Dr. Norman Vincent Peale was a beloved pastor, writer, and speaker whose life spanned almost a century. Born in 1898, he saw 17 U.S. presidents come and go, and knew most of them personally. For 52 years he pastored the Marble Collegiate Church in Manhattan. But it was his 46 books that made him world-famous. In particular, The Power of Positive Thinking spent a mind-boggling 186 consecutive weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and was translated into 44 languages.
But that book, as successful as it was, also brought Norman Vincent Peale one of the biggest challenges of his life. He was unmercifully attacked for writing such a simplistic book. Literary critics, college professors and high-minded pastors scoffed at it. They considered Peale to be a literary lightweight and shallow thinker and never hesitated to say so.
In 1990, at the ripe old age of 92, Norman Vincent Peale was reflecting on those attacks and wrote the following:
Because of the attacks upon me, I thought for a time of leaving the church, but I realized there were thousands of fair-minded, kindly people in the church. In addition, I learned something important to anyone on how to deal with criticism: if it’s valid, learn from it. If it isn’t, ignore it and love the critics.*
It is often said that the best way to defeat your critics is to outlive them. A better way is to outlove them. But in our generation you almost never see that approach taken. You’re more likely to see a feud. Remember the doozy Donald Trump and Rosie O’Donnell had back in 2007? For several weeks, every newscast featured a new, degrading tirade. Their combined ages totaled over 100 years, but they both acted like bratty 5-year-olds.
Unless I miss my guess, I’d say you probably have a critic. Somebody who doesn’t understand you and, even worse, doesn’t want to. Somebody who thinks taking potshots at you is great sport. Somebody who would love to see you fail.
Just remember: that person is revealing his or her true character by those attacks. You will reveal yours by your response.
For further reflection read Proverbs 13:18, Numbers 12:1-16, James 4;11-12.
*Norman Vincent Peale, This Incredible Century (Wheaton: Tyndale, 1991), 146