These are some reflections on some comments in a Bible study that I taught yesterday at church:
It seems in our society today, we hunger for leaders. We want someone who knows who he/she is, and we want him/her to be very defined in his/her beliefs. We admire such folks, particularly if they seem even the least bit heroic--if they go above and beyond the call of duty and inspire hope.
Yet, even though we crave such individuals, we do not hesitate to tear them apart as a shark would do to someone who is bleeding in the water. You have no further to go than politics, and as to not offend too greatly, I will cite examples from both sides of the political spectrum.
When President Obama was elected, he could almost do no wrong. He had one of the highest, if not the highest approval rating of any incoming president. No one dared speak an ill word of him. How times have changed. This guy is getting ripped to shreds by just about anybody and everybody.
On the opposite side, we have Christine O'Donnell. She seemingly came out of nowhere to garner the Republican nomination for Senate in Delaware. She ran on her principles as a conservative and as a Christians. Yet, how long did it take for folks to start tearing into her? Less than 24 hours.
These two individuals, from polar opposite principles and values are striving to be leaders; yet there are those who are more interested in ripping them to shreds than doing anything constructive.
I once heard a rather interesting definition of a critic, "A critic is someone who never actually goes to the battle, yet who afterwards comes out and shoots the wounded." What an apt illustration.
In my somewhat warped view of the world, I believe that there are two ends of the spectrum with folks dotted all along it. On one end, you have those who are willing to roll up their sleeves, get dirty, and make a difference. On the other end, you have those who believe they make the biggest difference in life by telling the other end how they are doing things wrong. Leaders and critics.
I have personally told members of my congregation that I will not ask them to do something that I am not willing to do myself. Therefore, when I preach a sermon or ask them to participate in an activity, I make sure that I am visibly doing the same things.
This is why I will wash dishes after a meal at the church. This is the reason I volunteer to cook meals at our senior service and Lenten suppers. This is why I give 10% of my salary to the church. This is why I will work in the church flowerbeds. This is why I help move tables and chairs. This is why I tell folks that I too have a hard time sharing my faith with a complete stranger, but I strive to share in other, non-verbal ways. Not only must I talk the talk, but I must walk the walk to have any credibility.
Am I faced with criticism? You bet. I've heard plenty of it. It can be extremely frustrating. However, I am learning to hear criticism as applause. Yes, you heard that correctly. I am learning to hear criticism as applause because it means that I am at least doing something. Usually, it is folks who like the status quo, who want things to remain the same that jeer the loudest. However, if one looks at the world and knows that there are imperfections...there is injustice...there are people who are in need...people are hurting; how can one ever be satisfied? How can anyone want everything to stay the same?
I believe leaders don't want things to stay the same. I believe they have a vision of a world that is better than the current one. Yes, there are competing visions. But instead of criticizing, maybe, critics should not only put their visions out there, but start working and getting their hands dirty themselves. They might just find it's a lot more difficult than they thought.
Which do you want to be? A leader or a critic?