Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Unfair Criticism

If we are going to develop bold and courageous hearts -- hearts like King David -- we cannot wait until there's a giant in the valley calling us out. We're going to have to develop that boldness and courage in the face of everyday challenges in unseen places. God does some of his best work in unseen places -- in the midst of our everyday mundane activities.

But, I must warn you: if you step out of the crowd, you're going to encounter unfair criticism and opposition. For David, it came from his own brother Eliab:

"Eliab, his older brother, heard David fraternizing with the men and lost his temper: 'What are you doing here! Why aren't you minding your own business, tending that scrawny flock of sheep? I know what you're up to. You've come down here to see the sights, hoping for a ringside seat at a bloody battle!"

Those are some cheap shots Eliab throws at David. David came because his father asked him to. He was being obedient. And he left the sheep in the care of another shepherd. He was being responsible. What's up with Eliab? What caused him to lose his temper like that?

Here's what I think is happening: Eliab is afraid. Goliath has come to dominate his entire existence. Every day for 40 days, Goliath came out and taunted the army. Every day for 40 days, Eliab slunk away with his tail between his legs. Every day for 40 days, Eliab died a little.

It's one thing to be around other people who live in fear. But when someone comes along and says, "I'll do it" -- well, then you see what a coward you've become. You don't know you're a coward until you see someone who is brave. If you let Goliath intimidate you, eventually it'll kill your self-respect. You'll be okay as long as you stay around other intimidated people, but when you meet someone with a brave heart, you'll start looking for a way to make yourself feel better. Sometimes, the quickest way to make yourself feel better is to try and make someone else feel worse.

Eliab sees what bravery looks like, and it comes in the form of his little brother. Eliab is ashamed. So, he lashes out unfairly at David.

But notice how David responds:

"'What is it with you?' replied David. 'All I did was ask a question.' Ignoring his brother, he turned to someone else."

If that was me, I would have either stood there and argued with Eliab, or (more likely) I would have pulled out my sling and gone looking for rocks. But David knows the heading in this chapter is David and Goliath not David and Eliab. So, he refuses to allow unfair criticism to have that much power over him. He won't be sidetracked by unfair criticism.

As far as I can tell, criticism falls into one of two categories: (1) accurate; (2) inaccurate. If it's accurate criticism, fix what needs to get fixed and move on. If it's inaccurate, follow David's example: ignore it and move on. Don't allow it to bog you down.

When you get serious about trusting God and facing Goliath, there will be people who won't like it. They'll be threatened by you or shamed by you, and they'll try to hold you back. You're doing what they know they should be doing. You'll face opposition and criticism, and often it will come from those closest to you.

You could give up and lose heart.

You could get defensive and waste time trying to straighten them out.

Or you can say, "As best I can discern, this is what God is calling me to do, and I'm not going to let you stop me."