Criticism came calling at my house.
I slammed the door in his face!
Television celebrity Garry Moore reportedly had a standard response to criticism. Whenever he received a particularly nasty letter, he would return it with a note: "The enclosed letter arrived on my desk a few days ago. I am sending it to you in the belief that as a responsible citizen you should know that some idiot is sending out letters over your signature."
Most of us love that approach – and wish we had the nerve to do something similar. Typically, we despise criticism and try to discourage it. That’s what I’ve done for years. When criticism came calling, I tried to slam the door. Oh, I tried to do it politely, but a cool edge to my voice, a terse reply, whatever socially acceptable tool I could find, I used to turn Criticism away. My hope was that he would never return.
But what if criticism is the voice of God? What if God wants to tell me something through criticism from others but I slam my heart shut? I’m indebted to church consultant Jerrie Barber for starting the process of prying that door open a bit for me (http://www.barberclippings.com). The door still isn’t wide open, but there is a tiny opening now.
Jerrie, like many people, prays the words of Psalm 139:23-24: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” How would you expect God to answer that prayer? Jerrie says that he’s relieved that he hasn’t been embarrassed by God’s booming voice echoing through the neighborhood with a list of Jerrie’s offensive ways. That’s not how God shows us what we need to change.
So, how does he? What if he uses the criticism from others? If we begin to see that criticism as coaching from God, we develop a very different new attitude toward it. And, I think that’s what God wants. There are several Scriptures that make that point, particularly in Proverbs. Consider just this one: “Rebuke a wise man and he will love you. Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still” (Proverbs 9:8-9)
Hmm, a wise man loves those who rebuke him. Perhaps next time Criticism comes calling I should be wise enough to invite him in.