Your words bounce off me and back onto you!
Or how about:
Sticks and stones may break my bones,
But names will never hurt me!
A current season of attack and unwarranted criticism left me in a bit of a spin. I fluctuate from the “dog licking it’s wounds” in self pity to a Boanerges type of righteous indignation wanting to call down fire upon the instigators.
Of course, either response is a defensive posture that assumes my complete innocence. The natural ‘fight or flight‘ inclination that anyone can identify with, will easily assert itself.
At the same time I have reflected on the attacks that Jesus and countless other leaders experienced throughout history. It has been an opportunity to remind myself of the gospel, namely that Christ is the sole surety of my acceptance and approval by God. My performance is not the plumb line of righteousness and neither is receiving the accolades of those I lead. To look anywhere, besides the cross and empty tomb, for a source of hope and affirmation, will result in despair.
It is providential that Pastor C. J. Mahaney has been discussing a series on criticism in pastoral ministry. His counsel has been wise and provided a healing word to me with each article. One of the main points he has stressed is criticism can be used of God as a sanctifying grace. That is enormously hard to swallow – but mediates a genuine experience of peace once my pride is slaughtered and I receive his advice.
Brother, if any man thinks ill of you, do not be angry with him; for you are worse than he thinks you to be. If he charges you falsely on some point, yet be satisfied, for if he knew you better he might change the accusation, and you would be no gainer by the correction. If you have your moral portrait painted, and it is ugly, be satisfied; for it only needs a few blacker touches, and it would be still nearer the truth.
~ “David Dancing before the Ark because of His Election,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 35.
How does this help handle the ‘kicks in the guts‘? Well, it doesn’t stop them! But, it does have an earthy tone that, protects against not receiving any value or benefit from the experience. If someone feeds you chicken, you eat (and enjoy!) the meat and spit out the bones. If someone launches a tirade against you, cop it on the chin as something under the providence of God that, might, just might, have a morsel of truth worth taking on board and helping you grow. You cannot hope to escape criticism. But you can, as Mahaney notes, use it:
“even if their correction is severe, even if their hearts don’t seem humble and kind, and even if their content is largely inaccurate. I can always learn from criticism one simple lesson: I am worse than they think”