“Jesus said, ‘No doubt you will quote this proverb to me, “Physician, heal yourself! Whatever we heard was done at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.” No prophet is welcome in his own hometown’” (Luke 4:24).
John Fogerty’s group Creedence Clearwater Revival is unforgettable to anyone who has owned a radio in the last 50 years. Several years ago, in an interview with newsman Dan Rather, Fogerty was remembering a key moment in the 1960s.
The group was one of many bands to perform at a particular event. As the final group to warm up, and thus the first band to appear on stage, suddenly CCR found they had been unplugged. John Fogerty yelled to the sound man to plug them back up, that they weren’t through. The technician did so reluctantly, then added, “You not going anywhere anyway, man.” Fogerty said, “Okay. Give me one year. I’ll show you.”
One year later, the group was so hot with hit record after hit record (“Proud Mary,” “Born on the Bayou,” “Bad Moon Rising”) that “we were too big to play in that place any more!”
Turning sarcasm into a healthy sic ’em! Something to spur you onward instead of allowing it to crush your spirit and keep you down.
I’m remembering the first day I began pastoring a church on Alligator Bayou some 25 miles west of New Orleans. This was April of 1965 and I was in my first year of seminary. The church ran 40 in attendance, just as it had done for the past two decades of its existence.
I’m standing outside the front door shaking hands with worshipers as they exit the building. Behind, just emerging through the doors, two men were talking. They had no idea I overheard them. One said, “Well, this little church is doing about all it’s ever going to do.”
The other fellow agreed. But it was like a spark to my powder keg. Everything inside me said, “We’ll show you!”
One month later, we hit 67 in attendance. And during my final few months as pastor, in late 1967, we were running 120 with chairs in the aisles. The growth continued after I left, I’m happy to say. A pastor led them to relocate closer to the population center of the area and in time, the denomination recognized them as one of the fastest growing churches in the country.
Some naysayers take delight in popping the bubbles of ambitious goal-setters. “Who do you think you are?” “What makes you better than the rest of us?” “Why do you think you could do it when none of the rest of us could?”
The wise–but extremely difficult–response to such putdowns is to quietly absorb it and turn it into fuel for the journey. Let their negativism propel you to greater efforts. After all, as you learned in algebra, two negatives make a positive.
Margaret Mitchell wrote Gone With the Wind. We’re told she worked on it for a solid ten years, from 1926 to 1936. Here is what happened.
An agent came to Atlanta looking for budding novelists with works worthy of being published. Someone told him about Mrs. Mitchell. He called her.
No, she informed him. She had nothing in the works, nothing worthy of publication.
So, he went on, checking out other writers and making more calls.
The next day, Margaret Mitchell came to see him. “I have a novel to show you.” She brought out two boxes filled with drafts of her book.
The agent was puzzled. “Didn’t you tell me yesterday you had nothing?”
What had happened, Margaret Mitchell explained, was that a so-called friend who fancied herself a novelist told her she would never make it. “You’re too nice a person,” she said, “and you’re not a good writer.” The woman said, “Now, I’m going to make it big. I’ll be famous. But you, Margaret, will never be much of a writer and you should get used to that.”
Rather than internalize the putdown, Mrs. Mitchell let it energize her. With that, she determined to load up her book and drive down to meet the agent. She turned the sarcastic put-down into a sic ’em.
Her novel was a Pulitzer Prize-winner. Three years later, 1939, Gone With the Wind was the biggest movie ever, took home a ton of awards, and turned Margaret Mitchell into a star of the first order.
What sarcastic barbs have you endured lately? What are you going to do with them?