Recently one of my friends was having a particularly weird week.
My friend, who is a public servant, was making national news for something incredible he had accomplished in his local community. Simultaneously he was being threatened by a small group of people that wanted him removed from his position. He was having one incredibly positive experience and another crushingly negative one at the same time.
In a small group gathering, my friend asked some confidantes if they believed he should go on the offensive against the people criticizing him. In response, another friend shared this famous quote: “Never explain yourself. Your friends don’t need it, and your enemies won’t believe it.”
I had never heard that quote before. I immediately knew it to be true and was challenged by it. I have a tendency to be distracted by the small but vocal group that’s never satisfied. And I’m willing to bet that I’m not the only one who feels this way. These groups emerge in many different contexts.
It can happen internally with a couple of negative team members in your company.
It can happen externally with a few unsatisfied customers.
It can happen with one family of unhappy neighbors in your community.
It can happen with a few frustrated parents of students at the school.
It can happen at church with the small cluster that always have a comment.
It can happen among your friends with the parent that’s always offering an opinion about everything from organic baby food to potty training.
A tiny group. A small minority. But the noise they make is hard to tune out.
These examples bring one of my favorite Walt Disney quotes to mind: “We’re not trying to entertain the critics. I’ll take my chances with the public.” It’s not that Disney didn’t care about people’s thoughts. However, he was more concerned with what most people thought, and definitely didn’t want to waste time distracted by the people who were professional pundits. It’s easy to get so discouraged by a couple of loud, unhappy individuals that we gain a false perception of reality and lose sight of the big picture.
The book of Nehemiah gives us a great picture of how we should handle these situations. God told Nehemiah to build a wall around the city of Jerusalem. While he was working, he faced opposition but kept working day after day.
I love how he responded to his critics: “And I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?” (Nehemiah 6:3 ESV).
So here’s my encouragement to you (and to me) today: You have important work to do. Don’t let the loud minority take you off track.