Engaging Culture

The Need to Be Liked

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…

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  1. Phil you just have no idea what you're talking about! :} (please note the smiley face, just joking)

    It is a good point.  How do you tell honest criticism from just plain nasty?  A good indicator is that the posts are anonymous.  If I have a problem with someone I tell them, they know where it's coming from.  If it's a legitimite criticism then I should not feel ashamed to put my name on it.  I had posted on a forum and began getting some anonynos snipes.  I posted again and advised that if you don't have the fortitude to identifiy yourself then I don't feel obligated to respond to your comment.

    Truth will always stand up to scruitny.  You should never be ashamed to tell the truth.

  2. Well, Phil, you did it again!  A very timely article!  

    You wouldn't believe the names I have been called in just the past week!  I wasn't just shocked and hurt but stunned that people had no problem calling people they don't know such names.  Wow…

    Anyway, thank you for writing this post.

  3. Just thinking about how everyone – at least it seems in America, is negative, critical and cynical. Stone throwing a favorite sport even among Christians. The antidote to criticism  would be thankfulness – and we have so much more to be thankful for than most – but on the other hand the pervasive overcast sky of cynicism is a result of lack of trust or faith in institutions that have become self serving or corrupt.

    A few favorite quotes:

    "Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail." – Ralph Waldo Emerson

      you can always tell a pioneer by the arrows in his back …

  4. Unfortunately, most people can't handle criticism, however all us can dish it… We the best and worst criticism comes from our family, and I'm sure that is what hurt this pastor and his wife the most. It's the best because they really know who we are and know our weaknesses, and that is what needs to be exposed in order to get better. They are the worst because we don't know who to give it tactfully.

    I made a comment on April 1 about Delirious' new they had released that day. My title, not so tactful, "Great Album, April Fools". However I went on to talk about how wonderful their first few albums were, and the great music that they put out then. I then mentioned that they last few albums have not been that great, and maybe it was time to take a break and reinvent themselves.

    The end result, 3 out of 44 found the review useful. I got more of a response than anyone, It was a negative response. Then, four mounths later they announce that they were calling it quits. Now, I sincerly hope I had nothing to do with, and I'm sure my one comment had very little if anything to do with their decision. However my point with them was, if your doing the same thing over and over and the results aren't changing, it's time to do something different. What's the old saying, "Your just beating a dead horse."

    As believers we don't want the criticism or the correction, but that is what the Lord himself does at times. As human beings, we are brought up in a fashion that when we are children whatever we do, we want to please our mother, father, & family. So when we don't live up to expectations we fell as though we have failed, and that is ingrained into us till be die… 



  5. Yes!!! I have often been in the same situation. When you challenge people's status quo, they often fight back irrationally because they are afraid of change or they consider it an affront to some personal agenda. I love the idea of taking a higher perspective. I will probably overreact at times (I certainly am no Jesus!), but I will remember your thoughts. After all, if people can "dislike Jesus", who am I to think I would be different? Sometimes God does give us messages to communicate that will attract criticism. 

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