It’s folly to stone your prophets.
Yet I see it all the time: people (I include myself here) who deal with unwelcome truth by rejecting the truth-teller. The child who denounces his mother for telling him his behavior is unacceptable. The employee who grouses about her boss for giving her a less than sterling review. The wife who harangues her husband for asking her to cease her gossip, or the husband who berates his wife for asking him to be kinder.
You know the beat.
There is some device in us that resists truth and resents those who bring it. The device is very active in my own brain. I can feel my hackles rising, my breath shortening, my jaw clenching, and my mind racing as soon as I see the slightest criticism coming my way. I start thinking up excuses before I even know what I’m excusing.
One of the best disciplines I’m learning is to turn off the device. Or at least ignore it. I’m teaching myself, not just to not resist honest criticism: I’m teaching myself to actively seek it and wholeheartedly welcome it. A question I’m asking people more and more: “Is there anything about me you wish I’d change?”
And then I take a breath.
And then I get an earful.
It’s rarely as bad as I dreaded. It’s always better than I hoped. It’s usually fair and accurate. In the end, it’s always life-giving – which the Bible says is a sign of true rebuke.
So far, I’ve been talking about criticism from people who love you. From those who want your best.
But let me push this even further. What do you do with harsh criticism? With the snipes of the cranky, self-appointed prophet – the accuser in the guise of a prophet? With the attacks of your enemy? With the barbs of the one who wants the worst for you?
Here’s a hard truth: they may be right. The day King David fled Jerusalem at the advance of his son Absolom’s revolt, an old embittered enemy – Shimei – followed him and taunted him all the way. He hurled rocks and dirt at David. He unleashed a brutal litany of curses and accusations.
David’s response? I think God is telling me something here.
God sometimes uses the mouth of an enemy to tell us what we refused to hear from the mouth of a friend. When we stone our prophets, it’s actually grace when God sends a foe to take his place.
Next week. I’ll to write about responding to criticism. But I wonder if you have a story of when God has used a friend, or maybe an enemy, to tell you a hard truth?