Often a pastor or his family comes under attack by hostile people. Sometimes these attacks, though unjustified, may have a grain of truth. We must weigh that possibility and deal with it accordingly. Here are thirteen ways to respond when you are attacked.
1. Generally speaking, it is best not to defend yourself. If the accusations are true, ask forgiveness, humble yourself and try to make things right. If they are false, usually people are not convinced by your defense. Tell them you believe you are not guilty, but that you are not perfect and will do your best to remedy things.
2. Never attack back. Never retaliate. You will lose if you retaliate. If attacked in a business meeting, do not answer the attack. Simply move on to new business.
3. If your children or wife are attacked, and you know they are wrong, deal with them accordingly. Ask the accuser to pray with you for your children. You need them to pray with you not criticize you. If the attack is unjustified, let it pass and do not make a big "to do" about it. Do your best to get your attackers on your side. If you take things personally and get mad you will build a case against the attacker, and you will be the loser.
4. Always in a time of criticism or attack, try to stand back and get the big picture. Do not get down in the dumps and dote on your hurt feelings. Jesus and Paul were attacked. Why should we think we are so wonderful that no one will ever attack us? It is possible that some times we are operating from a blind spot that someone may have found, and the Lord may be seeking to help us be a more useful servant through the attack.
We all have blind spots. The sooner we find them, the more useful we can be in the Lord's work. Remember there were sacrifices in the Old Testament for sins of ignorance. But not only will there be sins of ignorance, there will also be personal and unconscious biases and prejudices that I call blind spots (Luke 6:39, 40). Oftentimes we gather people around us who have our own blind spots as followers, and we chase away those who see our blind spots and refuse to follow.
5. Look honestly at what the critics have said about you. People cannot know your motives but they can judge your words, your actions, and your manner of doing things. It is this they often react against.
6. If the same criticism or reaction happens more than once there is probably something to it.
7. Note the kind of people that react to you or criticize you. Do they criticize everyone, or are they not usually known as critics. "When a man's ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him. (Proverbs 16:7)
8. When good, godly Christians tell you in sincerity that you are exhibiting wrong behavior or attitudes believe them.
9. Remember, your own reasoning about yourself is often so biased that you cannot see yourself through the bias. It has been said, "Men reason, not so much as to arrive at a legitimate conclusion, but rather to justify the prejudices they already have." Therefore, in order to find your blind spots, you must develop approachability and allow criticism to help you.
10. When you are alone with the Lord, particularly when you are confessing your sins, you must honestly search yourself and then allow the Lord to search you further. Charles Spurgeon made this comment: “You will be much more likely to come to an honest conclusion if you rather suspect yourself too much than believe in yourself too much. I am sure that in speaking thus, I am giving you sound teaching."
11. The caution here is to keep from being morbidly introspective. We cannot be so timid about offending someone that we hold back from being truthful and doing the Lord's business. There will be reaction to the truth. Let us, as much as lieth in us, speak the truth in love and not walk blindly over people as we deal with them. And let us make sure we obey Paul’s injunction, “For I say through the grace that is given to me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, according as God hath given to every man the measure of faith.” (Rom. 12:3)
12. I read somewhere that Spurgeon collected the many critical pamphlets written against him to criticize him in his early ministry and had them bound into a book and kept them in his library. The people who wrote those pamphlets are forgotten, but Spurgeon and his work and ministry live on. G. Campbell Morgan once fainted in his pulpit trying to answer a charge against him in the American religious press (he had been sick as well). His usual answer to such criticism was, “It will blow over. Meanwhile, I go on quietly with my work.”
13. We must make criticism our ally and friend, not our enemy. Jamess 1:2-4 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
This article was originally published in Pastoring Principles by Dr. Dan Reed.