Responding to criticism is an art. An art that I wish President-elect, Donald Trump, would learn. On the eve of honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, President-elect Donald Trump threw some serious shade at Civil Rights icon and hero, Georgia Congressman John Lewis. While John Lewis attacked first, according to Scripture, how should have Donald Trump responded?
In an interview with the political analyst, Chuck Todd, John Lewis said he did not consider Donald Trump’s presidency legitimate. He didn’t consider it valid because the Russians interfered with our democracy, mainly by releasing emails that would cause voters to question Hilary Clinton’s character. Russia didn’t have to highlight her lack of integrity. Clinton did that all on her own. I digress. Moreover, John Lewis said he would not attend the inauguration.
I respect John Lewis. He is an American icon and a Civil Rights hero. However, I don’t agree with Lewis’ assessment. In fact, John Lewis’ statement is disrespectful to the office of the President and it does not contribute to the peaceful transfer of power. That Mr. Lewis is choosing not to attend the Inauguration is his prerogative, but his absence does not foster bipartisanship. I wish he would reconsider.
Though Trump lost the popular vote, the electoral college has spoken. Whether we like it or not or agree with it, Donald Trump is the President of the United States of America. Period. We should honor that. So, I humbly disagree with John Lewis statement against Mr. Trump. This post is more about how Mr. Trump could have responded.
Three Ways Donald Trump Could Have Responded to Criticism
When Donald Trump saw what John Lewis said, he had three plausible ways he could have responded.
- Donald Trump could have just ignored John Lewis’ statement. He didn’t have to respond at all. Say nothing.
- He could have humbly taken the high road like Republican Senator Ben Sasse did:
To John Lewis, one of my heroes: Please come to the Inauguration. It isn’t about a man. It is a celebration of peaceful transfer of power.
- He could have hit back ten times harder. Unfortunately, this is the path Trump chose.
Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results. All talk, talk, talk – no action or results. Sad!
His response is consistent with who he says he is and what he would do if someone attacked him. In his 2007 book, Think Big and Kick Ass, Trump wrote:
When someone intentionally harms you or your reputation, how do you react? I strike back, doing the same thing to them only ten times worse.
This is exactly what Trump is doing to Lewis – striking back only ten times harder. Now, I understand the human heart. If someone hurts you, it is human nature to strike back and get revenge. I have gone tit for tat and eye for an eye more times than I care to admit. I was wrong. What does the Bible say about how we should handle criticism? What can we learn from Lewis and Trump’s missteps?
The Bible and Handling Criticism
When we are criticized, do we go tit for tat and eye for an eye? Do we strike back ten times worse? Is this how Jesus tells us to respond? How does the Bible tell us to react to criticism?
- Disregard some criticism.
Solomon says in Ecclesiastes 7:21 that we should not pay attention to every vindictive word that people say about us. We should not pay attention the gossip of the day because we have better things to which to give our attention. Charles Spurgeon told his pastoral students that they should have one blind eye and one deaf ear.
You cannot stop people’s tongues,” he said, “and therefore the best thing to do is to stop your own ears and never mind what is spoken. There is a world of idle chitchat abroad, and he who takes note of it will have enough to do (Lectures To My Students, p. 321).
- Settle the heated dispute.
Solomon, the wisest man that ever lived, said these powerful words in Proverbs 15:1:
A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.
Solomon is saying the anger of the first speaker can be set aside or calmed by the gentle response of the second speaker. Therefore, it is a response without anger or harshness. The German Common Language Version translates this verse: “A reconciling answer cools down anger, but a hurtful word heats it up.” Responding with gentle words anticipate the gentleness of Jesus (Matthew 11:29) and one of the attributes of a believer who is filled with the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Therefore, being reconciling in heated situations requires forethought, patience, self-controlled, and kindness.
- Defend yourself with integrity.
Integrity is the best defense against criticism. Thus, we should live our lives with such truth and righteousness that no one can find fault with our lives. Daniel’s integrity was his greatest defense against harsh words:
Then the other administrators and high officers began searching for some fault in the way Daniel was handling government affairs, but they couldn’t find anything to criticize or condemn. He was faithful, always responsible, and completely trustworthy. Daniel 6:4
- Receive some criticism as constructive.
We all have blind spots and need people to correct us. Therefore, when someone criticize us, we should ask: Is what the person is saying about us true? If it’s true, then I need to receive the kick in the butt as a gift. Proverbs 10:17 says we should not ignore correction but receive it because it leads to life.
- Bless and pray for those who mistreat you.
When people injure and criticize us, Jesus gives us a very clear, but difficult command: “Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you.” (Luke 6:28) When we bless and pray for those who hurt us, words of grace and patience produce more good fruit and unity than words of anger and frustration, we break the cycle of anger and hatred, and I believe blessings come back to us.
Ultimately, when you know WHO you are and WHOSE you are, you don’t have to react to every criticism that comes your way. Wise people respond wisely to criticism. We would do well to listen to Dale Carnegie:
Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain, but it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving.
What are some other ways we can respond to criticism?