I am not good with criticism. I never have been.
I have gotten in more trouble with friends and family about my defensive behavior than anything else (well, that and my completely transparent facial expressions - I have an insanely hard time keeping a "neutral face"). For some weird reason, I seem to perceive any kind of semi-negative opinion as some huge judgment. My hackles immediately go up and I either respond in a snappy "oh no, you DID-n't!" way or I shut up and get paranoid around the person who made the comment.
What's worse, I can literally block out the nice comments that others have made about me and zone in on the one not-so-nice one. Isn't it amazing how we always remember the negative things others have said to us rather than the kind things? I still remember the one time my seventh grade history teacher spoke harshly to me because I was talking in class. I was mortified. And if I ever run into her again, all I'll be able to think is "You yelled at me once."
Stupid, I know, but I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in this. I've tried to work on this character flaw as I've gotten older, and sometimes I succeed. And a lot of times, I completely fail.
Lately, I've been thinking a lot about Jesus as the person that He was when He was on Earth.
What was it about Him (besides the whole being God's Son come down to Earth to rescue lost mankind) that made people love Him so fiercely when He was among them and dedicate their whole lives to Him even after He had physically gone? I tend to forget that even though they were His disciples, those disciples were first and foremost His friends. They traveled together. They ate together. They talked about their lives, their fears, their concerns. Jesus listened to those fears and concerns, and He shared His own with them. I mean, sheesh - they let Him wash their feet. I'm just saying - you've got to be friends with someone to let them touch your nasty sandal-wearing-dust-ridden feet and not be totally mortified.
The thing is - they LIKED Him.
And Jesus wasn't one of those always easy-going friends, either. He wasn't afraid to call folks out on their faults. He straight-up told Peter when he was being a moron (several times), got exasperated and said so when the disciples couldn't stay awake with Him, told the woman at the well that um, nope...you've had five "husbands," and asked Martha to calm down when she went into psycho cleaning mode.
I read those portions of Scripture and think "would I have smarty pants-ed a reply back to Jesus?" I can't say for certain, but I don't think so.
I don't think so because I don't think that people back then are so different from me. And not one of His friends returned His constructive criticism with insulted rage (or at least the Bible doesn't record it that way). They actually listened to Him. They agreed with Him. They changed.
Why? I think it's because He loved them, and they knew it. They knew it deep in their bones. His reprimands didn't come from a place of bitter annoyance and comeuppance. He knew they were better than their behavior. He made his friends want to be better. They didn't want to disappoint Him, so they tried to please Him.
Of course, that's not to say that Jesus never got angry - He did. He threw some tables across a room in the temple. He even called Peter "Satan" once. If that's not anger, I don't know what is. And Peter, the King of All Hotheads, didn't blow a fuse, slamming doors on his way out. Because he knew that Jesus' anger was pure and justified, and he couldn't argue with that.
There's an Eagles song that says "Anger is just love disappointed." I think that's such a beautiful illustration of righteous indignation, and of the kind of anger that Jesus occasionally demonstrated. He showed us the right way to be angry with those we love.
I'm going to try and bottle up these thoughts in my head for the next time a well-meaning friend tries to point me towards a better version of myself.