as i’ve shared before here on the blog, since starting the church over the last year or so, i’ve fought a consistently and surprisingly difficult battle with self doubt and criticism from others. sadly, it seems to just come with the territory of pastoring and particularly, it seems, church planting. in a post back in february, i shared about this struggle, saying the following:
much to my surprise, over the last half a year, i’ve fought a very tough battle with intense self doubt and bad case of trampled ego. i’ve always been the type to disallow the actions or words or critiques of others to shape my inner self, but taking the lead in a church planting project has revealed a new layer of emotions and personal battles. what you were certain of a day ago is now fodder for intense personal scrutiny and doubt.
[*editorial note: when you start quoting yourself, you know you’re just one step away from referring to yourself in third person… stay classy, ryan!]
indeed, the battle has continued. it comes in waves, really. some days, i feel on top of the world and others, i’m honestly ready to quit and resume some sense of normalcy for myself and my family. i truly, deeply love it, but the battles never cease.
with that said, it’s always cool to hear or read something that directly speaks to your current head space. today, that was a post on don miller’s blog. miller is one of my favorite authors and consistently has great things to say. in his post today, a leader loves their enemies, he explored the idea of the opportunity to show kindness in the face of criticsim. for whatever reason, we live in a church culture where people feel like it’s ok to hurl unbridled criticism at pastors, so reading a post like this is deeply encouraging—especially for the space i’ve been in the last couple weeks.
so, i thought i would repost it. you can check it out on his blog by clicking here or you can read it here in its entirety (with his photos and videos included).
About every twentieth comment on this blog, somebody says something sharp or harsh. Often it’s insulting to me, personally. And I’d be lying if I said it didn’t bother me. I do go through all the comments and manually approve them. I do this about three or four times each day. I’d say I let 95% of the comments go through. The only comments I report to spam are comments that are mean spirited. When comments get mean spirited, people just stop visiting the blog, so I pull those out.
That said, I encounter a lot of comments that are directed at me, personally, and can get quite insulting. A year or more ago, these bothered me a lot more than they do now. Sometimes I’d spend ten minutes or more feeling frustrated or even angry. But about two months ago, I realized something that changed my attitude all together. I realized many of the leaders who changed the world learned to love their enemies. Our greatest example, of course, is Christ. And Tolstoy learned from Christ and then Ghandi and Martin Luther King and so on. If a leader doesn’t learn to love his critics, his critics will destroy him. Or really, the leader will destroy himself through his built-up bitterness. So now, when I get criticized, I literally process the criticism as a blessing. I feel like it’s God’s way of giving me a little education, a little practice at being like Christ, like Ghandi or King. And believe me, loving your enemy takes practice.
People who lead get criticized, period. You are being criticized because you have not been silent and you have not been passive and that’s a good thing. When somebody criticizes you, it’s a compliment of sorts. Passive people avoid criticism.
When you get criticized you are given the opportunity to show kindness in return, which is a character trait of some of the greatest leaders in the history of the world. In other words, you are being thrown a knuckle ball that few batters can hit, but you can hit it, and sooner or later, people are going to be amazed at how well you hit the knuckle ball. If nobody criticized you, you’d never be given the opportunity to return kindness to an insult, and thus never be given the opportunity to shine as a leader.
What this does not mean is that you refuse to take a stand. Loving your enemies and being compliant are two different things. Loving your enemies simply means you want the best for them, not necessarily for their ideas. Your love for your enemy proves the superiority of your ideas, or at least the fruit your ideas generated. And the opposite is also true, unfortunately, your anger and vengeance display bad fruit and undermine the ideas you claim to represent.
So the next time you are insulted, just picture this wandering baseball coming at the plate, and ask yourself if you are going to be able to hit it. The great ones can. And they can, because they practiced.