How to Avoid Letting Hate Go to Your Heart: The Secret to Improving Your Mental Well-Being
August 15, 2023 • Chris Harper
Criticism can be like an ugly sweater.
There is nothing more crushing than unwarranted and unwelcomed criticism. The hateful phone call. The harsh text. A careless word. People are mean, and they get brave when they are behind a screen and keyboard. People can be like fuses searching for a flame—waiting, always looking to blow something up. Sometimes, that something is you.
The Pharisees wanted Jesus gone. Pouring gas on a fire, they create a frenzied crowd. The options are Jesus or the criminal Barabbas—someone would be set free. The crowd chooses Barabbas. And when asked what to do about Jesus, they respond, "Kill Him." [Luke 23:18-21]
The most unwarranted criticism of all, levied against the most innocent man of all time.
How does Jesus respond? He forgives them. He feels sorry for them, for they know not what they do (v. 43).
Jesus does not let hate go to His heart.
For most of my ministerial career, I've worked in one of two settings: Church and/or Christian Education. For 15 years, I've dealt with people's three greatest idols:
This means there was potential for conflict every day, and often, there was. Obscene gestures. Hate-filled speech. Late-night explicative emails, and these were from the "good Christians." This does not include gossip, backbiting, name-calling, Facebook ranting, and all the other ways people love to tear others down—fuses searching for a flame.
All of us will be met with unwelcomed criticism. Employers. Family members. Colleagues. At some point, someone is going to treat you with contempt. As 3LW said, "Haters gonna hate."
How do we respond like Jesus? How do we live and act not to let the haters win?
I have not always handled the contempt gracefully. I've been embittered. I've been angry. I've stonewalled, withdrawn, and sometimes responded with not-so-kind words. Shamefully, I've even weaponized the pulpit to call out haters hating on Facebook. Not my best day.
Fortunately, my loss is your gain. Over the years, I've picked up four frameworks that have saved me hundreds of painful hours and many relationships trying to learn to deal with criticism. The best part is that when I practice these things, I look more like King Jesus.
Motive RC Sproul was once asked, "How have you survived this long in ministry?" He responded, "Years ago, I made a pact with myself, I was no longer going to judge people's motives. I just started assuming the best."
It is hard to imagine, but some criticism you deserve, and not all abuse comes from a hateful place. Though hate is never good, and abuse is never right, some people don't know better. Ignorance. Environment. Low emotional intelligence—people will project their pain on you (more on that below).
In life, we must be wise as serpents and gentle as doves (Matt. 10:16). Keep an open mind, and squash any presuppositions you might have. Remember what Tyson said, "Everyone that you fight is not your enemy, and everyone who helps you is not your friend."
Pray Pray for the haters. Peter said it best, "Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing (1 Peter 3:9)."
Lift the hater up to God. In doing so, no man can pull you low enough to hate him.
Pain Pain is an intriguing thing. We tend to think pain can be dismissed, ignored, and buried. But the truth is pain never lays dormant. All pain, past, present, and future pain, if not transformed, it will be transferred.
Hurts, harms, and hangups, if you do not deal with them, specifically if the Gospel is not transforming them, you will ultimately transfer those hurts and pains to others. To our spouses. Our children. Our neighbors and colleagues. Which means the hate you are receiving right now is someone else's unprocessed pain. This doesn't make it any easier to receive it, but at least you know where it's coming from. Haters are just hurting people.
Ugly Sweater Lastly, learn to look at all hate and unwelcomed criticism as an ugly Christmas sweater.
Every year, Aunt Jane gets you a sweater you'll never wear. It's hideous—you don't even know what shade of green it is. Guess what? You don't have to wear it. Take it back.
All unwelcomed criticism is like an ugly sweater. If you don't like it, give it back.
Make no mistake—haters are gonna hate. When they do, try to see the best in them. Pray for them. Be more empathetic. And remember, everything comes with a receipt.