I am not a sound sleeper. Maybe you, are like me in that when you wake up in the middle of the night it is often with a negative thought. 2:00 a.m., an idea that didn’t work. 2:45, an improvement in a process I can’t seem to make. The 4:00 a.m. wake up call is from a comment that someone made weeks ago continuously reverberates in my brain.
If we want to be effective in any venue of life, there are two things we must do: 1) deal with people, and 2) get some sleep.
This week I want to write about three people who keep me up at night and how the Bible informs us to deal with them. The three that interrupt my sleep most often are:
2) The cynic
3) The whiner
Let’s talk first about the critic.
Criticism is not necessarily a bad thing. As a matter of fact, I would say that we need to invite some critics into our lives. Proverbs 13:18 says, “Poverty and disgrace come to him who ignores instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is honored.” Think about it, the Bible’s Book of Proverbs is regarded as inspired wisdom from God, and it is. However, if you take time to read it, you will realize, it is a very critical observation of people and life.
If you hear only praise, you have no friends. We all need a few wise sages, invited critics, who are not there to tear us down, but to teach us truth, even when it hurts.
Consider every critique. Over the years there have been some people who have said some mean things to me and about me. It is interesting how the human mind has the capacity to remember every one.
What they said hurt, but it also helped! Helped? How can someone bent on tearing you down in criticism be a help? As difficult as it may be, you must somehow set aside their attempt to damage you, discern it, and discard it. But listen to what they say. There is something in their criticism that presents an opportunity to learn.
You may find that you do not deserve their criticism, but you may have neglected to do something wise that invited it. There is wisdom in learning how to navigate that path so you don’t repeat the same mistake. Listening to the boo birds sing their song may not be pleasant, but it can be strategic. I have found that even my critics that carry the most malice, to some degree, they also offer a degree of truth. The malicious critic’s heart and tactics are all wrong, but their words may indeed expose that there is something in me that needs redeemed. There may have been something I did to cause damage by going too fast, pushing too hard, or perhaps by neglecting the relational equity necessary for healthy leadership.
I have learned some great lessons in leadership by taking notes from my critics and then taking them to the Lord. Criticism is painfully humiliating. The critics goal is to shamefully humble you before them. But the demeanor of our soul is to be righteously humble before the Lord. At the very least the critic reminds me, I need the Lord. The Lord can work wonders with a damaged, criticized heart that is humble.
Paul says it like this in the opening verses of Philippians 2, “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus . . .”
Maturity demands that we apply the mind of Christ even to our criticism. The phrase, “If there is any . . .” gives us hope that even in the most negative statements there may be something salvageable.
Consider the critic. Who are they? What are they up to? I said that you need invited critics in your life. But how can you tell the difference between the critic who wants to help you and the one who wants to hurt you? One word. Look for LOVE.
I will have a hard time listening to you and you will have a hard time listening to me if there is a lack of love. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:1-8:
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful.”
Critics who lack love are clangers. They are irritating noise.
But be careful, all of us need to heed this. Sometimes you are the critic. You think you can speak truth into a situation. You think you see danger lurking around the corner. You believe you have a God inspired idea that could bring an amazing amount of efficiency to the process. You think you have a better idea. Maybe so, but if you don’t have love you are just a clanger.
People who lack love will criticize you for several reasons. They may resent your success. They may be insecure. Sometimes your critics are trying to inflate themselves by deflating you.
Your critic may be deflecting a glaring lack in their own life by trying to turn all of the negative attention toward you. Sadly, for some, negativity is their native tongue.
Whatever the reason, ask God to help you discern the person. We need the Spirit’s help to consider the source. What they may be saying about you really says a lot about them.
When this is the case, I have to remind myself. I don’t want to be where they are. In this case it is not wise to fight fire with fire. Rather, douse it with love.
Love causes us to seek a place of sympathy. The Headmaster of Christian Heritage School in Dalton, GA, Gerald Porter, says, “Get behind their eyes.” There is a great deal of wisdom in that statement.
Getting behind their eyes will help you do what Proverbs 15:1-2 says, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly.”
Getting behind their eyes will also help you with Proverbs 26:20 which says, “For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases.”
Responding to your critics with love will help remove a log from the fire. Yet, one of the reasons we lay awake at night contemplating the statements of the critic is because we are looking to fire back a rebuttal. Do we really need more fire? The right response is one born out of love.
Sometimes, you need to foster a tone of thanks, “Thank you for sharing your concerns with me. I’ll think about it.”
Sometimes you need to use a word of sympathy, “I’m sorry you feel that way.” Whatever you say, saying it with love will go a long way.
The Bible gives us great guidance to consider about the critic. We may never quiet him or her, but we must somehow get some sleep. Allow these parting thoughts gleaned from the counsel of Scripture to ease your mind. When it comes to criticism:
It isn’t all true.
It isn’t all about you.
Consider the source.
Salvage what you can.
Walk in wisdom.
Get some sleep!