[Jesus said,] "Stop judging others, and you will not be judged. For others will treat you as you treat them. Whatever measure you use in judging others, it will be used to measure how you are judged. And why worry about a speck in your friend's eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying, 'Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,' when you can't see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log from your own eye; then perhaps you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend's eye" (Matthew 7:1-5 NLT Ed. 1).
I'm not talking about breakfast cereal. This was the sizzling sound of anger behind the email sent to me. This email systematically, piece-by-piece, ripped everything thing I had done in a WJD! devotional from John. Rather than simply unsubscribing, this person decided I needed a strong reprimand about my handling of Scripture and pretty much everything else in the devotional. So bit-by-bit, detail-by-detail, pretty much everything was shredded apart by clearly punctuated criticism.
My first reaction was to respond and defend what I had done in that morning's devotional. Then I read the devotional again. That's when my anger flared! I really wanted to respond ... piece-by-piece ... detail-by-detail ... line-by-line, and defend what I had written and explain why I had done so.
Right now, however, I am held accountable by a friend for what I write and how I respond in emails. Knowing he is going to ask me how I have been handling my anger, frustration, and hurt when responding to emails, I waited. In fact, I did more than wait. I went out and weeded my flowerbeds. This was a job I had been putting off, it needed doing, and it would allow me to exert a lot of energy and give me time to think.
So I weeded ... and sweated ... and thought ... and prayed.
None of us likes criticism. We want to defend ourselves. We want our efforts to be appreciated. We want to be valued. However, it didn't take me very many weeds before I remembered something a friend said a long time ago. "Behind all criticism, there is nearly always a piece of truth we need to hear. Someone wanting to grow in the Lord is not going to respond defensively — and surely not divisively. Instead, that truth-seeker will take that small piece of truth, and like an oyster, use that piece of grit and forge a pearl."
If I am honest, there is a part of me that still wants to set the record straight and defend everything done with the devotional thoughts that were so criticized that day. But, my response would ultimately turn out to be my criticism of the person who criticized me.
What good would that accomplish?
What blessing would that bring?
What changes in my character would that forge?
No, there are enough weeds in my own life that need to be pulled before I go criticizing anyone else. There are lessons to be learned and pearls to be formed out each little gritty piece of truth. It's lumber time in Phil's Warehouse: I've got some logs to get rid of before I start removing anyone else's sawdust!
So what about you? How do you respond to criticism? What keeps you from nuking someone else in an email or ripping back at them in conversation when you are criticized?
What Bible verses or principles do you use to stay on track when you are unfairly criticized?
I'd like to hear from you on my blog! (Check out the following URL http://blog.heartlight.org/phil/2006/07/criticized.html).
I think we all could benefit from being a little slower to defend ourselves and a little quicker to weed our garden. How about you?