I love politics but I hate talking about it with other people. I am very opinionated and I don't deal well with intellectual dishonesty when I think it exists. One of my biggest pet peeves when having a discussion with someone who has been shown to have their facts wrong is the response, "Well, your side acts just like my side" in an attempt to dismiss the facts by discrediting the messenger. The tendency to avoid the message by focusing on the messenger is not new or limited to politics. There is an excellent example in the book of Exodus.
In Exodus 2, Moses encounters two Israelites fighting. Moses asks the one in the wrong, "Why are you attacking your neighbor?" Instead of dealing with the issue, the one in the wrong asks, "Who are you? Are you going to kill me like you did the Egyptian the other day?" (Exodus 2:13-14, HCSB). Now, Moses had, in fact, killed an Egyptian while defending an Israelite a few days before but that is really irrelevant for the wrong-doer in this case. This man was attacking his neighbor and was called on it. His response was to discredit Moses rather than deal honestly with the situation.
The attacker's reaction is actually very normal. Human beings, by nature, try to avoid the truth at all costs and if we have to belittle, discredit, or attack someone else in order to avoid dealing with the truth then we will do it. We've all done it. Our spouse shares a concern about our behavior and we lash out by listing all of their faults instead of dealing with the issue. Our friends tell us that we are acting selfishly and so we go through a litany of every time they have acted selfishly. The preacher's sermon on integrity convicts us so we think about all of the corrupt people that we know or nitpick the preacher's life to make ourselves feel better.
The only problem with this strategy is that we never deal with the issues in our lives and so we never grow. Often, we move backwards because we have justified our behavior and so we allow ourselves to slip a little farther. We choose to live in darkness rather than walk in the light of truth, exposed and vulnerable yet able to grow. 1 John 1 5-8 tells us that fellowship with God requires that we walk in the light. We cannot grow or conquer the sin in our lives if we refuse to face the truth. And we cannot wait for the perfect messenger before finally listening to the message.
When we face criticism or loving concern, are we able to look past the messenger to the message? Or do we know that the criticism is true but avoid it by discrediting its source? The next time you find yourself going through the list of everything someone has done wrong, ask yourself why? Is there something you're avoiding? If so, take courage, breath a deep breath, and step into the light of truth. It will set you free.