Coping with Criticism

miami_package_feelthehealdetox“To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.” (Aristotle)

“You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.” (Winston Churchill)

If you’re not encountering criticism, you’re not building relationships, because relationships should involve value-driven discussions and daily living, which will cause friction among individuals. Of course, the friction should be handled in God-honoring ways. We should respect one another even when we disagree, but how often do we think respecting each other is refusing to disagree? How God-honoring are we when we’re on the receiving end of the criticism? Do we take it personally and have difficulty as we think someone no longer likes us, or do we callously respond as if we don’t care because we’re going to be who we are regardless of what anyone says or thinks of us?

What do you learn from the following verses?

Bear with each other, and forgive each other. If someone does wrong to you, forgive that person because the Lord forgave you. (Colossians 3:13)

Brothers and sisters, if someone in your group does something wrong, you who are spiritual should go to that person and gently help make him right again. But be careful, because you might be tempted to sin, too. (Galatians 6:1)

In everything you say and do, remember that you will be judged by the law that makes people free. So you must show mercy to others, or God will not show mercy to you when he judges you. But the person who shows mercy can stand without fear at the judgment. (James 2:12-13)

I give you a new command: Love each other. You must love each other as I have loved you. All people will know that you are my followers if you love each other. (John 13:34-35)

Accept into your group someone who is weak in faith, and do not argue about opinions. (Romans 14:1)

God certainly gave his children guidelines for criticizing others. We must be loving, gentle, and merciful. We are not excused from criticism; we are simply directed to criticize within God’s standards with his provision. We are to accept and respond to criticism in the same way—within God’s standards—even when people criticizing us are not adhering to the same standards. Just because another Christ-follower is bending God’s rules does not make it okay for us to bend God’s rules, thus, fighting fire with fire.

We cope with criticism with the same standards by which we’re to give criticism.

  • Be loving—by God’s standards.
  • Be gentle—by God’s standards.
  • Be merciful—by God’s standards.
  • Be forgiving—by God’s standards.

Responding to criticism by God’s standards is not the same as hiding feelings. It’s setting aside feelings for truth. God gave us feelings to enhance experiences not to distort the truth of a situation. Let God reveal the truth of a situation. You don’t need to know the person’s motives. You don’t need to know how the person will respond. All you need to know is…God. God is truth, and when you invite and trust him to guide, your motives will become God-driven and your responses will become God-guided. You will cope with criticism with God and for God. He is at the center of your life and your relationships, including criticism. Let him lead from the center.

Response Time Matters

miami_package_feelthehealdetoxGod’s family is certainly not exempt from hurt, including the hurts that come from within. People in churches are just as vulnerable to unjustly criticize, gossip, neglect, and offend one another as anyone else. It’s true that God sets us apart to reflect his image to the world, but to believe Christ-followers are perfect representations of Jesus will, to say the least, lead to disappointment. What (should) set Christ-followers apart from the world is how they deal with one another to heal the hurt. Will they do the hard work it takes to unite or will they further divide into quarreling, backbiting, judgmental factions? Which will you choose? This is the first post in Healing the Hurt, a 10-post series to help hurting communities cope in biblical ways.

Response time matters in emergencies. It also matters in non-emergencies, because the time it takes you to get through a grocery line, wait in traffic, or fix a meal impacts other plans and responsibilities you have. Sometimes a fast response is essential. Sometimes, to give or expect an immediate response is premature, invasive, and inconvenient.

It’s important to invite God to determine the best response time when you’re dealing with issues among your church family. Let God tell you when and how to respond instead of your default comfort settings becoming the driving force. You might prefer to let things simmer for a while and see what the impact will be before addressing the issue, but carefully listen to God’s promptings. He might agree with you, but it’s also possible that he knows if you approach a particular person right away, the behind-the-scenes whispers will be quieted and the eventual roar will be eliminated with the early action. On the other hand, you might prefer to jump in and solve issues right away, and while that might be the best option at times, God will also encourage you to wait at times, because he knows approaching the hot fire will cause the flames to burn higher and hotter, making it more visible and dangerous for those otherwise unaffected.

Responding isn’t about your preference or comfort. God knows what’s best. Responding in his time is what matters, because he knows everyone involved, including yourself, much better than you do. Response time matters because people matter. Response time matters because your relationship with God matters.

Listen to Jesus’ instructions to his disciples—and us—about responding to others. Be sensitive to his leading and trust him. God knows best.

If the people in a certain place refuse to welcome you or listen to you, leave that place. Shake its dust off your feet as a warning to them. (Mark 6:11)

But I say to you who are listening, love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you.  Show mercy, just as your Father shows mercy. (Luke 6:27, 36)

Must Respect Be Earned?

respect-1I’ve heard it often recently:

He’ll have to earn my respect.

I refuse to respect someone who does that.

Just because someone’s in a certain position doesn’t mean I have to respect him or her.

I get it. It’s difficult to respect someone who is behaving badly, refuses to show respect to you or someone else, or seems to have severe character flaws.

But…

if we wait until people prove they deserve respect before we extend respect will we ever have respect for anyone? Who actually deserves respect (if we’re fully aware of everyone’s motives, thoughts, and attitudes)? On what standards do we base our respect? Don’t we all somewhat use our own standards? What’s important for one person to display is low on the priority list for someone else. One person sees assertiveness and outspokenness as important, while another sees patience and humility as essential. When we pit one quality or behavior against another, we fail to see the benefits something we personally don’t respect might have in specific situations. Instead of pitting qualities against each other, we might be better off seeing them on a sliding continuum. Then, the most important quality is the ability to discern where to be on that sliding continuum in different situations.

We don’t have to admire and fully support someone to extend respect to him or her as a human being. Respect isn’t unconditional acceptance. Respect is common decency. Respect isn’t supporting actions and attitudes that oppose our own beliefs. Respect is stepping outside a situation briefly enough to see that we all have flaws, and we can communicate in spite of them. Respect isn’t letting the bad stuff slide by unchecked. Respect is knowing how to approach people in productive conflict.

Expectations Slap Me In the Face

2364b98bc293049f75580f87ff08b495Sometimes, expectations feel like a slap in the face. It might be someone else’s expectations of me, or it can be my expectations of others (or myself). Expectations can clear the path to discover great things and accept adventures, but they can also set us up for disappointment and unnecessary conflict.

I recently approach the exit door as I left a large department store. The doors were glass and very wide, letting in a lot of light and giving the appearance of automatic doors that would sense I was approaching.

My expectations were wrong. No door opened for me. I nearly ran straight into the glass before realizing I needed to put my hands in front of me and actually do something to get to where I was going.

Our expectations can put us on autopilot, forging forward, expecting a specific result, when the result is, in part, dependent on us and our actions, not just our assumptions and expectations.

We’re better off keeping our expectations in check, filtering them through truth and reality, asking God for strength to face and handle the next thing with grace and humility. Even when we fact check with Him, we won’t always understand and foresee what’s coming, but we won’t be quite as surprised either. After all, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).

Past, Present, and Future, All in One View

©2014 PurePurpose.org
©2014 PurePurpose.org

I almost missed the experience the first time I was in Israel. Because I was “misplaced” one day, I savored my walks along the beautiful promenade every remaining day of the trip. I looked forward to enjoying the area, view, and experience again.

A friend and I took a “test walk” late one afternoon to make sure I remembered the route. We planned to spend time at the promenade a couple days later on Shabbat, reading Scriptures together. (I’ll share that experience over the next several days.)

We walked through the trees to a wide, beautiful view.

All in one view: the Old City, Temple Mount, Dome of the Rock, and Mount of Olives (and much more). As I stared at the details of what I saw, I considered of the scope of it all.

Past, present, and future.

I was looking at history. Abraham’s faith was tested here. David bought a threshing floor. His son, Solomon, built the temple. Jeremiah warned God’s people. The walls of the city and temple were destroyed as the Jews in Judea were taken into Babylonian captivity. Nehemiah and Ezra led the temple rebuilding process. Jesus taught, healed, confronted, prayed, and walked to His death. After His resurrection, He ascended to heaven from the Mount of Olives. His disciples continued His work.

I was looking at the present. Disciples are still doing His work. There is still conflict, as there has been throughout history. People struggle to agree who has control over what piece of land and who can pray where. Some are faithful in their pursuit of God’s will. Some are driven by pride. Others jump into the debate even if they don’t have much personal investment because it’s difficult to live life here without taking a stand. Without knowing each individual involved, it can be difficult to identify who has which motive. Some struggle to have peace by refusing conflict. Some choose conflict without regard for peace. Many seek peace but know conflict is the required sacrifice to reach it.

I was looking at the future. No political party is going to settle what happens on this land. No international governing body will have the last say. No group of faith, no matter what their beliefs, will have the power or authority to make the future happen. That role belongs to one Person: Jesus. Just because He has the last say doesn’t mean we can disengage and passively wait. We have responsibility in the present.

We look at history to learn and grow.

We look at the future for hope and assurance.

We live in the present with faith and obedience, one step at a time on the land He has placed us on.

 

Problems with Media

351473-mediaTV-1332052664-192-640x480This is not a post to slam media coverage. From different conversations with people, I think most see the shortcomings of media coverage. Media will cover what people will watch. Even if you don’t personally watch the gloom and doom stories, someone does. Plenty of someones must create the demand. Otherwise, media outlets wouldn’t highlight them. We all also know media is slanted. Honestly, I don’t know how it can’t be. There is no way we can completely portray reality without running it through a filter. The camera lens gives limited perspective. The captions give limited perspective. The news reporter gives limited perspective. Add the filters of the producers, time allotments, editing, and other factors, and it becomes clear why reality gets skewed. Of course, some media outlets seem to represent reality a bit better than others, or at least, we want to believe they do. Perhaps we’ve just chosen the perspective that most matches our own perspective. Perhaps we’ve just become accustomed to specific perspectives, so we’re more accepting and less shocked or disgruntled.

We complain about the filters the skew what the media presents, but we can’t do a lot about that…unless you decide to go on a personal mission to rework the entire media empire. (And spewing your opinions on Facebook doesn’t qualify.) But there’s something we can all do:

Pay attention to your own filters.

We need to filter what we’re taking in instead of just complaining about what others offer us. I was reminded of the importance of filters when in Israel. Family and friends of our group were watching news reports for any updates on happenings in Israel. With the violent fighting throughout the summer, many were concerned for our safety. I understood their concern, but when you travel much and see the chasm between what fits in the small frame of a television and what is happening around you, the concern lessens. Incidents were usually isolated enough that we weren’t aware of anything going on; in fact, most people in Israel probably weren’t. However, people watching the news back home might see an extended report of an isolated event. Which is exactly what happened.

Several women got texts asking how we were and if we were close to the fighting. Fighting? What fighting? Everything around us seemed calm. We heard and saw no commotion. We didn’t hear any more sirens than we’d expect on a normal day in any city–abroad or in the U.S. Several of us looked online to watch the news report to see what others were seeing. The video lasted several minutes. The first 20-30 seconds included the actual scuffle, which involved a few people yelling and pushing each other. No guns, no harmful violence. Yes, it could have escalated to that level, but it didn’t. The rest of the segment included two videos of more violent footage involving many more people. At the bottom of the screen, we noticed small words–“file footage”–with one date that was the height of the summer conflict and one that was an earlier date that originally escalated the conflict. File footage means just what it sounds: video footage (or photographs or an interview, whatever the format) that is pulled from a file. It is related to the current footage, but it’s not current.

Why would a media outlet include something that ignites emotion, conflict, and controversy? That’s not my focus of this post. Instead, let’s ask,

How carefully do I filter what I’m watching and listening?

What assumptions do I bring with me?

What snap judgments do I make?

What do I do, either with my internal reaction or as I share with others, to ignite emotion, conflict, and controversy?

Why should I blame others when I’m not willing to take responsibility for my own response?

Maybe you refuse to watch the news because you’re trying to avoid dealing with these kinds of issues, you’re not off the hook. You need to filter any information coming in. You have assumptions that you need to be aware of and make snap judgments at times. You let yourself respond in ways that aren’t truth-seeking, and you spread that to others. You share inflammatory things on social media, spew around your table, or pass along false or partial information. We all do from time to time, more than we want to admit.

It’s our responsibility, each one of us, to seek truth. Use God’s truth as your filter. Respond with truth. You can’t control all media, but you can be an example in your sphere of influence.

 

Nosy Neighbors?

neighborsWe moved to a tiny town when our oldest daughter was a year old. Before the days of widespread cell phones, we pulled into town, and my husband asked to use a neighbor’s phone to call the water superintendent. A woman answered the phone and told Tim the water superintendent wasn’t available. “Well, he said to call as soon as we arrived in town. We really need to have our water turned on.”

She replied, “Oh, you’re the new family! He’s on his way. Someone saw you drive into town and called us!”

A few years later, I arrived home after a grocery shopping trip and tried to hurriedly unload the groceries so the girls weren’t unsupervised for long. My final load was light, and I jumped onto the front steps from the side as I’d often done. But this time I missed the steps all together and rolled onto the grass. Unharmed, I jumped up and ran into the house in time to hear the phone ring. “Hello?”

“Susan? Are you okay? I saw you fall off the steps!” Theresa exclaimed into the phone.

Theresa and her husband, John, lived across the empty lot, so they were nearly a block away, but they seemed to notice a lot. John yelled at my husband after he saw me mowing while pregnant. (I like to mow, and I’m a bit stubborn. My husband’s reply? “John, I’d like to see you try to stop her!”) John and Theresa might have noticed a lot, but we had no doubt they cared for us. John regularly lent Tim tools and gave him suggestions of how to fix something. Theresa shared beautiful flowers. And they picked up and later delivered the birthday cake Tim ordered when I was overdue with our second daughter. (It did the trick, too. I went into labor later that evening!)

We live in a society in which we pull into our garages and go into our houses without ever seeing our neighbors. We often live away from family and don’t have people close enough to call and ask for a quick babysitter. We would rather drive several miles to pick up a couple eggs or flour instead of knocking on a neighbor’s door to ask for help. We rarely live with extended family, and our relief about that is another telltale sign that we see some of those deep connections a more negative than positive. We want our own space and individual options and control. We build houses large enough for each person to have personal bedrooms and, often, bathrooms.

How much space do we need and at what cost?

Getting to know neighbors is risky. You might be rejected. You might need to deal with conflict. You might have to sacrifice your time or resources to help. But the reverse is true, too. You might be accepted and find a place to belong. You might make significant friendships. You might benefit from sharing time and resources with others.

We who are strong in faith should help the weak with their weaknesses, and not please only ourselves. Let each of us please our neighbors for their good, to help them be stronger in faith. Romans 15:1-2

You have a choice to make. Listen to cultural messages and believe you can do it all on your own, that taking control and making your own decisions is easier and more desirable than involving others. Or listen to God’s plan for doing life in intentional relationships.

Which will you choose?

Don’t forget your friend or your parent’s friend. Don’t always go to your family for help when trouble comes. A neighbor close by is better than a family far away. Proverbs 27:10