Reflecting on “Controversy” Post 3 – When It Gets Personal

In posting about the nature of controversy, it seemed necessary to discuss on what happens when we find ourselves in some type of “controversy.” To avoid being over-dramatic here, I’m using the term as the idea that there are going to be times when you discover that people are intensely debating a subject for some period of time and the subject is you.

Most of us have no idea what it feels like to be under critical scrutiny like Tim Tebow or other celebrity types. But in our corner of life, many of us have felt watched, judged, and gossiped about. (We should also remember that we have all been guilty of doing this to others.)

In my first post I shared about an awkward moment about a decision I made that some deemed as “controversial”. Though initially it didn’t feel like it deserved the term, I do remember there was a good bit of unexpected discussion. I remember feeling a bit exposed and vulnerable. I also felt judged in some weird sense. I remember how I felt toward these “detractors.” And I remember feeling that it felt more personal than it ought to. Initially, I thought it was so odd that it became something so dramatic and that’s when it dawned on me, “it’s not the decision they don’t like, it’s me.”  While this was certainly not true for all who were conversing, it was true for some and this part of the nature of controversy, criticism and leadership.

I recall another time where I was sharing my heart on something I was willing to take the heat for. It’s like that big wave that you see coming and after it hits, you have two thoughts, “Yeah that’s what I thought it was going to be” and “My shorts are still on right? Thank God.”

In some ways, it was a similar feeling of vulnerability. This time, I had direct conversations in phone calls, emails and some in person. Some parts of it sucked as I thought, “I can’t believe this person doesn’t get it!” I learned a little more about spending more time listening than defending which is not just something that you need to only say but actually do. I learned more about compromise and a little more about clarifying. Some of it still hurt but looking back on it, it felt like I actually added to a larger conversation that needed to be had.

The important thing for me to remember was to keep perspective, keep conversing, try to keep growing in character. For the Christian, prayer, Scripture-reading, fasting and other disciplines are essential in creating and keeping your perspective. Conversing is necessary because we need to be in community, not just to avoid self-isolation, not just so others can understand what we are trying to say but for also encouragement and accountability. And lastly, we ought to never be spiteful but to respond to our critics with mercy and grace, even if they are unfair. I find this to be very difficult. It’s easy to respond in anger, in spite, even sarcasm (well, maybe a little sarcasm is ok) but it depends on what you are seeking.

If we are seeking reconciliation, reacting in anger for the hurt generally only reinforces the statement/action/reaction initially made against you. However, responding with charity, respect and a spirit willing to engage in dialogue can not only be disarming to your critic(s) but may actually lead to good things.

As I said in my second post, controversy can lead to conversation. And though we should not instigate controversy, we should be not afraid of it. It’s not the end of the world, it’s not the end of your career (scandals not withstanding) and we may actually find it to be the beginning of something better.


I’m a little off schedule with our move and excited to be preaching this Sunday night so pardon the inconsistent postings but thanks for reading.

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