T. Pierce Brown

That’s what he said. The words, plain and sharp, were spoken with a smile, and for a moment I thought, “He’s just kidding,” because he has a wet sense of humor (in contradistinction to those who have a dry one). Then I realized he really meant it! Here was a preacher whom I liked and even admired who said he did not like me! What should my response be?

The first thing that came to my mind was, “It does not matter too much, as long as you love me,” so I said it. He did not reply to that, so I was left with the problem of how to react. I asked myself the question, “Why do you like and admire him?”  There were several reasons. First, he is a Christian gentleman, albeit blunt at times. Second, he is a thoughtful Bible student, sound in the faith and concerned about the lost and thekingdomofGod. Then a simple truth came to mind that might be of value to you. The fact that he did not like me in no way changed those things about him that caused me to like and admire him in the first place. In fact, it may have added a third and fourth.

He apparently was more astute and discerning than the average person, for he was able to see in me something that the average person did not see, for the average person seems to like me. Fourth, there was no sense of hypocrisy or dissembling about him. He was unwilling to pretend that he liked me when he did not. He is the kind of person who could read an article of mine and say, “I think it is hogwash” and give me his honest criticism of it without dissimulation. In my judgment, those kinds of persons are all too rare. I have had persons who seemed to like me as long as they felt they could use or manipulate me for their own purposes, but when they could not, they seemed to dislike me.

Then another principle of great importance occurred to me. No person should allow the likes or dislikes of another person to unduly control his responses, attitudes and actions. I make my own decisions about whom I like or dislike, based on pre-determined qualities. Suppose he did not like fried chicken? I might think that was unusual or peculiar in a preacher, but it certainly would not change my basic respect and admiration for him, nor make me like him any less.

So the fact that he does not like me saddens me a little, for I will not impose my presence on him as I might have, hoping for some spiritual insight from him. For as I weigh my selfish desire to be where he is to gain some good from him against my unwillingness to inflict upon him the distasteful experience of having to be around me, I think it proper to submit to his wish rather than make him submit to mine. If I knew he did not like fried chicken, I would not deliberately impose it upon him.

So, although I may lose something in the long run because he does not like me, there are some things I do not have to lose. One is, my respect and admiration for a good gospel preacher who is neither ashamed nor afraid to speak the truth as he sees it. Second, I do not have to be hurt personally simply because a person I like does not like me. One’s likes or dislikes do not have to be rationally explained. Some persons probably do not like turnip greens and corn bread, but that is their problem, not mine. Third, I do not have to lose my own independence and sense of responsibility by allowing my responses to be controlled by some other person’s attitude. To the degree that we allow another person to make us respond in some particular way, to that degree we are like puppets on a string. My Lord and Savior is the only One who has the right to control my responses. Fifth, I do not have to lose my self-respect or esteem because I may have lost his. His likes or dislikes of someone is not that which determines their worth, no matter how good or wise he may be.

If both you and I have gained anything from this experience, and the recounting of it, the effort took to write this article was well spent. Remember that the Master said, “Woe unto you when all men shall speak well of you” (Luke6:26).

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