Saturday, April 24, 2010

A Great Problem of People

One of the great problems of people in general is that we do not take criticism well. When we are criticized, we point out how the other person:

a)isn't being loving.
b)doesn't know how I feel.
c)doesn't care how I feel.
d)has problems of their own that they ought to deal with.
e)focus just on one point but miss all the good
f)doesn't have the right to talk anyway.
g)hasn't been where I've been.
h)doesn't know the day I've had.

and many others (feel free to add to them in the comments if there are any you find you hear. . . or end up using yourself).

This blog has been up for almost three years, over 500 posts, and in many ways, it's focus has been on the giving and taking of criticism. Hence the name "Gadfly". Socrates referred to himself as a Gadfly buzzing around people's ears, asking questions they didn't like, questions that made them examine their thoughts, actions, and perspectives again. Never a popular thing.

When we are confronted with criticism, of people pointing out what we have done wrong, we wish to duck and dive. We wish to tar the person who speaks. We wish to say, "this doesn't apply to me." Any pastor who has done his job and preached a sermon with law knows this. We do need to remember this ourselves.

Gentlemen in the office - take your criticism. Listen to it. If it doesn't make sense, find out how it makes sense. Sometimes the criticism is. . . off base, or wants you to do that which is theologically wrong. Then teach in love. Sometimes the criticism is on target. Then repent yourself.

There is much pride amongst Lutheran pastors (oh, have I gotten the pride charged lobbed at me. . . taking a nickname of Socrates, for shame! Well, yes, I can be proud, I can be arrogant, I can be stubborn. . . but is what I have spoken correct?), and sometimes we think we puff ourselves up to levels of perfection that are false. It doesn't need to be, we sin, we make mistakes - repent and strive to do better.

Just as a thought exercise. When was the last time you apologized for something you did to someone from your Church? Can you remember it? Ironically, quite often the best way to deal with the person who is hostile is to apologize for what you have done wrong. . . it undercuts their anger and it shows that you have been listening and thinking to what they have said (or if you find them and apologize for something before they even get a chance to yell at you, oh my, that works wonders).

Be kind, show love. Confess your own sin, for it is there, and not in the abstract, but in specific ways that you know (and which the people you have sinned against may know as well). Abandon your excuses about the other person, abandon your rationales about how you are doing all things for God -- one doesn't get to be a jerk for God (cause man, if you could, I'd be the first in line). Act in love. . .and humility.

And remember - the Latin word for "Confessional Lutheran" is not "rectum".

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