My advice to my granddaughter: “It’s not about you, honey. Some people will love you more than you deserve, and some will despise you without ever giving you a chance. You must not take it personally.”
Erin just turned 21 and earns a living waiting tables at a nice upscale restaurant in the Mobile, Alabama, area. The other day, she came home in tears.
The restaurant had been crowded, with long lines of people waiting to get inside. The kitchen was running behind and diners had to wait an unusually long time for their orders. Erin ran herself ragged all evening. She specifically thanked people for their patience and apologized for the slow service. She didn’t have a moment to catch her breath.
One particular table had two young men and a middle-aged guy. They seemed nice enough. Since the kitchen was running slow and they had ordered pizzas that had to be made from scratch, requiring at least a 30-minute time frame, Erin stopped by several times to thank them for their kindness and patience and to assure them the pizzas would be out soon.
Then, when they paid their tab, she found out a different side of them.
One had written on his tab, “Get better.” Another wrote on the gratuity line: “Zero.”
Neither of the three left a tip.
These thoughtless, selfish men penalized the waitress, who like most every other waitress in every restaurant earns something like two dollars an hour, for not putting their order in front of everyone else’s.
And she wept.
As her Grandpa Joe, I hurt for her. Being human, I’d like to say a few things to some selfish men who should have stayed home that night.
I could not erase this from her mind and heart, but I could help her learn an important lesson from it.
As I understand, Erin’s plans include marrying into the ministry before too long. So, she will be learning about life from the pastor’s home. So, I wouldn’t be surprised if this little lesson in the restaurant will turn out to be timely.
My wife Bertha, a pastor’s wife all her adult life, had a story for Erin:
When our children were small, one Sunday morning just before the worship service, I went to pick up my four-year-old son after Sunday School. The woman who led the class was standing at the door waiting for me. She had a big paper grocery bag in her arms. As it turned out, it was filled with Jeff’s little cars and toys from home.
She handed it to me and said testily, “Here are your son’s toy cars that I have collected for a full year. You know very well he was not supposed to bring them from home!”
I merely took them from her and walked away.
Erin, Chuck Swindoll said he sometimes gets an anonymous letter that really hurts. But often the criticism will contain a kernel of truth. The trick, he said, is not to let it become the whole cob!
As I thought about it, I realized that I should have been more diligent in checking Jeff’s pockets before he left for church on Sunday mornings. I had not done that.
(The woman was chewing out the pastor’s wife. The snarky attitude of that woman certainly merited an appropriate response. Only the self-control of the pastor’s wife made her bite her tongue and go on.)
I said to Erin:
Erin, once you become the wife of a minister, you will find yourself the focus of cruel remarks from a few church members. They are people with attitudes of a Pharisee and no self-control. You must not take it personally. They’re in every church.
This past Sunday, I was sketching church members in a congregation where a friend of ours is the pastor. The elderly woman posing for me said, “Well, I guess they’ve told you about me.”
“Told me what?” I said innocently. They had, but I wanted to hear for myself.
“I am a person who speaks my mind,” she proceeded to tell me. “If I have a thought about you, I’m going to tell you. If I don’t like something you did, you’ll be hearing about it. That’s what!”
I said, “I suppose that’s OK so long as you give everyone else the same privilege, to tell you what they think of what you are doing.”
She assured me she did. I didn’t believe a word of it, of course.
Selfish critics like her never want people to return the favor. They delight in dispensing their cruel remarks as though the world just cannot wait to hear their judgment.
Later, I thought of something I should have said to her.
I could have helped my friend the pastor, I’m thinking.
Suppose I had said to her: “You know, you’re paying a big price for this privilege, don’t you?”
And when she asked what price I meant, I would say to her, “No one likes to be around people who cannot keep their opinion to themselves. They usually have no friends. So, I wouldn’t be surprised if you have very few friends.”
“Faithful are the wounds of a friend …” (Proverbs 27:6).
I could have said it and gotten by with it as a visitor in the church. The pastor could not do that, of course. He and his wife go on doing their best to love this old lady and endure her idiosyncrasies.
Since Erin’s twin Abigail is making similar ministry plans as she, I said to them the other night:
One huge thing I have learned in the Lord’s work is that many people will love you far more than you deserve. They are loving people and they bless you just because of who they are.
And likewise …
In every church, there are a few people who will dislike you, not for anything you do, but for what is lacking in them. You must not take it personally. They are critical by nature, ugly-spirited to everyone they meet, and you just happened to be their target at the moment.
You must learn to accept the love and to endure the hostility. In fact, think of the ugliness as a little test from the Lord. He sends these people to you to see if you can react to them in a Christ-like way. Do that and you will honor Him and bless your ministry in that church.
God bless all pastors and their spouses. The blessings of life in the pastor’s home can be enormous … and the pains heartbreaking.
Let us pray for these faithful servants and entrust them to the Lord for safekeeping.
Editor's Note: For more from Joe McKeever, click here.