We all have them
There’s not a single person who doesn’t have one of “those people” in the their life. You know the one … the one who would ask you if that’s what you’re going to wear just before you leave to volunteer at the soup kitchen. The one who would point out the notes that you missed at the recital before adding, “but, you did your best.” We all have “those people” in our lives that never fail at having something negative to say. Critical people can be powerful people in our lives, but why do they wield such power? I mean, we try to pretend that what they say doesn’t bother us, but it’s just not true.
There are a few fundamental reasons why “those people” hold such sway in our lives:
- We’re worried about retaliation
- We’re worried that they might be right (this is the BIG one)
But here’s the thing … we’re all going to be criticized in our lives. Say it with me:
I will be criticized!
Welcome to the club, and guess who some of your fellow members are from ancient times: King David, Luke, Matthew, Mark, JESUS, Peter, Paul … the list goes on and on .. and on! You will be criticized! But you MUST NOT let it keep you from being the person who God created you to be. PLEASE, do not let the critic(s) get in the way of what God has for you!
There is a story in II Samuel that I believe is a fantastic illustration of the godly response to criticism. It’s a story involving King David and some really harsh criticism he receives as he traveling the road “out-of-town” after God replaced him as king. There is so much to the story of how David got here, and behind the unjust judgement that is being hurled at him by a man named Shimei. Shimei was convinced that David was the one responsible for the former King Saul’s death. Saul pursued David relentlessly because of the terrible fear he had of being replaced as king. Time after time David escaped, and, in fact, had opportunities to turn the tables and kill King Saul, but he didn’t. David had high respect for the fact that Saul was the king, and felt it was God’s place (and ONLY God’s) to remove Saul. Shimei, however, was obviously convinced that Saul’s death was at David’s hand. Fast forward a bit in the story … David becomes a great king, but along the way commits some major sins. He privately sleeps with one of his general’s wives and then has that general sent to the front lines of battle, where is killed. For these private sins, God promises a very public punishment. David’s son Absalom sets up a tent out in the open and sleeps with some of David’s concubines. David is forced to leave his throne, and this is where we find him on the road out-of-town.
Shimei (an old man from the house of Saul) meets David along the road and begins cursing him and pelting he and his officials with stones as they ride along. Shimei shouts:
“Get out, get out, you murderer, you scoundrel! The Lord has repaid you for all the blood you shed in the household of Saul, in whose place you have reigned. The Lord has given the kingdom into the hands of your son Absalom. You have come to ruin because you are a murderer!”
II Samuel 16:7-8 (NIV)
You should read the story to see the few other things that happen, but suffice it to say David is the recipient of violent and harsh criticism. So how does David respond? … and this is what I believe becomes the model for how we should, no matter how painful or injurious the criticism. David says:
“My son, my own flesh and blood, is trying to kill me. How much more, then, this Benjamite! Leave him alone; let him curse, for the Lord has told him to. It may be that the Lord will look upon my misery and restore to me his covenant blessing instead of his curse today.”
II Samuel 16:11b-12 (NIV)
“Leave him alone, let him curse” David says. From reading this exchange, it seems obvious that David believes God placed these curses on Shimei’s lips for him to hear. He is not offended by what is not true, He submits to a rightful rebuking for sins other than the specific one that Shimei shouts. David humbles himself and prays for restoration with God.
This might seem like a terribly weak response. David had every right to shout truth back at Shimei. Isn’t that our instinct when we receive harsh and unfair criticism. Isn’t our desire for retaliation in that moment of anger and injure? So, if you’re not convinced, how about another (far worse) story of unjust criticism. Consider with me for a minute the story of Jesus hanging on the cross and his response to the harsh insults that were being thrown at Him.
When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.
I Peter 2:23 (NIV)
Jesus did not retaliate, and instead submitted to the Father, trusting Him to judge rightly. I think that pretty much ends the sentence on whether we should respond as David did.
Don’t be a critic yourself (and we are all guilty of this in our past). And submit to the God who judges justly as you receive and respond to criticism … no matter how harsh. May our coming and going speak the words of this closing verse…
Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky
Philippians 2:14-15 (NIV)