Most of us know that it only takes one negative or critical comment to negate all the good things you've done. Ok, maybe not all, but the negative comment will easily consume your time/energy/emotions much more quickly than we will dwell on the positive feedback we receive.
If we look with lenses of logic, it's silly. It's absurd really that we can hear 100 good things and we dwell on the one negative thing. Or maybe I'm alone in this?! Yeah, I doubt it.
I still remember my annual review as an RA when I was a 4th year in college (6.5 years ago). I had about 100 residents on my floor and everyone had warm bubbly affirming things to say. Everyone but one. One person said they thought I was overly critical and they couldn't connect with me. Oh yeah, and one said I should die my hair blue, but really that wasn't gonna happen. I spent weeks worried about who I might have offended and wondered why on earth they couldn't connect with me. Nevermind the 98 positive comments. Those were easily forgotten and fell by the wayside. But those other two....ingrained in my head forever.
Today is one of those 1 in 100 days. Yesterday (despite my frustration with my sermon), I got a lot of positive feedback about the additional candle lighting we did for All Saints (we named the saints who had died this year and lit a candle and rang a bell for each of them, then we had tealight candles all around the altar for people to light in memory of others from their lives who had died (either this year or in years past...). There were at least a dozen positive comments about that service.
Then today, I was reading the back of our pledge cards, which have various questions:
What was the most powerful worship moment for this year?
When did you see prayer answered?
Who is someone who embodied Christ's service to you?
What do you hope for our church in the coming year?
What is something you would like to learn more about?
What is one area of your discipleship you are working on?
To the second question there were a number of folks who cited that I had shown Christ's service to them this year. Another round of compliments. Nevertheless, when someone said she and another parishioner had been talking about the disrepair of my shoes, I almost fell apart. My shoes were admittedly wearing out (sorry BTFM) but for them to be the topic of conversation was a bit stunning. In that moment none of the compliments mattered. None of the actual work I do seemed important. Only that I had let my shoes get worn out.
Later, at home, after lunch, I cried. I felt silly for being upset about it. I even feel silly for raising it here, but it was one of those things that totally tripped me up. In the scheme of things, it's inconsequential. It really is silly. (just like the comment that I dye my hair blue, or even the expectation that I would be able to connect perfectly with 100 out of 100 people...the odds simply were not in my favor). Nevertheless, I'm sure that will be the comment that I will remember 6.5 years from now. Not the compliments about worship. Not the compliments about how I have been a Christly servant to people. Not even compliments about some of the other shoes I have worn. No. None of those will be sketched on my brain. Instead, it will be this one, that my worn out shoes became the topic of conversation.
R was wonderful, for the record. He didn't laugh at me. He didn't try and tell me how ridiculous or silly I was. He just hugged me and let me cry. Then he remarked, "They're jerks...just for today. Tomorrow, let it go." Maybe not the most lyrical of quotes, but still sage advice. I can be upset about it, even upset at them, but only for today. It's not worth it to waste more energy consumed by it. Tomorrow I will let it go.