Criticism Happens. Even at Christmas.
“So, I suppose I should give to miserable failures like you and that idiot brother of yours,” was said by a famous Christmas character. He describes a cab driver as a guy who, “sits around on his brains all day.” Later he’ll hurl a racial slur at Italians as a “bunch of garlic eaters.” And Potter repeats his favorite adjective again when he looks down his nose at the protagonist of It’s a Wonderful Life, calling George, “a miserable little clerk crawling in here on your hands and knees and begging for help,” right before he seeks a warrant for George Bailey’s arrest.
Criticism happens. Even at Christmas.
Have you been there? I must admit I’ve been the critic and the criticized. It’s universal in our gossip infected world of social media. We seek the thumbs up, the little heart, the “like me.” We all want affirmation, acceptance, and love but it seems we also need thick skin. Any leader- a person of influence- who steps forward with the power to affect other’s thinking or actions with their opinion or through the vehicle of a craft –whether playing a sport, starring in a movie, preaching from the pulpit, or simply leading a book club will meet the naysayers. If you disagree just listen as you walk out of a movie theater, watch a pre-game NFL show or swipe your finger down a Twitter timeline. Criticism happens.
Recently I received a scathing review and once again I had to go through the process of processing it. This is what God has taught me to do when criticism happens.
1. Remember even Jesus had his Judas – John 15:20
Resentment brings on criticism. When people criticize with the bile of resentment it says more about them than about us. Sometimes they simply want what we have. Criticism can be evoked by jealousy, insecurity and smallness. Sometimes naysayers simply deeply resent what we have said or the way we said it. They want it another way, like Judas, they want the king not the servant. Judas saw Messiah differently. Judas came to despise Jesus because deep down Jesus was everything Judas was called to be and nothing that he was and Judas resents the truth.
2. Criticism is a mirror and a motivator – Roman 12:21
Sometimes we are a mirror that reflects the truth in someone else and they resent it. But sometimes criticism is a mirror that reflects a certain truth in us. We realize our shortcomings and that realization always gives us two paths to take– We can either humble ourselves and with a willingness to see what is ‘true’ about the criticism have a willingness to change and aspire to be more or bow up with pride, be unwilling to change, let alone listen, and rationalize our stubbornness. Criticism happens, it’s the nature of some of our businesses, and often people make a good point that will make us better.
3. Criticism that counts is from a source we respect – 1 John 4:1
Criticism happens so when it does, consider the source. The opinions about us that count are the ones that come from the people we respect, not the ones we don’t. Even in the Church we have varying opinions on doctrine and living in Christ. Even friends and family members disagree. We all have ‘our way’ of seeing things but ‘our way’ doesn’t matter, it’s THE WAY that matters. We find our unity not in a thing but in the person of Jesus Christ. If we would all be more critical about how we personally are living in Christ instead of criticizing how others aren’t, the church might be set on fire with revival. Don’t ever let the naysayers stop you from what God has called you to do. Be obedient, “but test them all; hold on to what is good,” and be better for it. (1 thes 5:21)
4. Our response to the Critics – Luke 6:40
Criticism happens. Even at Christmas. In It’s a Wonderful Life, Potter cares only about himself. Peter Bailey tells us, Potter “hates everybody that has anything that he can’t have….He’s a sick man. Frustrated and sick. Sick in his mind, sick in his soul.” Just like all of us, Potter is a sinner. People aren’t perfect. And we do and say hateful things to each other often from deep wounded place in our souls. Our words sink to new lows even as we stand tall on a soap box. Rick Warren recently tweeted back to a caustic critic these impressive words, “Hatred never defeats hatred. It only inflames it. “Overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:21″
When criticism happens to me I’ve learned the way to get my focus off the emotional sting is to immediately begin to pray
1. for the person who criticized me (they are a sick sinner just like me and need grace and mercy and wisdom and training, just like me, because we all think ‘our way’ is the right way-teach us both THE WAY)
2. my response to them (humility and forgiveness and grace and love and insight into what is true that will make me more like Jesus).
Jesus reminds us in Luke 6:40 “The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher.” Criticism happened to the Best (Jesus) of us so it will happen to the least of us too because we are being trained to respond like Jesus.
Maybe that’s why criticism happens in the first place.
Even at Christmas.