Sarah Silverman may be known for her biting comedy, but her recent exchange with a Twitter troll is the perfect example of how the Quran instructs us about how to deal with hate speech:
Push back with that which is better and You will see that the one with whom you had enmity, would become as if he was an intimate friend. (Quran 41:34)
A few days ago, Silverman sent out a tweet, and a total stranger replied cruelly with nothing but the “c” word.
But instead of lashing back or blocking the user, Silverman opted for a compassionate response.
“I believe in you. I read ur timeline & I see what ur doing & your rage is thinly veiled pain,” she tweeted back. “But u know that. I know this feeling. Ps My back F–king sux too,” she added, referring to the back troubles the user mentioned in his Twitter feed. “see what happens when u choose love. I see it in you.”
Remarkably, the troll then let down his guard, and explained his pain. “I can’t choose love. A man that resembles Kevin Spacey took that away when I was 8,” he wrote. “I can’t find peace if I could find that guy who ripped my body who stripped my innocence I’d kill him. He f–ked me up and I’m poor so it’s hard to get help.”
Silverman went on to ask the man if he uses heroin and if he wants to get clean. The man replied that he smokes weed and takes prescription meds. Then Silverman talked about the pitfalls of self-punishment and suggested that he join a support group. “I want to kill him too so I can’t imagine your rage. All I know is this rage- and even if you could kill him– it’s punishing yourself. And you don’t deserve punishment. You deserve support,” she said. “Go to one of these support groups. You might meet ur best bros there.”
The man agreed to get help, and confessed that he’s antisocial and has no friends.
At the end of the exchange, Silverman wrote, “Im so psyched you’ll go. KEEP ME POSTED. Don’t give up on yourself. Be brave enough to risk getting burned. It’s what happens when u fight for yourself. But it’s worth it. I promise.”
Then she called for others to help.
The response was swift, and a spinal clinic in San Antonio reached out to the user to offer help.
The exchange has become an internet hit, with legions of Silverman fans singing the star’s praises for taking the high road.
“This is honestly one of the nicest and truly decent gestures I’ve ever seen a human being, much less a celebrity, give to another human being,” wrote one follower. “Your heart and character are as big as your talent.”
The approach seems to be part of Silverman’s mission to help calm the increasingly nasty and confrontational political discourse that has taken hold, especially in the U.S.
“Screaming at each other has never caused change,” she said in a 2017 interview. “Sure, sometimes major protests and rioting in the streets causes change, but when it’s people one-on-one? Having a screaming competition in that setting never changes minds. So we need to try and understand each other.”