I came across a CNN article today about the controversy surrounding Mark and Grace Driscoll’s new book on marriage. There are many vocal critics from across the theological spectrum whose points seem valid. I haven’t read the book and don’t aim to talk about the criticisms (though I can tell you that my wife EA read the sample chapter online and it made her increasingly irate). What got my attention was Driscoll’s response to his critics in the article:
When asked to respond to his critics, Driscoll said he hadn’t read any of the reviews but that “sometimes reviewers will reveal more of their own struggles than actual problems with the book.”
All of which is a very adult-sounding way of saying: “I’m rubber. You’re glue. Whatever you say bounces off me and sticks back to you.”
What we have here is the same thing that drives me absolutely nuts during election season. It is an absolute refusal to validate the opinions of those that disagree with you. It is a complete unwillingness to admit that you might be wrong.
Somewhere along the way politicians, pastors, and other public figures got the idea that any sort of humility was a fatal flaw. It’s as if once one admitted that their opponent might have some valid points, confessed that they said something wrong, or owned up to changing his or her mind then people would withdraw their support faster than a cable talking head will ditch a former frontrunner.
You know what I would do if Driscoll, a presidential candidate, or someone else did this? I would say, “My gosh, they’re a real live human being!” And then I would be far more likely to listen to what they had to say.
But when you don’t listen to others, peg their criticisms on their own problems, or outright deny that you ever did anything wrong, I just hear “gong!” And if you keep that up you could say the most profound thing uttered since Jesus held court on a mountainside, all I’ll hear is white noise.
I’m just saying if you want to help people—and I think/hope that Driscoll and other public figures do at the root of their hearts—you’ve got to lay ego aside. You’ve got to stop shifting blame. You’ve got to listen to people with whom you might disagree.
To paraphrase a guy of whom I’m sure Driscoll is fond (though he probably wouldn’t use the word “fond”): You’ve got to be patient, kind, not jealous, not boastful, not proud. You can’t put down others or be self-seeking. You’ve got to be slow to anger and not hold past criticisms against people. You have to protect, trust, hope, and persevere. You’re called to love others. It entails all those things.
Because if you don’t respect others, if it’s all their problem and not yours, if your pride won’t crack the door open for some humility, we’re not going to hear you. All it will be is an obnoxious “gong!”