I have a question about respect and leadership. I believe respect (like credibility) is earned. I feel really disrespected by a comment from someone in ministry. I am trying to discern if this is a deeper pride issue that I need to work out between me and God (plank/sawdust), or if I should just learn to NOT take things personally. But it’s hard when we personally invest so much, only to be misunderstood, or treated with contempt. Jesus was never offended. How do I have the right heart to serve?
Oh my wonderful friend — if you just knew this is exactly what I often go through every week. If only God handed out permission slips to slap uppity fools upside their head. I would need roughly a thousand.
But it’s very easy to see this in black-and-white when it gets more complicated from so many different angles.
I’ve had ministry leaders completely go off on me because they felt disrespected by something I said, and I never meant any disrespect at all. Maybe I could’ve said it better, or more likely they could’ve handled it better, but it’s tough to say who had the right heart there.
I’ve also felt offended by innocuous comments that I misunderstood as attacks. I tried not to take it personally, but it would lodge like a splinter in my brain for days. It happens, and again: who was really right?
Then there are times when someone actively disrespects me, which is probably the situation you’re in, and whether they are right or wrong — it hurts. Is my hurt a good response? Does it mean we’re selfish? Can we just brush it off?
The thing is: It’s impossible not to take some things personally. And that’s okay. It’s right to feel disrespected, and it doesn’t mean you’re selfish. But this should also never exclude our clarity in both seeking the truth for ourselves and being confident enough not to let it crush us.
Even the worst kind of criticism could have helpful nuggets of wisdom which we would be wise to heed: and instead of getting mad about it, we can use that energy to utilize it.
All this comes down to separating the emotional response from the spoken logic of your particular confrontation. On one hand we we can’t dismiss our emotions because they’re very real and it doesn’t help to repress them — but we also can’t dismiss what was spoken, because maybe there is truth to it no matter how awful it was phrased.
We don’t always get the discernment right either, because we’re emotional beings that can neither disregard all our feelings nor rationalize ourselves to death. But on a long enough timeline, with more practiced patience and a thicker skin, you will get better at this. You’ll be able to breathe when such comments are made, and you can surgically sift through good intentions, bad ones, and all of it in between.
So let’s be simple. If someone says something hurtful, it’s okay to be hurt. You’ll probably play it over in your head for a while, so let it happen. Don’t feel bad about feeling bad and let the emotions work through your system.
In the meantime, dig for the truth in their statement and find what works. Toss out anything that doesn’t.
If the whole comment is bad, then shut it down quick. Don’t let comments cut into your ministry.
Be humble and teachable, and recognize that we are not always the smartest person in the room. Ask God if this wisdom is from Him, and it’s okay if the answer is not immediately clear.
Pray that certain people would learn how to phrase their words better. And surround yourself with both encouraging people AND people who are not afraid to say the truth. We need both.