Apr 272020 3 Responses

My Favorite Thing the Haters Say

They say I’m disturbing the peace.

It’s a serious charge. If the accusation is correct than I am greatly in the wrong and am in desperate need of change.

However, in many instances the allegation is false. I’m not disturbing the peace; the idea I’m presenting is disturbing their power which to them they believe is peace.

Ideas That Challenge

I’m a writer and a pastor/preacher. While those are differing vocations, they have something important in common–ideas. Both in speaking and writing, I’m charged with looking at culture, systems, families, and individuals and evaluating ways in which we are not living in our intended design of love. (See: Things I Preach But Don’t Practice)

When I see a rub between how things should be and how they are, I can’t force change. But I can say something, write something, and invite us all into a different way of life. I believe in the power of words–both spoken and written.

Challenge Produces Criticism

No one naturally loves being challenged. Our instinctive response is to recoil from it. It takes a great deal of maturity to learn that challenge is for our benefit far more than for our detriment. It is the wise old veteran player who understands his need for coaching. It’s the faithful disciple who knows her need for a pastor. When we are challenged, our first response is to fight back. (See: 5 People You Should Ignore)

Challenge produces criticism. It’s true for the preacher; it’s true for the writer.

As a people-pleaser, criticism isn’t my favorite thing about my job. However, I know it is an expected aspect and it’s also a necessary element. As a challenger, I need to be challenged as well. Just because I write something, doesn’t make it true. I need others to question me, doubt my ideas, and give possible alternatives to how I’m perceiving circumstances.

Criticism is good.

However, there is one type of criticism which rarely has its intended effect.

A Hater’s Favorite Line

While criticism is good, there is one go-to line that some use which is a red flag. To them, the accusation is a powerful word revealing my true intentions and proving the ideas I raised shouldn’t be heeded.

To me, it’s a near guarantee that what I have written or preached has at least hit near the truth.

The accusation, “You’re just stirring the pot.” (See: My Greatest Difficulty In the Pastorate)

This is a favorite by some whenever I write on a hot-topic issue. When I write about racism, sexism, the dangers of adultery, or the need for character in leadership, some will inevitably throw out the charge that I’m just stirring the pot. It’s an attack intended to minimize my influence and marginalize whatever issue I have raised. If I’m just trying to stir the pot, then I don’t really believe what I’m saying. My concern really isn’t about injustice or inequality. I’m just using those issues for personal gain. If I’m just trolling the internet looking to create division, people should ignore the ideas and assume I’m wrong about the issue I have raised.

Yet, notice three things about the criticism:

  1. It switches the discussion from an issue to a person. Suddenly I’m on trial rather than the issue I raised.
  2. It assumes ill-intent without any evidence. No one ever asks if my intent is just to cause trouble; they assume it.
  3. It deflects attention away from the actual issue I raised. Racism, sexism, power, and the need for character in leadership are vital issues, but they are also issues which might require change if we recognize them, so we would rather shy away from the possibility that something might be demanded of us.

The truth is when someone moves from discussing the ideas to making a personal accusation/attack, chances are they know they are wrong. The old lawyer says “when the facts are on your side, pound the facts; when the law is on your side, pound the law; when neither is on your side, pound the table.” Personal attacks are a form of pounding the table.

Why It Encourages Me

While the accusation is meant to discourage me, the result most often is one of encouragement. Why? Because it puts me in good company. (See: What I Debate Most In My Life)

Jesus was accused of disturbing the peace. As a matter of fact, one could argue he was crucified for it. The Romans didn’t care about Jesus. But they didn’t want to be bothered by political unrest. It was easier to kill Jesus than deal with his ideas.

Paul’s most common charge against him was disturbing the peace. On multiple occasions he proclaimed the truth which challenged people’s power and they accused him of creating unnecessary tensions.

Martin Luther King Jr. was guilted by religious people for stirring the pot. Jailed in Birmingham for peaceful protests, white pastors accused King Jr. of unnecessarily creating strain in the community. King Jr. wrote to those pastors pointing out that they were more vocal about his peaceful protests than the unjust conditions creating his need to protest.

Clearly I’m not Jesus, Paul, or Martin Luther King Jr., however, when I’m accused in similar ways as them, it might be a sign I’m doing something right. It doesn’t guarantee it, but it does make it more likely than not.

The charge of “stirring the pot” or “disturbing the peace” is a serious one. But the greater question is simply a question of truth. Real peace is built on truth. As long as we are promoting the truth, we cannot be the source of the tension. We might be revealing the injustice which is already present, but we are not creating the uneasiness.

Welcome critics. Consider their ideas. But don’t be persuaded to silence the truth because others are uncomfortable with what you are saying.

For more, see Sometimes You’ve Got to Stir the Pot

3 Responses to My Favorite Thing the Haters Say
  1. […] My Favorite Things the Haters Say, I wrote that the accusation “you’re just stirring the... https://www.kevinathompson.com/sometimes-youve-got-to-stir-the-pot

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