A few weeks ago, Donald Miller (who’s a New York Times bestselling author and a popular blogger) wrote a post about how, as an introvert, he must order his life so that he can get his writing done. One of the things he does is “make sure [he has] until 5 each day completely free to write,” which is, of course, historically and globally, an exceptional privilege; one that almost no one can replicate. True, Donald did not present his routine as prescriptive (as the first cartoon cell above suggests) but the title, “How to Avoid a People Hangover,” does give that impression.
So last week, my friend Ellen Painter Dollar wrote a post about how, as an introvert AND a mom, she (and other writer-mom-friends, of which I am one) managed to make time for writing amid our busy lives. Many of us who write have nothing close to the luxury of Miller’s “until 5 each day completely free to write,” and Ellen’s post resonated with those of us (which is most of us) who write in the snatches of time we can get between our ‘real’ jobs and our family obligations. Her post was hardly any sort of harsh criticism. Rather, it stated what could be understood as fairly obvious to anyone reading Donald’s original post: most people can’t do this.
Donald Miller replied on Twitter, first saying “love this!” and then, some hours later, sent this:
Then Donald Miller wrote another post in which he talked about how much he HATES (caps lock HATES) critics, but that, * sigh, * since he talks about Jesus and is a well-known leader, criticism is going to happen, and even though he’s still really mad, he’s going to be Jesus-y about it and “turn the other cheek.”
And, of course, most of the comments and tweets from his fans are of the affirming variety, praising Miller for his Christ-like behavior in response to the “morons” and “jerks” who disagree with him. Meanwhile, when Ellen commented to remark that it seems the post is directed at her (in part to remind Miller’s readers that there might be an actual human being behind the “moron” and “jerk” labels), saying (again) she’s sorry Donald felt hurt and would welcome a private conversation with Donald, she got a lot of comments like “why are you so egotistical, Ellen? It’s not all about you, you know. Plus, why are you even criticizing Notorious Leader Donald Miller? And in the wrong way?”
Who, exactly, is being egotistical here: the one talking about how he HATES critics and wants to smash their heads into lockers (except he would never do that, because he was sweet and shy and ate donuts in junior high, he says) while demurring that the only reason anyone could be criticizing him is that he’s so famous, and Jesus-y, and a leader…
…or the person who had some criticisms of something the leader wrote and who was (understandably) a little bothered by the frankly mean rhetoric he directed at her just a few days ago, and whose outline of the events (numbered 1, 2, 3 & so on) exactly parallel their exchange last week?
What I have to say about this is really very simple: when a person publicly says something like, “I’m going to be like Jesus even though I’m really mad and would like to smash things and/or people, but clearly they are just mad at me because I talk about Jesus and I’m famous,” that is not ‘daring,’ ‘honest,’ ‘raw,’ or anything else. It is humble-bragging of the very worst kind, the kind that brings Jesus along to co-sign one’s own bullsh*t, and that is sly blasphemy.
Receiving criticism is hard. Receiving it WELL is harder. But there are (at least) two ways to invoke Jesus in these situations that are, from my (limited and flawed) point of view, hideously wrong:
1. Invoking Jesus to say something like “I pretty much hate you but I love Jesus more than I hate you.”
(translation: I hate you AND I’m going to brag about how much more spiritual I am than you.)
2. Invoking Jesus to say something like “clearly it’s because I’m so famous and influential and Jesus-y that I’m even getting criticism.”
(translation: I am awesome, so why should I even listen to critics, who clearly are always wrong?)
And no fair putting Jesus in the “nice” category so that speaking up or speaking out about these kinds of things is categorically un-Jesus-y because Jesus is just ‘nice.’ Because that is just not true, and if I may continue being frank, it is just as not true for women as it is for men, although we women are, in my (limited) experience, more likely to be called names or accused of ‘bad motives’ for telling the truth as we see it.
“A plain fact spoken by a woman’s tongue is not infrequently perceived as a cutting blade directed at a man’s genitals.” (Adrienne Rich, Of Woman Born)
(Donald’s original post, Ellen’s response, Donald’s post on hating critics.)