Jesus Needs New PR

Jesus Needs New PR


A BLOG POST: Go ahead; criticize me. (**this post contains asterisks**)

I started writing this post in February. At the time, I’d received a very hateful letter from somebody who follows me on Facebook. If I’d posted these words then, it would have been in retaliation. Now, it’s simply a post about criticism.

I receive a good bit of criticism. But you probably knew that already.

Like most people, I hate criticism.

SIDENOTE: I don’t hate bad reviews. I see reviews as opinions about products that I created. And I’ve come to grips with the fact that some people will like what I do and some people won’t. Sure, sometimes the things people write about my books sting a bit. But criticism in the way of reviews is the nature of the “writing beast”—and I’ve learned to accept it as part of the job.

But sometimes, rather than writing a review of my book and posting their heated opinions on Amazon, a person will send me an email. Rather than critique my book, they instead critique/review me, my faith, and sometimes my eternal destiny.

In the beginning (seven years ago) that kind of criticism got to me. Sometimes it caused me to cry. Sometimes I got angry. Sometimes I consumed over it. On occasion, I let it affect my mood and how I perceived the good things that people said.

People started sending me hate mail shortly after my first book The Christian Culture Survival Guide released. I received numerous mean-spirited critiques for writing CCSG. But the one letter that sticks out came from a pastor in California. After reading CCSG, he wrote to tell me that he thought I was a disgrace to the kingdom of God, and that my writing made me sound like “a whining p*ssy of a man.” He then apologized if his “tone” was un-Christlike.

Among those early letters and emails, I got called many interesting things. Among the most memorable are: “the antitheses of manhood,” a “whoremonger,” and a “f*cking idiot.”

I wrote that last guy back. My response was kind. I thanked him for reading my blog, and for writing me an email, and then I told him that I would pray and ask God to use his words to help me “grow.”

I really wanted to mean what I wrote back to him. But truthfully, I didn’t. I was pissed off and my response was my attempt to get him to apologize. He didn’t.

Once, a man wrote me an email to let me know that he was praying for me. What was his prayer request? THIS IS A QUOTE: “…I pray, for your sake, that one of these days God effs you up… for your own good.”

And then there was this incident…

Shortly after my book What You Didn’t Learn From Your Parents About Sex released, a pastor in Canada began writing emails to me, my publisher, a Canadian book distributor, and all of the Christian bookstores in the province of Alberta. Why? Because of a joke I wrote about Jennifer Love Hewitt. I’m very serious. He was furious about this joke, which was odd, since it really wasn’t all that funny of a joke. After writing two emails, my publisher responded. He didn’t like their response, mainly because they told him that they weren’t going to pull all of my books off the shelves. So he wrote six more emails, one of which asked bookstores in Alberta to remove all of my books from their shelves (five agreed). But his last email—a letter of apology to Jennifer Love Hewitt—was his best work. He sent the letter to me, my publisher, AND Jennifer Love Hewitt’s agent and website manager.

His letter began with the words, “Dear Miss Hewitt, I’ve never watched any of your movies or television shows…” and then it went on to apologize to Miss Hewitt on behalf of Christianity for my book.

While I laughed some, I also wondered if I was supposed to learn something from this guy. I wrote to him. And this time I was sincere. I told him that even though he and I disagreed about humor and such, that I was certain that, if we were in the same room, we’d get along. I hoped that was true. He wrote back. And his letter to me was kind and gracious and thankful that I’d taken the time to write him. He even apologized for trying to ruin me in Canada!

Just in the last couple months, I’ve received several letters: One of them came from a woman who was irate about my acceptance of gays and lesbians. Ironically, another woman, after reading the first chapter of Hear No Evil, assumed that I hated gays and lesbians. Sometimes you can’t win. And then there was the letter I received from a “close friend.” He wrote to tell me that I was nothing more than “the Christian Perez Hilton.”

Since becoming a fulltime writer seven years ago, there’s been a lot of criticism–some of it rude, some of it crazy, some of it constructive, and on few occasions it was very heartfelt from people who truly seemed concerned about my eternal well-being.

Now, I don’t share all of this in hopes of receiving a bunch of “you are awesome” comments. This isn’t an ego-boosting post. I receive many letters thanking me for a book or my blog, and I appreciate every one of them. And God knows, I know people who receive far worse criticism than I do. And they don’t ask for it.

Yes, I admit that once in a while I ask for the criticism I receive. Not literally. But indirectly through blog posts.

I’ve received a lot of advice from people on how to handle criticism:

  • “Let it go.”
  • “Oh, that dude’s an ass, Matthew, don’t let him get to you.”
  • “Maybe you should change what you write about, or at least, how you write about it.”
  • “Aw, man, it just means you’re doing something right!”
  • “Laugh it off.”

On one occasion or another, I’ve probably tried all of the advice I’ve received. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t.

So how do I handle criticism? It all depends. What did the critic say? Is it personal? Do I take it personal? Should I take it personal? Are they in some small way correct about me? What kind of mood am I in? Is it morning, noon, or evening? Is it a Monday or Friday? Am I on deadline? Is Elias screaming? Has Jessica read the email? Have I taken my Adderall?

All of the answers to those questions factor into the equation.

I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s no magic formula for handling criticism. Sometimes I take it too seriously. Sometimes I don’t take it seriously enough. Sometimes it turns me into the “names” that the critics call me. On occasion the letters have caused me to break down and cry. Sometimes they cause me to pray. Sometimes they cause me to retaliate. Sometimes I laugh.

And sometimes I feel nothing at all.

I’ve had people say to me that “feeling nothing” is the way I should handle mean-spirited criticism. “Why should you give them the time of day?”

Some say that my letting people’s words get to me is self-centered or narcissistic. And perhaps they’re right in certain situations. But I’m human. I’m emotional. I’m passionate. I want people to like me sometimes. I don’t need everybody to like me. And I certainly don’t work toward getting everybody to like me. However, to not hurt or feel something when people critique me isn’t “me.” And while I refuse to let other people’s feelings about me define who I am. I sometimes must feel their words.

Because not feeling their words can sometimes make me prideful. Sometimes not letting them hurt or piss me off can make me a little narcissistic. Sometimes it can lead me toward ignoring all forms of criticism, even the good kind from people who love me and desire the best for me. And I need those people’s guidance in my life. I don’t want to get to a place where I simply ignore criticism.

Because the truth is, sometimes I am f*cking idiot. And once in a while it takes another f*cking idiot to remind me of that. And yeah, I’m guilty of loving and accepting gay people. And sometimes I need a mean-spirited Christian woman to remind me why. And sometimes I need a jerk to put me in my place… if for nothing else, to remind me that I don’t need everybody to like me or like what I do…

And yes, I did write a not-all-that-funny joke at the expense of Jennifer Love Hewitt. But she made I STILL Know What You Did Last Summer, and I think that makes us even.



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Alise

posted June 7, 2010 at 10:00 am


Now, I don’t share all of this in hopes of receiving a bunch of “you are awesome” comments.

Thank heavens.

But yeah, criticism is a tough thing. What’s weird for me is that the less true I “know” that it is, the more likely I am to be hurt by it. When my heart is completely misread, that kind of criticism will just tear me up. I can deal with stuff that’s true or stuff that’s just batshit insane, but when it’s something that’s really close to my heart and the person just got it WRONG, that’s hard for me to shake off.



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Jason

posted June 7, 2010 at 10:03 am


The hardest thing about criticism is that I know post people don’t really give a Jennifer Love Hewitt’s hair flip about criticism from people they don’t really know. They may read it, mull on it for a second and move on…if they don’t dismiss it outright.

That’s why I rarely comment in any kind of critical manner on here. You don’t really know me, I’m pretty sure my opinion isn’t one on your high list of those you would value and so I’m not going to waste my time or yours.

I just assume that if you really wanted my take on a post you make you’d ask me after church on Sunday morning. :)



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tristan

posted June 7, 2010 at 10:03 am


Good for you. All I can say is that opinion isn’t always pleasant. You have to take it for what it is. I applaud you for standing by your decisions even if they don’t make you all that popular. I know, from personal experience, it’s painful to go against the flow sometimes. You know, just like all those 90s Jesus bumper stickers say.
Keep doing what you do, man.
Best of luck to you,
tristan.



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Vikki

posted June 7, 2010 at 10:06 am


Thanks for the post. I’m not sure what to say actually. My friend and I really enjoy your books and laugh heartily about things you post on your website, but we get offended at your “tweets” sometimes and find ourselves constantly going back and forth from “following/unfollowing,following” you again. This has actually sparked some great conversations between the two of us. :) I have finally decided that I will love some of what you say and really not like others. And that’s fine. :)

I’m truly sorry that words have been said to you in the past that caused pain.



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Carole Turner

posted June 7, 2010 at 10:09 am


Ha! Yea, I don’t handle criticism well either. I ALWAYS have to come back to the person, if they were correct and I realized it, and tell them I was sorry for my initial reaction. But like you said, some people that criticize are just wrong and for them, well, I just try not to go Gretchen Wilson on them…that’s my nature :-)

As someone who worked for 13 mental health counselors for over 9 years as the office manager, which qualifies me to make this judgment, I wanted to say that this post reads like good “processing” of your perdicament, so at least YOUR mental health is staying healthy in this matter :-)



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Jennifer

posted June 7, 2010 at 10:22 am


I don’t always agree with things you say, but it’s the fact that you challenge me (personally) in my faith that keeps me coming back for more. You make me ask questions, and I think that’s healthy.



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Sarah

posted June 7, 2010 at 10:48 am


Story about you and critique…
We met one time at a concert… I had just recorded my first demo CD, and a mutual friend of ours asked you to critique it.
I only remember the best and worst thing that you said: that my voice went sharp, and that the songwriting was the best element. There are a lot of different types of criticism (it’s a shame that we only have one word to encompass them all). What you said was constructive, and it genuinely helped me.

Unfortunately, we’re very quick to criticize others (internally) and that’s never constructive. Especially when we judge someone who does what we do (vocation, lifestyle, talent, etc..). I think that’s why Christians feel almost obligated to throw mud at each other, because for some absurd reason, we tend to see ourselves as the measuring stick. Suddenly, Jesus is no longer the paradigm for right living, it is I (and whatever lifestyle, life-stage, fad theology, church cult, political cult, or personality cult I may be following at the time).

We always hear that old church analogy of the flock, where there are wolves in sheepskins… but how about the sheep in shepherd-skins (wow, this turned Animal-Farm really quickly..).



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Chad Estes

posted June 7, 2010 at 10:48 am


Matthew,

Thank you for processing this part of your journey with us. I love your humor, but even more your honesty and your heart.

Chad



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Mary

posted June 7, 2010 at 10:49 am


I just assume most people are judging me from their own correct or skewed place. And I assume that I am often saying stupid, non-thought through stuff. So, I either deserve or do not deserve criticism but I usually only take it seriously if it is from someone I trust.
There is such a lack of understanding in general in the world (maybe going back to Babel?) that it seems amazing to me that I find 10 people that I actually share common values with.



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Andrea @ MommySnacks.net

posted June 7, 2010 at 10:53 am


The thing with criticism is that, at least it makes you think one way or another. When you stop thinking or even reacting (whether a flippant reaction or emotional one) to the words, that’s when you should worry.



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Adam Whitley

posted June 7, 2010 at 10:54 am


You are awesome.



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    Daniel

    posted June 7, 2010 at 8:30 pm


    MY comment was going to be, “Since everyone else already said intelligent things, I’m going with, You are awesome.”

    Dang-it Adam!



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Jon Acuff

posted June 7, 2010 at 11:01 am


I think this is the type of post that serves as a great example of why people love your stuff. It’s raw and honest. I for one have been greatly helped by your willingness to share this kind of stuff.
Jon



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Meg

posted June 7, 2010 at 11:02 am


Thank you for your honesty in this post! We all handle criticism a little differently, but the fact that you waited so long to even post this says a lot. Keep on keepin on – your blog (and books and other writings) is making an impact despite what the critics think!



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Carl McColman

posted June 7, 2010 at 11:09 am


Matthew, as a writer who has a tendency to go into full-blown Anne Lamott mode whenever I get criticized, I’d like to thank you for such an honest post.



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Me

posted June 7, 2010 at 11:11 am


I’ve never handled criticism well, mostly because I do not see the heathly function in name calling, blasting, ridiculing and belittleing another being created in the image of God just as I am….perfectly FLAWED by thousands of years of sin just as I am.

I do strongly believe in the lost art of healthy debate.



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Jamie the Very Worst Missionary

posted June 7, 2010 at 11:15 am


People are stupid.

Sometimes I’m stupid, sometimes you’re stupid, and sometimes the stupid people are some dumb f*ck you’ve never met, or worse, they’re your neighbor or your best friend or your Dad…

The fact that you’ve taken several months to think over who is being stupid and who’s not is, in my opinion, admirable.

My point is that not one of us is perfect and not one of us is always right. It’s something to do with falling short of God’s glory, I think. So the best we can do is be introspective about it.

Well done.



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Jamie the Very Worst Missionary

posted June 7, 2010 at 11:18 am


Also? I’ve lost financial support because someone disliked the fact that I used the word shit on my blog more than they liked the fact that I’m down here feeding impoverished babies and talking about Jesus to teenagers.

So, like I said, some people are just stupid. :



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    Danny Bixby

    posted June 7, 2010 at 11:24 am


    Well, shouldn’t they expect it based on the kind of missionary you are? Jeez people! ;)



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    Jason

    posted June 7, 2010 at 12:05 pm


    I can’t believe people do shit like that. Oh shit! Now I said it! I’ll never be in ministry ever! Oh no! (running away screaming)



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Carl McColman

posted June 7, 2010 at 11:21 am


Oops, did I just make the equivalent of your Jennifer Love Hewitt comment? Let me go on record as saying that I have nothing but the utmost respect for Anne Lamott, and the only reason I invoked her is because she is one of the few authors to write so honestly about how insecure we all feel!!!



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Danny Bixby

posted June 7, 2010 at 11:23 am


Your last two paragraphs really hit me.

I think it’s great that you’re not allowing yourself to become numb to the criticism.



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JuliaKate

posted June 7, 2010 at 11:28 am


i often visit your blog to be sobered up on what we’re working with as the Church. sometimes i’m in a bubble of christians who are “controversial” and open about their love for homosexuals, Obama, illegal immigrants, europe, Jesusneedsnewpr.net, etc. etc. I often forget about the people who feel very threatened by homosexuals, Obama, illegal immigrants, europe, & Jesusneedsnewpr.net… you seem to bring them out of the woodwork. it’s good for me to see that. it’s good for all of us to see that and be aware.
oh and you’re awesome! ;)



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Nick

posted June 7, 2010 at 11:45 am


Hey Matthew-Thanks for writing this. I’m glad to know that I’m not alone. I feel that at times, I am honest to a fault, and i get criticized a lot for the things i say. Now, when i say the things i do, I try to do so in a graceful manner-key word “try.” Graceful to me may not mean the same to the next person. Now-if you said Rusty-the fuzzy robot was ugly and needed to be in the fuzzy special olympics-i’d call you a f*cking idiot ;) j/k But in all honesty-I take the criticism I get pretty tough and don’t really know how to let it go. I hate the phrase “it’s not personal-it’s business.” To take a line from Meg Ryan-it’s personal to me. I dont know if you follow the FamilyMan weekly-but he recently sent an email about how he drove to a gay beach and yelled at his kids to get back in the RV as soon as they realized where they were. It hurts knowing that people like that put Christians in such a negative light. Thanks for writing this man. I’m glad I’m not alone in this.



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Angela

posted June 7, 2010 at 11:51 am


Matthew,

This was excellent. Well thought out and written. I could feel your myriad emotions as you wrote, as well as your calm resolution with the hateful letters and confidence in who you are in Christ. And, like you, I do understand that there are different types of critiques…I can certainly recover quickly (and learn) from those who write to tell me I overuse the ellipsis. The comments that attack me and my family because I may hold a different opinion…those tend to cut deep. So thank you for writing and posting this. I found it encouraging.

And now out of morbid curiosity, I would like to hear your joke about Jennifer Love Hewitt.



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Dana Ellis

posted June 7, 2010 at 12:22 pm


Well f*ck. What page is the comment about Jennifer Love Hewitt on? I can’t even concentrate on leaving you a real comment until I see what this evil is that you’re talking about..



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Dana Ellis

posted June 7, 2010 at 12:47 pm


Okay, just in case someone else is dying of curiosity, the joke about Jennifer Love Hewitt is on page 57. And for the record MPT, it did get a bit of a snicker out of me.. Though, you might have low-balled us a little. I was totally expecting something sexual from that book.

Okay, so I see that you’ve gotten plenty of advice about taken criticism and even the specific advice that I would normally give.. “It means you’re doing something right”.

But it does help me to know that that advice comes from the Bible..
“How terrible it will be for you when everyone says nice things about you, because that’s the way their ancestors used to treat the false prophets!”



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sam

posted June 7, 2010 at 12:51 pm


So Christians can say f*ck and sh*t, dick and slut, big deal. I know what the Word of God says about foul language, so shouldn’t I want to please God? I know you/we will never be able to please everybody, but is it not (y)our responsibility to please God first and foremost? If you love Him, then you obey Him. When you know you did His will, let the critics and hecklers come! God will defend you, rest assured.



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Nick

posted June 7, 2010 at 1:24 pm


I don’t always agree with you, but I can honestly say that I have learned from you, laughed because of you, and enjoyed laughs and great conversations with others through your work. I connect with a lot of your work because we were raised in similar churches and environments, so, it feels like cheap therapy :)

I’m not going to give you advice on how to handle criticism, because I definitely don’t have it mastered. I can only say that when people attack you with such vile, it reveals where they are at in their own heart…sometimes that helps me cope with attacks.



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Loren C. Klein

posted June 7, 2010 at 2:16 pm


Excellent comments on criticism, but I think there’s a lesson to be learned when people get their dander really ruffled with us because oftentimes bile tossed in our direction becomes a two-way mirror in that it shows the pettiness of those tossing the bile, but also the chips on our shoulder that we swing at folks that gets the bile tossed at us in the first place.

Just sayin’.



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Larry Barnes

posted June 7, 2010 at 2:22 pm


Your Mom

(is a respectible member of her community)



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Amy @ My Friend Amy

posted June 7, 2010 at 3:52 pm


I really appreciated this post because I can get very hurt by criticism and I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing. Sometimes, I just need to process through what people are saying. But I guess others say things like “Let it go” because they don’t want to see you bothered and hurt.



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Jennifer Love Hewitt

posted June 8, 2010 at 1:34 am


I did not think it was funny, Mr. Turner.



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Leanne

posted June 8, 2010 at 5:28 am


I think this post made me think more about criticism. If criticism is done in a constructive manner, yes it will sting but I don’t think it should make one cry for long periods of time or wish to leave their ministry.
I do not believe many people truly know how to criticize constructively. Instead they write or call or confront out of anger and a defensive stance instead of out of love.
May God’s peace be with you. May God’s grace speak through you.



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Rick Garner

posted June 8, 2010 at 11:27 am


The first thing that comes to mind are Christ’s words. “If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first.” (John 15:18) But what’s the resounding gong of weirdness here? It’s not the world showing you “hate” but the Body of Christ! What the what?

This is such an area that we must grow and mature in. Some Christians feels its our place to keep everyone looking, smelling, and sounding the same way. We’re not Borg (even they had some style…Seven of Nine, ooouuu)! But we seem compelled to put everyone in molds. Perfect little Christian molds. Could it be that since we – for example – don’t think Christians should drink alcohol (by the way, I don’t, but because I can’t stand the taste) and maybe deep down we wish we did, we feel compelled to judge those that do and try to make them stop?

Name your issue and the story is the same – but what’s key here is what is Biblical? Without starting a whole new thread on similar issues, verbally attacking and slinging out hate towards you, Matt, is wrong – period. Disagree with you…question your conclusions…but name calling and acting like spoiled brats? Come on, people. Grow up.



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Bagsmerma

posted July 8, 2010 at 6:37 pm

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