A pastor who’s a client of ours has the largest church in his city. Recently, the local paper did a major story on the church, and although it was pretty positive, when the story was posted online, he was shocked at the number of really vicious and nasty comments from numerous anonymous online posters. (Isn’t it interesting that the worst comments are always from people afraid to identify themselves?)
He asked me, “What about the critics? That’s hurtful stuff.” His wife told me how upsetting it was, and how challenging it is living in the public eye. They asked me how they should deal with criticism: “Do you just develop a thick skin and not care anymore? We don’t want to get to that place, but we have to admit that constant sniping and criticism can wear us down.”
Welcome to life in the public eye. I have a significant need to be liked myself, so I completely understand their frustration. In my case, it’s so serious that I worry that when I get to my deathbed, I’ll have plenty of people who like me, but the trade-off is that I won’t have accomplished anything important during my lifetime. Because I wasn’t willing to challenge anyone for fear of not being liked.
It’s certainly a trade-off. I don’t think you can do anything significant without making somebody upset. But when people dislike you, it’s tough to get things done. So what do you do?
In John 12, the Bible says that even after performing miracles for the people, they still didn’t believe Jesus. I mean after all, what does a guy have to do? But when you read that chapter you realize he didn’t grow a thicker skin and turn a deaf ear to his critics, and he didn’t write them off. Jesus looked at it from a higher perspective.
Jesus knew that the people were blinded by their own sin, their selfish nature, and their pride. Even when many of the religious leaders believed in him, they wouldn’t publically admit it, because as the scripture says, “They loved praise from men more than praise from God.” But from a 30,000 foot view, he realized that they weren’t a challenge to him or what he came to accomplish, but simply people in desperate need of a savior.
Wisdom is often just looking at the situation from a higher perspective. Seeing things that in the heat of the moment are tough to recognize at eye level. Even though the pain may be sharp at the moment, don’t grow a thicker skin, turn a deaf ear, or write your critics off. Rise up and take a higher view. It’s tough – there’s no question about that. But the more they snipe, the more they reveal their need for the very message you’re trying to communicate.
The dogs bark but the train keeps on rolling…