Earlier this week, I posted some lessons I’ve learned when it comes to dealing with criticism and other people’s opinions. Here are some more things that I’ve found useful over the years when I start worrying about what others think of me.
- I must remind myself that one bad trait or besetting sin doesn’t make me a bad Christian. Other people sometimes focus on my visible flaws, but they can’t see the totality of who I am. I may, on the one hand, procrastinate. But I also give generously to charity. There are some things I don’t do well, but there are other things I’m good at.
- I need to ask myself, “If I do make a fool of myself, what’s the worst that can happen? If this group hates my speech tonight, so what?” They can’t kill me and eat my corpse. They can’t imprison me in the Tower of London. Often my fear is out of proportion to the situation’s actual stakes.
- I need to remind myself that it’s not anyone else’s job to judge my intrinsic worth. If they’re doing that, they’re the ones out of bounds. Paul wrote in Romans 14:4: “Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and stand he will, for the Lord is able to make him stand” (NASB). God will enable me to stand, to persevere, to triumph, regardless of my shortcomings or other people’s opinions about me. My worth is more the result of who God is than of who I am.
- I must recognize that God doesn’t measure success the way I do. He seems to have one standard: my faithfulness. He’s more concerned about my heart, my obedience and willingness, than about my specific performance. In God’s eyes, it’s better to try and fail than to let fear keep me from even attempting anything. If my church only has 50 people present on Sunday and another preacher’s church has 5,000, what is that to me? To the best of my ability, I’m being faithful to the task Jesus assigned me. He didn’t tell me to build a church of 5,000; he told me to be faithful to the church he gave me.
- I need to remember that others’ judgments–good or bad–always are unreliable. Maybe I wrote an awful newspaper column. Some of those who read it will assume I’m a sheer idiot. They don’t know I was up half the night with the stomach flu, or that the copy desk arbitrarily cut my out main point. So I shouldn’t take their opinions too seriously. When my efforts fall short of the mark, often there’s a valid reason. God sees the big picture.
- Basically, I need to quit living my life in other people’s heads. Humans are fickle. They idolize Britney Spears one week and jeer her the next. By the same token, people often project their own “issues” onto me. As a pastor, I’ve dealt with certain folks who opposed anything I suggested, and criticized any action I took. I’ve learned that usually they’re not really opposing me at all. They had an overbearing dad, perhaps, and now resent any man who holds a position of authority. They hate their boss at work, but can’t fight him–so they fight me instead. Often, it’s not really about me.
- I need to study the Bible and secular history. What they tell me is that the greatest men and women who’ve ever lived–from Moses to Jesus to Abraham Lincoln to Mother Teresa–were harshly condemned by idiots and loudmouths. I’m not in the same league as those folks, but Lord knows if they drew fire, I can’t reasonably expect to fare any better. That I’m criticized doesn’t automatically mean that I’m wrong.
- I need to weigh the tone of the criticisms directed at me. Often the tone lets me know where the opinion originated. The Holy Spirit convicts us, but he never condemns us. The Spirit shows us how we messed up, but in a constructive way, with the goal of helping us do better the next time. It’s our enemy who belittles and accuses. Paul wrote in Romans 8:1-2: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death” (NASB). If some other human is trying to make me feel too bad about my performance, I have a pretty good idea who sent him to see me.
- I must place my confidence in the Lord, not in myself. In my own power, I can’t do very many things very well. But I can do all things through Christ.
- Finally–and I saved the best for last–I need to remind myself about 20 times a day that God’s opinion is the only one that matters. He’s the ultimate judge, and he’s already said I’m fine. Consider this from Romans 8: “If God is for us, who is against us? . . . Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns?” (NASB).
Here are a few additional scriptures worth noting:
- Psalm 27:1-3
- Psalm 56:3-9
- 1 Corinthians 2:15