t contradict your own.

    Obstructive critic: A person whose judgment neither helps you attain your goals and interests nor guides you towards common goals and interests.

    • 🙂 Wow, I love your definitons. (and they’re way more succinct than mine too)

  • Debbie Thurman

    Gee, I think Eugene’s definitions are rather sound and to the point.

  • Kevin Harris

    I would be careful in using the word ‘enemy.’ After looking at your definition “A person, group or entity whose sole goal is to win by beating you to a loss” it seems that you would have to know the individual’s motivation and goal in coming against you in order to correctly use the word. You may perceive that their intention is to “beat you to a loss” while they may be simply acting with the interests of their community in mind if they perceive you to be a threat. I imagine that it could create a self-fulfilling prophecy if someone is called an enemy as that will only perpetuate the disconnect.

    ‘Hater’ regardless of how we define it is slang that carries all types of negative connotations with it. It has the potential to come across as dismissive and possibly demeaning even if that is not the original intention in using the word. It works in casual conversations or when joking around, but can come across as lacking in tact when discussing serious matters as it is not language that is intellectually respectable.

    In defining what you mean by using these words, individuals that regularly read this blog may come to understand what you mean by them but the definitions will be lost in translation when someone that is unfamiliar with your blog reads them. For example, recently Dr. Robert Gagnon wrote a 26 page response to the short response that you wrote on your blog and disseminated that to his readers. If you had called him a ‘hater’ his readers would be unfamiliar with what you mean by that term and would reasonably interpret it as combative. Language should be used that is readily understood by a majority of society to avoid unnecessary complications in a message being communicated effectively.

    I agree that in some cases it is worth taking the time to express your understanding of what you mean when you use certain words if that can tangibly contribute to furthering the message that you are presenting. Defining words like ‘reconciliation, validation, and affirmation’ have been worth defining as you present a view that is contrary to mainstream use of those words, but ‘hater’ does not seem to be a word that would be worth investing the necessary time that would be needed to change public perception around the word and to effectively integrate it into your language on a regular basis in a way that does not cause a lack of understanding when used.

    • Kevin – True. True. I said earlier that I don’t see myself as having any ‘enemies’ due to the lack of violence (which I see as a key component to what an enemy is). Haters; most definitely.

      As for my definition of enemy and its implications to suggest intentions/motivation, the only fall back I have with the win/loss example is that I have had entities directly tell me (both on phone and in emails) that it’s their goal to “destroy me.” In such situations, there is no guessing their intention.

      I continually learn from you on a daily basis about what it means to think before you speak. I’m trying to learn brother… One clear example though: As of last week I have stopped using the word hater to describe people in relation to myself. I have taken your advice and only use the word critic now; of which I feel very comfortable with the defined 2 different types of critics.

      As to your last paragraph, I see your perspective on that and am very inclined to agree. I will leave it alone from here. The one small part that I think you are missing though, is that ‘hater’ is (at least from my perspective) a consistent part of many folks everyday language within mainstream, and its prevelance and usage continues to grow everyday – especially within pop-culture. I do think it is worth defining and understanding because as we have unfortunetly seen, the church always follows pop-culture…just a few years late. Might as well disseminate the message now before its too late (of which it might already be?).

  • Debbie Thurman

    FYI, since we are discussing words and their meanings, it might be enlightening to read this recent series of commentaries from Thomas Sowell, entitled “The Money of Fools.” The phrase comes from 17th-century philosopher Thomas Hobbes.

    • I read them Debbie, and I loved them. So interesting when you actually think about what stuff means. Thanks for the links!

      • Debbie Thurman

        You’re welcome. Yes, good food for thought.

  • Dora

    Enemies– people who threaten your life daily.
    What if you have a husband who beats and threatens and undermines you as a human being for 20 years?
    What about an uncle who is raping a 13 year old niece?
    What about men who kill wives when they try to leave the marriage?
    What about a system that degrades and objectifies women?
    What about a church that excludes women from the top jobs?

    What about women like Jane Addams and Emma Goldman being called the most dangerous women in America?

    What about a court system that is completely controlled by men?
    How would you define enemy in those contexts?

    • Eugene

      Dora, it’s important to remember that the term “enemy” is about actions and intentions (my personal definition is very broad as it includes interests and worldviews, but it may be too broad for many).

      Either way, it’s not about gender. You keep focusing on “men” who oppress “women” – as if every man is an all-powerful women-hating monster. It’s bad in two ways:

      1) You ignore women who support the things you hate (Haven’t Andrew asked you a question about your opinion of Sarah Palin? 🙂 )
      2) You ignore and alienate men who mostly agree with you and men who suffer almost as much as you.

      Heck, if “men” fully control the court system, how come gay men can’t get married? 🙂 If “women” are so awesome, why do some of them disown their gay sons? Gender-based worldview is extremely nonconstructive.

      Personally, I believe that we shouldn’t focus on enemies, haters and critics. We should focus on issues and ideas. Yes, it isn’t easy when, for example, the guy repeatedly equates you to rapists and pedophiles and the other guy – who is supposed to be your friend – doesn’t say a word about it. But we still should focus on the issues.

  • Dora

    I think if you live in a big city, and you are a woman, you do encounter dangerous men. I have never been attacked by women late at night, but I have had to fight back when men attacked me. So I do consider it wise to be cautious. If I am walking alone in a parking lot, I have to be prepared to defend myself against enemies who attack and rape women– and yes, the attacks, brutality, gang shoot outs etc. by strange coincidense in my neighborhood are always men. Every incident in our park where there was gang activity against girls who also wanted access to said park was from… boys.

    And the legal system is a male owned system of oppression, and it does grant males priviledge vis-a-vis women. This is a fact. And no, my opinions about Sarah Palen aren’t relevant, because I am talking about systemic oppression of women by men, which most men go along with.

    I have yet to meet men as a group who really do anything about other men being bad– from routine sexist comments men make at male dominated corporate settings, to promotions and pay increases denied women. You just sit there in silence and let it happen again and again and again, and you do it on this blog too. So enemies, get real guys.

    It’s a deadly serious subject, and yes, at night I do view ALL men walking toward me as potential enemies, and yes, I am ready to bash their damn heads in in self defense if I have to. And, no I haven’t been raped by these animals because I got solid defense training and am willing to use it, and have used it!

    So enemies need to be defined, and men as a group should do something to end rape and violence towards women, but I can see that at this blog, it ain’t gonna happen any time soon. Don’t insult my intelligence here, this is deadly serious stuff for women, who consider male dominance a terrorist issue, and terrorism in the home is something I don’t think adult men often face at all. I’m just laying the cards down here guys, I don’t expect you to get what I’m saying, but I do have my definition of enemy based on my perception of what is in my public safety best interests. Next time you guys are gang raped in a high school, let me know, and it will have been the boys on the football team. My anger knows no bounds, no bounds.

    I shouldn’t focus on my safety at night? You have got to be kidding me right? Men, take responsibiltiy, because YOU are the enemies of women oftentimes, and YOU need to do something about male violence worldwide.
    And no, I have no expectation that you will ever give a damn about this, because you want to maintain male dominance, gay men and straight men do this. Gay men in churches do this. And no, you are largely cowardly and not allies, and that’s what I’ve got to say about the word enemy!

    • Eugene

      “And the legal system is a male owned system of oppression, and it does grant males priviledge vis-a-vis women.”

      Is that why men can spend 30 years in jail for a rape they didn’t commit? Is that why family courts can take away a man’s children when he’s a good parent?

      “So enemies need to be defined, and men as a group should do something to end rape and violence towards women…”

      Why do you make a distinction between “rape and violence towards women” and rape and violence towards men? You can’t expect men to care about women when you don’t care about men.

      “I shouldn’t focus on my safety at night? You have got to be kidding me right?”

      Well, I actually said the opposite. We should focus on the issues (including your safety) instead of defining enemies.