“You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.”
― Winston Churchill
You don’t have to live that long to figure out that people will tell you their opinions even if you don’t ask for them. Your lifestyle, your decisions, and your faith are all open to speculation for those near enough to observe. From time to time, you will also receive criticism for how you live or the choices you have made.
Whenever you receive criticism, it is imperative to consider the source.
As a minister, I have received criticisms over the years. While my flesh wants to immediately argue, I discipline myself to ask this question: “What is true from their comments by which I need to learn and adjust?” Even if their tone was mean-spirited and their rationale off-based, is there anything that I can learn from their comments? Most of the times, there is.
Through any type of criticism, I remember Proverbs 29:1: “Whoever stubbornly refuses to accept criticism will suddenly be broken beyond repair.”
But with that openness, I also always consider the source as I weigh someone’s comments based upon his or her godly character.
If a godly person confronts me with words that I totally disagree with, I listen attentively. For that man or woman who strives to follow hard after Jesus and fruit is obvious in his or her life, when he or she speaks, I listen and I listen well. I take notes on the criticism that he or she graciously brings. “Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy” (Prov. 27:6).
If an ungodly person confronts me with criticism, I pray a bunch. I try and decipher what is true, and I also try to determine what is vile. I believe everyone has a right to speak, but that doesn’t mean their words have the same weight as others. If a person is constantly selfish, demeaning, angry, shallow, materialistic, gossiping, slandering, crass, or simply carnal, I question what they say and the motives with which they say it.
Your life establishes credibility for your words.
Sometimes criticism that is thrown your way honestly has nothing to do with you. You might have a target on your back because that person is angry with someone else but he or she can’t make that person suffer so you pay for it.
Talking with other ministers, I have realized that many times people will hurl insults and criticisms against a minister but takes great offense at the smallest attempt of defense on the minister’s part. I was once asked, “Why aren’t you saying anything back?”
I replied: “The only thing I could say right now would be the truth, but it would appear to be defending myself. Do you really want me to respond?”
I often wondered what would happened when asked that question if I quoted: “Do not speak to a fool, for he will scorn the wisdom of your words” (Prov. 23:9).
Ministers make mistakes, especially this one, but I wonder how many people consider Scripture when they speak to the ones who watch over their souls:
“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you” (Heb. 13:17).
“So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith” (Gal. 6:10).
I am wrong often. You are wrong often. God sends people to rebuke, correct, and teach us. And Satan also sends people to condemn, frustrate, and discourage us. When you consider the source, you might be able to determine who sent the messenger and it will help you concerning how to evaluate their comments. If you are trying to live godly, consider the source and always remember these words:
“The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will” (2 Timothy 2:24-26).