You never know when you’re getting the truth these days. Words get twisted or misinterpreted. Stories from the media are clipped and edited and talking points are revised and rewritten. Often times, the messages we are bombarded with are scripted to shape our impressions, even for helpful purposes. The world of basketball is no different. Frequently words and thoughts of players and coaches seem calculated, but if you dig deep and follow over a period time, occasionally you can see their true selves. We’re seeing that with Kevin Durant in the aftermath of his OKC Thunder being eliminated by Memphis. You’ll see a man who is passionate about the game, appreciates his opportunities, is grounded in his faith, and has stood strong on his upbringing. As the media hunts for stories, criticism is already headed his way, but Durant gave us all some quick lessons on handling criticism.
BASKETBALL – It’s a process!
The day after losing to Memphis, Durant spoke with the media and faced questions about the season being wasted since they didn’t win a championship after losing in the finals last season. Durant’s reply?
“Of course the ultimate goal in this league is to win a championship. But I’m never going to say I wasted a year. I’m blessed to even wake up and do something I love every day. So it’s never wasted. …
I’m going to be who I’m going to be. I’m not Kobe Bryant. I’m not Michael Jordan. I’m not LeBron James. I’m not Magic Johnson. I’m me. I’m not going to ever compromise myself, my integrity and what I believe in for winning some basketball games and winning a championship. That’s just not how I was brought up.” – From ESPN’s article Durant: I Won’t Compromise Myself
He’s already taking heat for that statement. Doesn’t he want to win? Doesn’t he want to be like the other greats? Is he going to be another Barkley or Malone? What’s wrong with him? Durant’s character and soul, however, came out in his response and through the consistent example he has shared in his young career. He’s only 24! – Yet, he speaks openly in the face of criticism by referring to his faith, his upbringing, and to his understanding that basketball, as well as life, is a process. If you focus on the critics, you lose sight of the process. Check out Sports Spectrum’s article Quiet Thunder for more insight.
LIFE – How do YOU handle the critics?
Life is a process and there will be ups and downs. There will be critics and there will be times when each of us is tempted to allow the views and expectations of other people to influence us. Many of the biggest mistakes that I have made in my life were products of mishandling criticism, from others and from myself. Durant’s comments though. provide some helpful reminders for all of us:
1. Be thankful and appreciate the opportunities and blessings you have.
2. Never compromise your own integrity. Be true to the lessons you have learned through your own experience and life situations.
3. Don’t compare yourself to other people.
Those reminders are helpful for all of us and stem from Kevin’s Christian faith and his upbringing. If nothing else, he still holds on to those values despite the pressure and extraordinary circumstances of professional sports.
FAITH – David’s Example
The Bible provides helpful insight for life through the ups and downs of King David in the Old Testament. It provides in-depth, personal reflections and accounts of a classic life of successes and failures. David experienced it all. During one incredibly dramatic period, King David was challenged by his own son, Absalom, and forced to flee his own city. Just as what we deal with today, David encountered critics who were ready to pounce as soon as he seemed to fail. Once of those was a man named Shimei ( 2 Sam. 16 ) who cursed him and threw stones at him, obviously thinking that David’s reign was crumbling (Critics come out when they sense failure. Just ask Durant!). When one of David’s companions volunteered to strike the man, David simply took the high road and dismissed the criticism by saying:
“It may be that the Lord will look upon my misery and restore to me his covenant blessing instead of his curse today.” (v. 12)
That simple exchange shows us what David, like Kevin Durant, had learned about handling criticism. He realized that life is a process and remained patient with God’s plan, despite a critic like Shimei. He also realized that his identity was solely in the hands of God, not in critics, and so were his life circumstances. And lastly, David showed by example, that in th face of criticism you can still do what is right. That’s also what Kevin Durant modeled and I encourage you to not only be thankful for his witness, but pray for him to keep it going!
Doug Fields, a well know leader in Youth Minstry, also has helpful ideas for handling criticism in 10 Ways I Deal With Criticism and John Stange’s book Words That Sting shows how Jesus handled criticism.