Summary: The way in which we hear others’ criticism is a measure of our own spiritual maturity. Some criticism is intended only to hurt, and reveals the critics’ issues. But we need to hear the truth, and if we see the suffering of Christ, that puts into perspec
How would you feel about taking a psychological test today? Sort of a verbal Rorschach. Let me paint a word picture for you, and then we’ll see what comes to your mind.
You are running a marathon race. You have practiced hard, and have now entered a 10K race. You have been told that it is really of no importance whether you are the first person to cross the finish line. What matters, they say, is that you finish. The rule is that anyone who finishes the course, however long it may take, is a winner.
And so you begin. You trot merrily off into the sunset, trailing clouds of glory. For a while you feel fine. But then the enormity of what you have undertaken begins to seep in on you. The fellow on your right hand veers off the road and plops down under a shade tree, waving his hand as if to say, “I’m out of here.” The lady on your left sprints ahead as she watches others drop out, as if to say, “Nothing’s going to stop me”, but within twenty yards she has pulled up, grimacing in pain and rubbing her calf muscle. You begin to wonder. But on you go, running, running, running.
Some of the other runners get far ahead of you; others fall well behind. But you aren’t worried. There is plenty of distance left to go, and you feel fine, all things considered.
After half an eternity, in the distance you see your goal. Down the road is the finish line. For a hundred yards ahead of it are spectators – family members, friends, racing fans, athletic wannabes – standing on the sidelines, waiting for the runners to arrive. You look around and take inventory; quite a few have dropped out, but a good many are still going. About half of those are ahead of you, and about half are behind. You begin to think, “I could win this thing. If I really pour it on, I really could win this race.” Mind you, they have said that anyone who gets to the finish line is a winner, and you agreed to that; but now the thought that had always been in the back of your mind creeps to the fore, “I could win. I could be first. I could show them all. I could. I will. I will”
You round the turn into the home stretch, breathing hard. Various muscles are tightening up, and you would give almost anything for something cold to drink. How hot is it out here, anyway? Broiling and blazing! But you are almost ready to put on that last burst of speed, to burn that last ounce of energy, because you really want it now – you want to be first. You want to be the best. Not just second best, not just honorable mention, and certainly not something hollow like, “It was a victory just to have finished.” You want to be top dog, at the head of the pack, number one, the fastest of the fleet feet.
But what about all the others? How are they doing? You turn your head to check them out. They are running hard. They seem determined. There’s some tough competition in this race! You stare at the others for just a couple of seconds, and in that moment of hesitation something happens with your stride. You wobble, you bump the person next to you, both of you stagger and have trouble keeping your balance – and the crowd goes wild! The sidelines erupt with yells and screams. Somebody shouts – what? Someone else waves his hands and screams – what? Still another person pounds her fist into the palm of her hand and shakes her head – meaning what? What do you think the spectators on the sidelines are shouting? Is it encouragement – hang in there? Is it advice – stay focused? Is it a cheer – you’ve done well?
Or is it criticism? Is it complaint? “You fouled the other runner!” “Watch where you’re going, you idiot?” Maybe something like, “You turned your head; what a stupid thing to do!”
Which is it? This is our spiritual Rorschach test! In this little scenario, how many of you, if you are the runner, think the sideline spectators are shouting encouragement, cheers, and positive things when you stumble?
And how many of you think the sideline spectators are shouting criticisms, complaints, and negative things because you have stumbled?
The way in which we answer that kind of question is a clue to where we are spiritually. The way in which we hear people respond to us tells a great deal about our spiritual maturity. More than that, the way in which we receive constructive criticism is a measure of how Christ is being formed in us.