If you are not criticized, you may not be doing much. Patriot and former Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
As I was loading up my small car for vacation last week, my 13 year old son, Jake, asked me why we were not taking the truck. (As some of you know, I have a home-made painted camo hunting truck with many more dents and scratches than miles per gallon).
I gave him what I thought was an obvious explanation. “Jake, we are going to the King and Prince at St. Simons; not the hunting camp. People will be driving nice cars. It’s not a place for the camo truck.
He then looked at me and said, “Daddy, you always say that it doesn’t matter what people think of you or me. Who cares? Let’s load it up.”
Being corrected by a 13 year old is humbling and tough; particularly when he refers to your own teaching. So, we loaded up the truck and headed down to the mystical Golden Isles for the best vacation I have had in 45 years.
As we were driving back to Carrollton, I began to think about the importance, or lack thereof, of what other people think. Based on my life experience, there are three truths that are constant:
- Sometimes, it can be life or death – When I am trying a criminal case before a jury, what they think matters more than anything. I must be completely prepared from the second the first potential juror enters the courtroom. Every action and inaction must be deliberate in order to show 12 people, who I have just met, that the person sitting next to me is not guilty.
- Socially, it is important – Using good manners, being able to speak in front of a crowd, carrying on interesting conversations with others, etc. are important because humans are naturally social. What others think of our social skills is important because we need to stay within the boundaries of acceptable behavior. No one wants to be around a rude, snobby, and/or self absorbed person. Without good social skills, many opportunities in life can be lost.
- Most of the time, there is zero importance. – A friend once told me that what other people think of you is none of your business. He was right.
We have two choices. First, we can live our lives to please others and try to live up to their expectations. We can do this by concerning ourselves with their opinions of us. We make decisions, live each day, and seek approval based on those opinions.
This choice is an impossible task to accomplish. The closer we believe we are perfect in the eyes of others, the more we will notice that by pleasing one person angers someone else.
Second, we can seek God’s will and ask Him for the power to carry that out; regardless of what others think. This is a difficult task as well. But, this road leads us upon the path of freedom. We can be free to be creative, make wise choices, and live our own lives.
Weak people will always criticize us for what we do, what we do not do, and/or who we are. Most of this criticism comes in the form of cowardly gossip and rumors. There are few men strong enough to confront us face to face.
While it can be difficult, we are to pray for these folks. Judging others is God’s domain.
As Jake reminded me last week, it really doesn’t matter what other people think.