Handling Heated Exchanges

Dr. Anthony W. Adams
Dr. Anthony W. Adams

Passion is compelling.  It inspires people, persuades people, and motivates people toward a particular cause, line of thinking or belief, or sometimes the people themselves.  However, a person’s passion can also invite criticism and rejection. How often has it happened that at the peak of a person’s enthusiasm and excitement someone comes along to throw a cold bucket of negative criticism or rejection on their head?  It is readily admitted that some of our ideas have fatal flaws and are really not sound.  However, there are times when our strategies or dreams are, yes different, but sound, and yet people still take a stance against it, and sometimes even against us.  This is especially true in relation to those who are passionate about their faith.

The fact is if you are a person who is standing against the current, you might feel tempted to succumb to the pressure and just quit.  Charles Stanley stated, “Too many Christians have a commitment of convenience. They’ll stay faithful as long as it’s safe and doesn’t involve risk, rejection, or criticism. Instead of standing alone in the face of challenge or temptation, they check to see which way their friends are going.”

An example of someone facing criticism and rejection would be the apostle Paul.  The apostle had been placed under arrest and because of his reputation, King Herod requested a meeting to hear him.  There is no doubt that this meeting was ordained of God.  Ananias prophesied that Paul was “a chosen vessel… to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15, KJV, emphasis mine).  Now he stands before King Herod.  However, while Paul is giving his testimony and defense, the governor “Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad” (Acts 26:24, KJV).  As you can see, Festus is not only rejecting what is being said, but is maligning Paul. Paul is doing what God has called him to do yet; he is sucker-punched by the Governor’s incendiary comments.  The question is: How should we deal with this type of criticism?

First we should ask ourselves if our strategy or position is sound.  As you can see from the statement of Festus, he recognized that Paul was extremely intelligent.  He just did not like or understand what Paul was saying. We must make sure we can defend our position.  Paul told Timothy that he should “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15, KJV, emphasis mine). Make sure your position is solid.

Second, how do we handle the people criticizing our ideas or us? Notice the way Paul responded to Governor Festus.  “But he said, I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness” (Acts 26:25, KJV, emphasis mine). I would guess that these comments of Festus were like a slap in the face to Paul, but He did not answer in kind. He did not allow the Governor to cause him to act out of Christian character.  How often is our influence denigrated because we allow our emotions to override our good judgment? The Bible says, “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger” (Proverbs 15:1, KJV).  This is a nice segue’ to the final point.

The way we respond has an impact on more than just the person we are talking to. After this comment was made, Paul not only addressed Festus but he then continued to address the king.  The way he handled himself in the heat of this confrontation had a profound effect on those who were observing.  The King said, “Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian” (Acts 26:28, KJV). The King then stood up with the rest of the entourage and had a private meeting.  All he could say was that this man should not be in prison.  Even Festus acquiesced to the sentiments of the group; an obvious change from his former position.  The point is not only the words we use, but our actions and reactions that accompany our words, have a profound impact on how well our ideas are received.

When a person is passionate about their dreams or ideas there will often be opposition.  However, our actions and reactions are just as important as the defense we give for our position. My friends do not allow the Devil to goad you into saying something or reacting in a way that will give him any advantage.

Question: How do we stay cool when the conversation gets heated?