Guest article courtesy Rev. Tony Cooke
You can find more uplifting and encouraging articles by Rev. Cooke at www.tonycooke.org
Throwing Out the High and Low Scores
by Rev. Tony Cooke
When I was young, I remember watching certain Olympic events, such as figure skating and gymnastics, where judges were involved in “scoring” the athletes. There would be a panel of judges from different countries and they would always “throw out” the high and the low scores. I thought of that in the light of the flattery and criticisms (especially the criticisms) that we sometimes encounter in life. Wouldn’t it be great if we could develop well the ability to “throw out” unjust criticisms (as well as ego-inflating flattery)?
Have you had someone “on your case” lately? Does someone feel they’ve been appointed to be the “Apostle of Correction” over your life? If you’ve been dealing with unjust and unfair criticisms, I believe this information will help you. If you’ll learn how to “throw out the low scores,” you’ll be able to focus on who you really are and what you’re really called to do.
Abraham Lincoln certainly had to throw out the low scores in order to successfully lead the nation during his presidency. In the Lincoln Museum in Springfield, Illinois, there is an area called “The Whispering Gallery.” This is a darkened, twisted hallway where cruel voices speak against the President, and the walls are lined with the newspaper articles and political cartoons that slanderously attacked President and Mrs. Lincoln in very personal ways.
The press referred to him as a grotesque baboon, a third-rate country lawyer who once split the rails and now splits the Union, a coarse vulgar joker, a dictator, an ape, a buffoon, and other derogatory names. One of his home-state newspapers called Lincoln “the craftiest and most dishonest politician that ever disgraced an office in America.”[i]
An editorial in the Chicago Times even ripped Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address with the following: “The cheek of every American must tingle with shame as he reads the silly, flat and dishwatery utterances of the man who has to be pointed out to intelligent foreigners as the President of the United States.”
How did Lincoln respond to the seemingly relentless torrent of attacks? He said, “If I tried to read, much less answer, all the criticisms made of me, and all the attacks leveled against me, this office would have to be closed for all other business. I do the best I know how, the very best I can. And I mean to keep on doing this, down to the very end. If the end brings me out all wrong, ten angels swearing I had been right would make no difference. If the end brings me out all right, then what is said against me now will not amount to anything.”
Had Lincoln taken those criticisms to heart, I don’t think he could have ever performed his duties. Biblically speaking, Jesus Himself was the object and brunt of so much hatred, that He took ownership of an Old Testament passage that says, “They hated me without a cause” (John 12:25). Thank God that Jesus stayed focused on carrying out His assignment in spite of the opinions or criticisms of others!
JOSEPH: I think of the bitterness that was directed at Joseph during his early life. His brothers sold him into slavery. His boss’s wife falsely accused him and got him thrown into prison. A man he helped in prison (Pharaoh’s butler) quickly forgot Joseph in spite of his promise to him. Had Joseph taken these things to heart, he would have been a most bitter and demoralized man. Instead, Jacob said of Joseph, “Archers attacked him savagely; they shot at him and harassed him. But his bow remained taut, and his arms were strengthened by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob, by the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel” (Genesis 49:23-24, NLT).
For Joseph to succeed, he could base his identity and sense of destiny on one thing and one thing only: God’s assignment for His life. He couldn’t base his identity or sense of destiny on the way his brothers treated him, the way Potipher’s wife lied about him, his imprisonment, or the negligence of the butler. The only way we can overcome the fear of rejection is to value the constant approval of God over the conditional approval of people. The opinions of other people simply can’t be allowed to rule your life!
DAVID: At some point, David had to come to terms with the spears that Saul threw at him. One option was to internalize the trauma and say, “There must really be something wrong with me.” From there, he could spiral into shame, inferiority, self-doubt, and humiliation. Had David done this, he would have remained a victim of Saul’s whims, insecurities, and paranoia. Or he could tell himself the truth and realize that the spears that were being thrown at him were due to a problem that Saul had within himself. This would liberate David to realize that Saul’s anger was not a reflection of his worth or value, but rather, it was merely an expression of Saul’s unresolved internal dysfunction.
PAUL: Another Bible character that was intensely criticized was the Apostle Paul. Even the believers in Corinth were registering their fickle opinions about Paul relative to other ministers, making Paul an unwilling part of a popularity contest. Imagine the ticker at the bottom of the screen: “If you like Paul better than Apollos or Peter, dial 1-800-YES-PAUL.” What was Paul’s attitude about such judgments? He wasn’t moved by their criticisms or by their flattery.
1 Corinthians 4:3-4
(NLT) As for me, it matters very little how I might be evaluated by you or by any human authority. I don’t even trust my own judgment on this point. My conscience is clear, but that doesn’t prove I’m right. It is the Lord himself who will examine me and decide.
(Message) It matters very little to me what you think of me, even less where I rank in popular opinion. I don’t even rank myself. Comparisons in these matters are pointless. I’m not aware of anything that would disqualify me from being a good guide for you, but that doesn’t mean much. The Master makes that judgment.
Kenneth E. Hagin said, “Paul had grown in grace to such an extent that he sought only to commend himself to God. He was not influenced or affected by what others thought of him. He did not get in bondage to anybody. It was not a carnal independence — but a saintly dignity. The law of love governed him. He was not easily puffed up, nor was he touchy or resentful. His spirit — where the love of God was shed abroad — dominated him. Immature Christians will feel slighted or puffed up. If they are criticized — or even imagine that they are — they are restless, uneasy, and full of self-pity. On the other hand, if they are noticed and appreciated they feel lifted up and full of self-importance. Baby Christians are self-conscious. And ever conscious of what others are thinking about them. Therefore they are ‘tossed to and fro’ childishly trying to be popular. The mature believer is God-conscious. And ever conscious about what God’s Word says about him and to him. Because he is able to testify with Paul, “It is a very small thing that I should be judged of you or of man’s judgment,” he is free to walk in and voice his convictions.”[ii]
On a practical level, we should always be open to learn how to be better, and this may involve learning from and drawing redemptive benefit even from criticism. But at the core level of who we are, we should never allow any criticism to lessen our intrinsic and infinite worth as God’s children. We should never give others the right to demean our value or invalidate our destiny. God is the One who has called us and it is to God alone that we will ultimately answer. Lou Holtz said, “So what if someone wrote your obituary… that doesn’t mean you are obligated to die.”
How have you been doing with the opinions of others? Are there some low scores you need to throw out? Even denigrating voices from the past? Are there some high scores that you need to throw out? Has there been some flattery thrown your way that needs to be discounted? Are you believing your own press-releases?
Remember that you are simply who God says you are and who God has made you to be. You have nothing to feel inferior about and nothing to feel puffed up about. You are a person of great value because God says you are. You have great potential because He has gifted and called you. Walk in that, and stay free from the bondage that comes from fearing people.