Have you ever heard of Nikolai Velimirovic? I hadn't either until Brian McLaren introduced me to a prayer written by the Serbian Orthodox bishop. McLaren credits the bishop with helping him process the increasing criticism he's received in recent years. In this interview, McLaren shares his thoughts about the blessing of having both friends and enemies.
How do you handle criticism? Did your years as a pastor prepare you for what you're now experiencing?
As you know, I have people writing books and saying very critical things about me, but in some ways it's no harder then being a pastor was. In fact, it might even be easier. Many pastors know what it's like to have people they've cared for - people they've married, and baptized, and counseled - come up and say, "You're not meeting our needs anymore, and we're leaving." It's wounding. It's very, very hard.
When we hear criticism, it can echo in our minds for days. On one hand, we can't stop beating ourselves up and second-guessing. On the other, we're tempted to get revenge. We torture ourselves. What I found I need to do is retrain my instinct to defend myself. Of course that is what Jesus was talking about when he says to turn the other cheek.
The second thing I've learned is to process the criticism with God. The prayer by the Serbian bishop has helped me do this. The bishop was taken to a concentration camp for speaking out against the Nazis. His own people betrayed him. But in his prayer he asks the Lord to bless his enemies, and he recognized how they actually help him. That has been incredibly helpful for me.
How do you think your critics have helped you?
We all want people to think we're better than we actually are. I want people to think I'm more holy than I actually am, ...