What goes off inside of you when you are criticized? How do you feel? I’m coming to believe that I’m likely at my most honest when I’m being questioned, or put down for something. It brings to the surface stuff (I know that’s not very technical) that has always been there, but lacked the force to propel itself upward and out. The next time you get challenged, questioned, or dissed, as they say, take a quick inventory of your thoughts and emotions. What’s emoting?
Recently I’ve had the wonderful pleasure of being able to carry on a conversation with a newspaper writer, and some of his very vocal readership. Some think me a fool. When called, “asinine” recently I felt a jolt go through my psyche’. Now believe me, I know I’m an ass at times. Just ask my wife. But this criticism is from someone who only read some letters on a page.
I think we are at our best when we are at our most vulnerable. What do you think? I mean when you’re naked you’ve got nothing to hide. It’s all out there. Yea, it’s a bit brisk, and embarrassing, but you are now free. Maybe we should have spiritual nudist camps. No, I don’t mean get naked and be spiritual, I mean get spiritually naked. Maybe that’s what church is meant to be – a spiritual nudist camp, a place where we don’t have the luxury to reject one another when we see blemishes, warts, and well, whatever. Thomas Merton once wrote, “Real self-conquest is the conquest of ourselves not by ourselves but by the Holy Spirit. Self-conquest is really self-surrender. Yet before we can surrender ourselves we must become ourselves. For no one can give up what he does not possess.”
I think in that moment of time when I stand there, uncomfortable, exposed, I have an opportunity to become myself. It’s at that moment I arrive at a place where I finally have something to give. I’m free. No pretense. It’s at that moment that we can fall back on Paul’s words, “It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.”
So, relax when that criticism comes. Just stand there naked in all your glory, and realize you are free, and God’s mercy will be sufficient.