Hate Mail

When I got my first writing gig for a tiny local newspaper with a circulation of 2.3 people, one of the veteran writers on staff told me, “Just remember, haters are gon’ hate.”

Then he added, “So whatever you do, don’t read the negative mail.”

It was sound wisdom. The only problem with this advice is that negative mail looks just like positive mail before you open it. How do you tell the two apart? At first glance, there is no way to differentiate between a friend and a hater by looking at an envelope or an email.

After all, nobody writes in bold letters on the outside of their envelope: THIS IS HATE MAIL. Neither do people fill out the subject line of an email with the words: WARNING, THIS MESSAGE IS GOING TO RUIN YOUR DAY.

So you never know whether a message is going to be positive or negative until you actually open the thing and read a few sentences:

“Dear Sean, I just wanted to take a minute to tell you, from the bottom of my heart, that you are a greasy, disgusting, faux-deep-thinking, chauvinistic pig…”

Thus, my philosophy has always been to ignore negative messages. And mostly, I’ve kept pretty true to this idea. Although I do occasionally respond to unusually ugly correspondence.

Such as the time a guy recently told me to “go to hell.” I wrote to him, saying in all honesty, that I had already visited Hell, Michigan, and frankly, I’d rather spend everlasting eternity in Detroit.

And a few months ago, I received a critical letter from a literature professor from an extremely well-known university with a world-famously bad football team. He told me I was partially responsible for the “dumbing down” of the American literary mind by “writing for likes.”

That hurt.

Still, on the infrequent occasion that I respond to nasty messages publicly, I usually try to keep things lighthearted. I try to be jocular. I try to be myself. I don’t have the luxury of taking myself too seriously. For crying out loud, I write on the internet. This ain’t Hemingway. My IQ is average at best, and my dog has a higher pedigree than I do. And furthermore, I am not even one hundred percent clear on what “jocular” actually means.

So my only defense against the haters is to be moderately funny in my responses. Although, usually, haters don’t care for my cheap attempts at humor.

Here is an actual quote from some negative mail I received recently:

“I don’t like your writing. I find your ridiculous humor to be insensitive and ignorant. Your fake introspection and false empathy embodies all the hackneyed stereotypes about us, Mister Dietrik.”

Two things I’d like to point out about this message: (1) this was an extremely well-written letter, free of grammatical errors, with flawless syntax, and (2) my last name is not spelled with a K.

Even so, the main question that often arises in my mind when I get mail like this is: If someone already knows they don’t like my work, why read it?

Moreover, once this person has invested 5 minutes reading my godawful work, why do they choose to take an additional 20 minutes out of their busy day to write a 1500-word thesis asserting how sincerely and completely they detest it? And why, after writing this marathon treatise, do they spend ANOTHER 20 minutes checking their work for misspellings and typos before sending?

Why not spend that one hour of their life writing a letter to someone they admire and respect? Such as, say, their favorite world dictator?

So if I’m being honest, sometimes negative messages can totally wreck my day. I don’t like admitting this. I’m not saying I’m a wilting violet, I’m more of a regular violet. But also, I’m human. And when someone tells you, flat-out, that you’re an idiot, a tiny part of you can’t seem to forget that negative word.

Their negativity sticks with you. You go to the store and you remember that someone called you an idiot.

You’re pumping gas at the Shell station, and you wonder to yourself whether there are levels of idiocy, and if so, where, specifically, on the International Idiot Scale do you rank?

You walk around in a kind of funk, knowing that someone out there is telling their friends what a complete Knucklehead McSpaz-a-tron you are. Right now, they are probably locating pictures of you online, laughing at your $3 haircut until they pee themselves.

This is why when an unsavory email came in a few weeks ago I felt my hands go clammy and my heart started to beat quicker than normal. I was standing in the grocery store when the message arrived on my phone. I read it and nearly cried when they called me a few names that aren’t worth repeating.

I’ve received some humdingers in my day, but this one was special.

I started to wonder what I’m doing this for, this writing? Why have I given my life to writing a column/blog/stories/whatever-this-is for nearly a decade? Maybe these unhappy people are right about me?

Then it hit me. I know why I do this. I know why I write. I write because, yes, in this indifferent world the haters are indeed gon’ hate. But I believe the same can also be said about us lovers.

—Mister Dietrik


  1. Joyce Gingrich - July 16, 2023 6:39 am

    Oh Sean…I truly believe the thousands of “lovers” who eagerly look forward to your column each day outnumber the “haters” out there 1000 to 1! In addition, the mom and the grandma in me figures “hate” equals jealousy!! Also…no one is forcing them to read your column…just saying. Your column would have been front and center for my students, during my teaching career, to model word choice, sentence structure, engaging a reader, and so on! Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us…whether I find myself laughing, crying, smiling, remembering…I am always glad to find you in my inbox! Blessings…

    • Elizabeth Swift - July 16, 2023 1:28 pm

      I LOVE the way you turn lemons into lemonade for all of us adoring fans!!! My ONLY regret is that I didn’t find you sooner—how did I miss Sean of the South ‘til now??!!! BUT better late than never🤣 Somebody commented somewhere that reading you is like a daily devotional and I had the same thought!!! THANK YOU for blessing my socks off every day❤️

      P.S. Sorry if this sounds negative: there is an actual International Idiot Scale but it only applies to WEF, WHO, NATO, etc. so you don’t qualify❤️

  2. stephen e acree - July 16, 2023 10:58 am

    Why do people write hateful things? Because THEY are miserable. And they want company. I read Hank Aaron’s biography. The hate mail he recieved was unreal. Threats on his life. Your writing is from your heart and soul and cheap beer at times. Your love of dogs and small town establishments that serve what small towns want. Part of America cannot relate to it, look down on it and who knows why, resent it. I am what some call a bedwetting liberal. I dont mind getting into it with faceless people on the internet about certain subjects. BUT what you produce each day is Gold. It is real and growing up in the south, familiar. I would guess you have upwards now of seven figures in fans. You are our cousin or brother or neighbor. We know you well. We love you. Be yourself and keep writing and performing (north FLa soon, please). You are a treasure and really go well with my coffee each morning. Always gonna be critics. Teddy Roosevelt said something great about the critics. Called the Man in the Arena.

  3. Melika - July 16, 2023 11:21 am

    Sean, no matter who one is or what they do, one can never ever please everybody. So, please never stop writing for the ones, like me, who truly look forward to your columns each and everyday. You write from the heart and your thoughts and words are a joy to read. Thank you and don’t stop sharing your writings with us.

  4. Sharon Chewning - July 16, 2023 11:33 am

    Keep on keeping on Sean!!! Flush those naysayers! Love overtakes everytime ❤️❤️, Look forward to your Blog every day!!! SRC

  5. Jen In Ten - July 16, 2023 12:09 pm

    For every hater, there are thousands of us who love your writing and are impacted by it. Please ignore the haters and keep doing it. This world needs your writing and spirit, Sean!

  6. Katybeth - July 16, 2023 12:09 pm

    But was the person who wrote that humdinger piece of hate mail invited to be on the Grand Old Opry stage? I think not!
    Some readers are going to be jerks, It hurts. I’m sorry.

  7. Brian Pauley - July 16, 2023 12:10 pm

    I can give no higher praise than this, Sean. Your column is the second thing I read, every single morning, right after the Bible and I simply cannot think of a better way to start my day. I appreciate you and am thankful you’re in this world, observing all around you, and writing it down. Keep it up!

  8. Julie - July 16, 2023 12:34 pm

    Sean – you are definitely a LOVER. Keep on loving in word and deed Sir!

  9. Goober Fife - July 16, 2023 2:36 pm

    I had in my mind what I wanted to say, but your first comment by Joyce hit the nail on the head!
    Don’t give the haters the time of the day…Yes They are JEALOUS The Rnd

  10. David in California - July 16, 2023 2:36 pm

    So many possible responses, but I know you like this guy’s writing…http://www.twainquotes.com/Critics.html (I especially like the one about the tumblebug)

    Keep loving your enemies, turning the other cheek and blessing those who curse you. The Guy who said those things had even more haters.

  11. Tina B. - July 16, 2023 4:07 pm

    Hi, Sean! This morning I was reading through the “Beach Happy” magazine that I picked up at a store in Santa Rosa Beach. I loved your story “Seafood In the Summer”!!! It transported me to the seafood market feeling the ambiance of the place like I was there. The interaction of the characters tugged at my heartstrings. I was very moved by the story and inspired to check out your online blog. And, to my surprise, today’s piece was about hate mail. So, right away I knew that I had to send my share of the antidote to hate mail and reiterate a known fact that your writing is beautiful and alive, and I am glad that I’ve discovered your work in a magazine – it made my Sunday morning feel very cozy and wholesome. I am a newfound fan 🙂

  12. pattymack43 - July 16, 2023 4:33 pm

    Mr. Dietrich, just keep on doing what you do so well!! PLEASE!!

  13. Ramon Presson - July 16, 2023 5:18 pm

    Sean, I get it. I’ve been a columnist in the Nashville area for 15+ years now and I wish the rare nasty comment or hateful email didn’t get under my skin, but it does. I wish the one 1-star Amazon review who clearly didn’t even bother to read the book doesn’t appear to me as a mocking red cape being waved at me, the bull. I wish the consistent ratio of 20-1 positive to negative comments was mental math that my brain more accurately measured and assimilated.

    Sometimes I take refuge in the Apostle Paul’s response to some of his critics “I consider it a small thing to be judged by you…” (1 Cor 4:3). To be harshly and/or falsely judged on my competence or my character fires me up, especially given my objective and incentive as a licensed marriage & family therapist and a professional writer is to encourage others. The Corinthian church was the most immature of the many churches Paul established. Thus he responded to Corinth’s snarky critique with something akin to “I’m not losing much sleep over your judgement when I consider the source of it.” The content of criticism (and its validity and credibility) cannot be divorced from its source. The message and the messenger are inseparably linked.

    I’ve also taken refuge in (and sometimes have replied with) this insightful quote from Theodore Roosevelt:

    “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

    Sean, you are a treasure to your readers. Your grasp of both humor and pathos reminds us what it means to be human. Thanks for staying in the arena. We need you.

  14. Judy - July 16, 2023 8:39 pm

    I could be wrong, but my guess is someone in the “haters” inner circle is a big fan of yours, and they are jealous and trying to bring you down. Jealousy is an ugly foe. They are ugly. Your life’s work and experiences are inspiring. Keep writing, singing, guitaring, banjoing, and telling your stories for those NOT in that small majority of jealous, sad losers.

  15. Judy - July 16, 2023 11:46 pm

    Of course, I meant to say small minority. Will I get hate mail now? Lol.

  16. elizabethroosje - July 17, 2023 2:14 am

    Love you Sean love your writing and your heart

  17. GINGER A DENNIS - July 17, 2023 8:48 am

    Sean, I love your sincerity and love for humanity. It’s a shame that some people are so miserable that they want to spew their venom on you. Rest assured, they go through life dumping the same venom on other people. Keep being yourself and sharing your wonderful humor with all us “Sean Dietrich lovers”! By the way my morning serving of humor is sincerely Diet Rich because of you! From the bottom of my heart “Thank you”!

  18. Sandy L - July 17, 2023 1:06 pm

    Sean I hate to see you wasting time on these mentally ill people. The world is so full of them. We all have to deal with them. I am also mentally ill but I also was brought up to not criticize others. Each must live in their own world. You can never 0lease everyone and you know this. Some people cannot be pleased because they do not rule the world. I for one enjoy reading your material. You are a light in my day an escape from those horrible events that happen to everyone. So do not take up your column with these ignorant and ill people. If it would help then it is worth it but otherwise it is not so just place their comments in that abyss of non-worthiness bin. Keep lighting up my day! And many years after you are gone will continue to light up peoples lives. Thank you for these words. They may seem simple and light hearted but they are a switch on many of our minds to keep us from going mad.

  19. Danny - July 19, 2023 2:41 pm

    Sean; you brighten my wife and I’s day every morning. My daily reading occurs on the couch as we both laugh and cry. You keep up the good works. At least two people in KS love your works. Wait, I forgot. I’ve referred you to many of my friends and they’ve subscribed to your daily writings, and, they absolutely love you too. So, now with all that said, more than two people in KS love your works. Looking forward to tomorrow’s….

  20. kay yates - August 4, 2023 7:47 pm


    I have just been introduced to you, thanks to my best friend, Harriet. I have read your posts for over two hours. I just cannot turn the computer off. You do such a good job of expressing human life, and it is a joy for me to have found your website.

  21. Earle Wright - September 8, 2023 4:47 am

    What someone else thinks of me is none of my business.


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