I should have known better. Nothing good comes out of anonymous letters. I felt great about my talk until I read their letter the first time. Now on my fourth reading it was starting to consume me. It didn’t matter that I had received a lot of positive feedback about my talk. It didn’t matter that I had preached my heart out. It didn’t even matter that this person was borderline insane with many of their accusations. All that mattered was that they were tearing me and my talk apart. This anonymous letter took my focus off of what God led me to say, and even worse, it took my focus off God.
As I read the letter for a fourth time, I heard a still small voice say,"even if you preached a perfect sermon someone would crucify it.”
I can't tell you how thankful I am for that still small voice. I’ve gone on to apply that phrase to many areas of my life. Even if I cast the perfect vision someone will crucify it. Even if I write the perfect blog post someone will crucify it. I can attempt to be the perfect people-pleaser and someone will crucify my efforts. I’m not perfect even on my best day, but as a pastor some people will even crucify my honesty about my imperfections. Unlike me, Jesus lived a perfect life and yet people still crucified the things He said and did. I shouldn’t expect any less. The truth is I’m addicted to people-pleasing, and it’s that desire that needs to be crucified.
Here are some things that I do to help crucify my people-pleasing desires:
- Ignore anonymous letters. If they don’t put a name on it, I don’t need to read it.
- Spend more time seeking God then I do looking for approval. A good test for me is to measure how much time I spend looking for positive comments on Facebook/Twitter compared with how much time I spend seeking God. It’s nice to receive positive compliments. In fact it’s addicting. If I spend more time looking for compliments than I have spent seeking what God wants me to say, I know I have a problem.
- Present my talk or idea to a small audience before I give it to a large audience. I think that feedback is valuable if it’s from the right source. I have some trusted people that I run things by. It allows me to have constructive criticism by people I trust. This helps me not get too caught up in criticism or praise of a large audience. The people I talk to aren’t afraid to speak truth into my life. I accept it because I know they have my best interests in mind.
- Spend time thanking God. Whether it’s a talk or a ministry event, I try to spend time thanking God for how it went afterward. Whether it’s well received or crucified, I want to thank God for the words that He gave me.
At the end of the day, I know I can’t please all people all the time. What I can do is aim to please Jesus who loves me even though I’m not perfect
This post was contributed by Rob Shepherd, the Director of Community Groups and Students at Water’s Edge Church in Yorktown, Virginia.