David / Day 15 / Coping with Criticism


1 Samuel 17: 28-30

When Eliab, David's oldest brother, heard him speaking with the men, he burned with anger at him and asked, ‘Why have you come down here? And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the desert? I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; you came down only to watch the battle.’


Look at what happens when David starts indicating that he’s willing to step up and take Goliath on. Hiss oldest brother Eliab hears him talking about fighting the giant and totally launches into him, tearing him to shreds. This is his oldest brother who should be looking after him and watching his back.

When anyone, even a complete stranger, criticises us, it can be difficult to take. But often the conflict and criticism that hurts us most isn’t from the enemy out there – it’s from those closest to us. It’s from those in our own families, those whom we have trusted, that we’ve opened our hearts to, who we have let into our world, invested ourselves in, who we thought would always be on our side, we assumed we’d grow old with them. They’re the ones who, when they turn against us and tear us down, the pain goes the deepest. 

Look at how Eliab puts him down and patronises him: "Who did you leave the few sheep you look after with?" He's criticising David’s job as shepherd.  In other words: 'David, you are of no importance whatsoever. You’ve just a few sheep – you’re so insignificant.'

Then he criticizes David’s character: “I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is.” It’s one thing to have what you do criticised. But when it becomes personal about your character that takes it a step further.

I once spoke somewhere and got a letter soon afterwards from someone who really didn’t like what I’d said. It was 3 pages of criticism after criticism. The hardest part wasn’t that she didn’t like the style or the content of my message – that was fine. It was when she then moved on to attack my character and accuse me of all sorts of things. That was what really was hard to take. I really began to question myself and my motives.

The thing is this – what was it about David that God said He loved most? God said David was "a man after His own heart." God loved David’s heart.

And what does his brother attack? His heart.

Often the things that God loves most about us are things that other will criticise most.

Your passion for God, your courage, your desire to make a real difference in the world, your compassion for a certain group of people – God loves it – but it makes others around you uncomfortable. They think you’re too extreme. That you’re in it for the wrong motives. 

That’s what we see here. Finally Eliab criticises David’s motives:

“...you came down only to watch the battle.” In other words, 'You’re just down here to be nosy, to spectate likes it’s some sort of entertainment.' 

Nobody likes criticism. It gets us at the very core of who we are. It’s like a punch in the gut. Especially when it’s from someone we care about or look up to. It goes round and round our minds and can totally consume us. It can hurt us deeply. It can discourage us and set us back in life. Criticism can bring all our insecurities to the surface.

But the simple reality of life is this: If you are going to do anything remotely significant or important or different with your life – you will be criticised. There is no way round it. 

As Aristotle said:

“Criticism is something you can avoid easily – by saying nothing, doing nothing and being nothing.”

If you are going to do anything with your life to make a difference in this world, then at some point you will make decisions that will upset some people.  Especially if you’re in any sort of leadership role.  As leadership expert John Maxwell says: “The price of leadership is criticism.”

Tomorrow we'll look further at how David dealt with criticism and refused to allow it to take him off course.