Turn around, look at me

By MICHAEL J. BROOKS | Guest Columnist

Note: This is an opinion column.

I guess it’s a light-hearted game we married people play. When she points out some infraction, I begin to list my better qualities.

“I don’t drink, smoke, gamble, play golf, spend $200 on weekend football games or hunting trips or sit on the couch all day with the clicker,” I proclaim. “So, if I accidentally leave a paper towel in the clothes cycle, what does it matter?”

We know people deal with criticism in at least three ways. Some avoid it, striving to be blameless so that they won’t be criticized. These are “people-pleasers” who refuse to take a stand or say anything that can be interpreted as negative. Often these are the workaholics, too, believing their overwork will prevent negative assessment.

Others deflect criticism with a tough exterior and don’t listen to it.

The better alternative is to absorb it—to sort it out and learn while discarding what may be unfair.

And absorbing is what I should do. It’s not good to leave a paper towel in clothes when washing them, though in the category of good and evil, this does seem like a minor thing. I could be more rightly accused of worse.

What about pride? Solomon said, “Pride goes before destruction” (Proverbs 16:18). I think of those times when I’ve reacted with undue pride to something I accomplished or said, rather than thanking God for allowing me to serve him. I’ve been known to revel in glory when I shouldn’t.

And I think of those times my words were inappropriate. I told a friend lately that I recalled several times I dashed off letters in exasperation. Of course these were in the “olden days” when communication wasn’t so instantaneous. One of these was to a neighboring pastor who unfairly criticized our church—a criticism I shouldn’t have dignified with a response.

I’ve never written in irritation that I didn’t later regret, except to politicians! James said the tongue is set on fire by hell. I don’t know that I’ve done much hellish talk, but I do know words spoken flippantly or thoughtlessly for which I’d like to issue a recall notice.

And there’s the parent’s lament about missing opportunities to spend time with our children when they’re younger. At this stage in life we’re building careers, working overtime and money is tight, so often our children get second-best. Thank God for “stage two” in life with grandchildren with whom we can walk more slowly, and whose parents can benefit from our gentle counsel.

I really can’t get too self-righteous when I think of the summary of my failures. But I can thank a gracious God whose mercy is everlasting and who specializes in re-dos and start-overs. -30-

Reflections is a weekly devotional column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church in Alabaster. The church’s website is siluriabaptist.com.