“You think I need to control my temper, do you?” Steve glared at his wife. “Well, what makes you think you’re so perfect?”
Janice sighed. “I just don’t think you should get so angry with Gary because he didn’t like your idea. You—”
“That’s the last time I’ll tell him anything!”
“Steve, why can’t you accept a little criticism without getting angry?”
“Yeah? Well, why can’t you leave me alone?”
Criticism. We all have to deal with it, and, like Steve, we often get angry with the person doing the criticizing, even when that person is only trying to help us.
Of course, criticism that’s unjustified is hard to take. But, most often, the criticism that bothers us the most is the kind we know deep down inside is accurate.
Whenever someone criticizes me and I’m tempted to get angry, I think of King David, fierce warrior, slayer of Goliath, mighty King of Israel, and, according to the Bible, “A man after God’s own heart.”
But King David made a huge mistake. One day, he saw Bathsheba, another man’s wife, and took her for himself. When she became pregnant, David tried to deceive her husband, Uriah, into thinking the baby was his. When that failed, David sent Uriah, a loyal soldier, to the front lines where the casualties were heaviest. After the inevitable happened, David married Bathsheba.
There must have been a lot of gossip in the palace, but who would dare to even hint to this powerful king that he had done wrong?
Nathan served God as a prophet. Which kind of means “truth-teller.”
While Nathan may have feared David’s reaction, when God told him to go to David and tell him that God was aware of all he’d done, Nathan didn’t hesitate. He told David a simple story about a wealthy man who had been cruel to a poor man, and when David expressed outrage at the wealthy man, Nathan declared, “You are that man!”
Did David defend himself? Blame Bathsheba? Execute Nathan? No. Earlier, David had allowed his emotions to rule him; but faced with Nathan’s accusations, he crumpled. David’s words must have stabbed through the emotionally charged silence of the throne room. “I have sinned against the Lord.”
David spent hours seeking forgiveness. But although God forgave David, the baby died. David accepted that as just punishment. Genuinely sorry for his sin, he knew that God had forgiven him, and their relationship had been restored.
So ends the story. Or does it?
Actually, there’s an epilogue. One that sparkles like a diamond in the sunlight.
David and Bathsheba had four more sons. The first of these was Solomon, who later became king and built the Temple of God in Jerusalem. He was an ancestor of Joseph, the father of Jesus Christ.
The second son is found in the line of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Apparently David didn’t hold grudges. The name of this son was Nathan.
And there, for all to see, is the proof of David’s faith. He named his son after the one man who had dared to condemn him.
Human nature makes us want to lash back at our critics.
What was it about David that he could give his chief critic this honor? This man, even while King of Israel, was willing to admit his faults, ask God for forgiveness, and love the one man willing to hold him accountable.
The next time someone criticizes you, ask yourself, “Is there a grain of truth here?
Instead of defending yourself, could you accept it with grace?”
No one said it’s easy. But each little step we take in acting wisely is a step in the direction of following David’s example and becoming a man or woman “after God’s own heart.”
* Published originally in my column, “As Each Part Does Its Work” in the Maranatha News, which I wrote from March, 2007, until September, 2010.