I live a pretty public life. I speak in front of thousands of people weekly and offer my thoughts on multiple topics via a coupe of podcasts and this BLOG. I finish every meeting that I lead (other than a worship service) by allowing the participants to ask me anything about anything. I’d say that I am pretty open and certainly occasionally too transparent.
That being said, I’ve received and received my fair share of critique. Some positive, some helpful. I’ve received some hurtful comments and some that were deeply personal. I’ve had folks offer their opinions in agreement with my thoughts and plenty of folks that share their displeasure with those same thoughts. Honestly, I’ve learned that if you speak up, often write, present your opinions publicly, someone will critique you. And, you should expect to be. But don’t expect it always to be fair. Do not expect it to all be helpful. It simply is a reality.
Over the past few years, I’ve grown more vocal with my thoughts on things that matter to me. Things like public education, politics, race relations, immigration, and faith. I think I’ve grown more concerned and more vocal about all the things you are encouraged not to discuss at the Thanksgiving table.
Let me first offer some advice to those that are being or have been critiqued. Develop a thicker skin while simultaneously growing a softer heart. I promise you that that process will serve you well. It has me. But it is not very easy to do. Thicker skin allows you to receive challenging instruction, correction, and even personal attacks. A soft heart will enable you to see the person as a person, not a country to occupy. A softer heart allows for you to hear, feel and experience their concern. That alone is 3/4 of the battle. After that, I offer this simple piece of well-learned advice.
This requires us to get closer to the person or the problem. It involves two steps that open up to a far better experience.
Step One: Always take the high road! You will never regret taking the road less traveled…the high road. This means that we offer an assumption of personal humility. To not be guilty of terminal certainty. The high road is an effort not to fight to prove you are right but rather listen and discuss with the intent to make things right. I am in no way suggesting that it always works, but I can say that it always leaves me far more contented than engaging in a fight.
Step Two: Assume the lowest possible position. Again, not easy to do. Assuming the lowest possible position is when I do not place myself as an authoritarian that is over the person in the conversation, but rather as their equal or even be so bold as to take on the role of a servant. I know that sounds weak, but Jesus taught us that if we want to be great, that we must become a servant – OUCH! Assuming the lowest position will disarm the opposing angst or anger. It allows for you actually to listen, and as needed, fix the problem rather than fixing blame. I promise you that this is a worthwhile effort!
Finally, we live in a world that has gone so radically toward vengeance, justice, anger, and blame that when we allow our skin to thicken, our heart to soften, take the high road and assume the lowest position, we become part of the solutions needed. I refuse to become part of the whiners, grippers and finger pointers when I can actually be part of the solution. How about you?
Let’s face it; we are all surprised, maybe even shocked, when people listen to us. We are completely dumbfounded when real people try to understand with empathy. And when people go out of their way to help resolve or better the situation, it is memorable. I like that term, memorable. Memorable is when I experience an event that is typically a bad experience and it became a healthy, helpful experience. When that happens, it’s memorable and memorable events are shared.
Anybody can be a know it all jerk. Anybody can also look for a reason to prove they are right. Anybody can be defensive and nasty. Our society even celebrates some of that bad acting. But why be anybody when you can be memorable?
Let us strive to be memorable…in a great way. Oh, did I mention that Jesus said that we had to become a servant if we were to be great?