Getting Along with People

How to handle the perplexities and challenges of other people

C. L. TORREY, Retired General Conference Treasurer

FOR with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again" (Matt. 7:2).

In one mission field where I worked it was necessary to bring young men into the office and train them to be future treasurers in our respec­tive organizations. It usually required a period of from four to five years.

The day came when they were qualified technically to carry responsibilities. As a young worker left the office I passed on to him counsel that I knew would be helpful in his future work, saying something like this:

"Now, Oliver, you have been with us five years. You have applied yourself well by diligent study of accounting techniques, and you have put these theories into prac­tice in our office. You have now been called to a responsible position, and I have confi­dence to believe you will be successful in the accounting work in your new office.

"But may I remind you that there is something even more important than the techniques of accounting and the solving of office problems. It is the art of getting along with people, that is, the workers and others with whom you will be associated. Some­times you will receive hard letters. You will be criticized for something that perhaps you have never done or even thought of do­ing, but always remember that if you live in the midst of human beings, you are sure to be criticized. If you are human, you won't like it, no matter how much you say that you welcome criticism. What you really mean is that you welcome any sort of criticism other than the kind you get.

"However, it will come—gently or roughly, kindly or cruelly—for critics have a way of getting their shot at you. It may be your inferiors, your equals, or your superi­ors, your family, your boss, your fellow workers, members of the church, friends, acquaintances—somebody is sure to think you less than perfect, and they will not mind saying so. Now the question is: How will you take it? Will you become discour­aged, angry, bitter, or will you be a good soldier and see it through regardless of circumstances?"

I remember remarks made by Kenneth J. Foreman on this same subject, "How will you take it when difficulties and perplexi­ties beset you?" He summed it up in this way:

Take It Without Hysteria

"Don't get 'steamed up' about it. This particular bit of criticism may be true or false, justified or not; but you can't tell which until you stop breathing so hard and glaring through your spectacles. Get yourself together now. Criticism is part of your wages. Didn't you ever hear of super­vision?' If you have a boss, you have a critic. Criticism may be worth more to you than your pay check.

Take It Without Hatred

"Don't leap to the conclusion that every­body who criticizes you, hates you. The per­son who loves you most dearly and has the highest hopes for you may be your severest critic. (And why not?) Indeed, the Bible teaches us that the One whose love for man is greatest, is also the One who never spares the lash. And even when criticism is in­spired by hatred, jealousy or pure mean­ness, as it often is, it will do you no good to hate back. Even when it is inspired by your worst enemies, if all it does is to make a hot hater of you, then your enemy has had his way with you—he has made you worse instead of better.

Take It Without Humiliation

"Don't feel crushed by unfavoring words. All good people, all great ones, have been criticized. You are no outcast. If you were, no one would bother to point out your faults. To have failed once does not mean that you are a failure. You can hold up your head again. Take it without humilia­tion.

Take Criticism With Humility

"Perhaps we like to think of ourselves as perfect. Well, we're not. And as long as we think we are perfect and unimprovable, we will never be better than we are. God (as we know) is man's severest critic; but the one class of persons for whom even God appears to have no hope is the kind of person who is too proud to admit the evil that is in him. We will never learn any­thing if we won't be taught. We will never climb any ladder if we mistake the bottom rung for the top.

Take Criticism With Honesty

"That is, look squarely at it. Don't look the other way and try to think of something else. Look at it, analyze it. Consider the sources, for one thing. Maybe the critic really didn't know what he was talking about. Maybe he has it in for you and would call you names no matter what you do. Maybe what he says is completely 'off the beam.' Very well, then you can cheer­fully and honestly forget all about it. But if you are honest, you will be willing to admit that some of your critics do know what they are talking about. They are ex­perts and have the right to judge. Their mo­tive may be love for you, or they may be in love with perfection. Be thankful for this. The poorest friend in the world is an easy­going critic.

Take It With Humor

"But even when the critics are neither mean nor unjust, keep your sense of humor. It will not only cushion the shock of vicious detractions, it will help you see the right­ness of a fair verdict against you. For hu­mor, essentially, is a sense of detachment, it is the ability to get off and look at yourself. And if you have a true gift of humor, no one else can ever seem quite so funny and absurd as you do to yourself. You may even learn, in time, to be that wisest of all persons, a critic of yourself."


"Instead of being critical of others, I be­lieve there is value in turning the spotlight on ourselves and spending time in self-criti­cism. Unfortunately, some may have formed the habit of criticizing their lead­ers, associates, fellow church members, friends, and acquaintances. This always re­acts adversely on the critic himself.

It is easy to criticize. Anyone can do it. But it takes a big man or woman to work with others and not criticize them to others. Whispering and backbiting is a terrible scourge. It is a poison that brings discour­agement and kills the spirit. If anyone has anything to say, let him face the person with the criticism. If this plan is followed, I guarantee there will not be any more whis­pering or criticism or backbiting.

Why not direct our indignation upon our­selves and exclaim, "Am I as good a man or woman as these people I criticize? Do I work as hard, as intelligently? Do I have the courage to do things they do, the things that invoke my criticism? Am I willing to assume the responsibility of doing a disa­greeable task? If I were in that person's place, could I do any better?"

Honest answers may become embarrass­ing. The self-inquisitor should then de­mand, "Why don't I improve myself in­stead of trying to improve others? Why don't I become angry when I contemplate my own stupidities? Why don't I develop the qualities in myself that I demand in others?" If we could see ourselves as others see us, it might be a revelation.

A good thing to remember 

And a better thing to do

Is work with a construction gang

And not a wrecking crew.

The Gift of Friendship

Instead of spending time in criticism we need to cultivate the gift of making friends, if we would be successful in any line of work we undertake, especially in winning souls for God. One day while listening to the radio the following success recipe was given: "Make new friends systematically." I commend it to you. "Every day seek to make a new friend or cement an old friend­ship. With them, you will be able to ex­pand and enlarge your success and your influence, but we must make and main­tain friendships—new and old. You know friendship is like a garden—it must be wa­tered and weeded about every day for the best results. Only in this way will be pro­duced more of the flowers and fruits of fortune. You must pick the flowers and fruits daily and scatter them judiciously for the friends you have and the friends you need. Do it again the next day and the next."

The Christian doesn't flatter but he does cultivate the habit of noticing and em­phasizing the worth-while qualities of his friends and overlooking the less desirable habits and traits of character.

Recipes for success in God's work may seem too oft repeated, tiresome, and mo­notonous, as may be illustrated from the unusual effect of a choir doing its best with a repetitious anthem, with the soprano sing­ing: "Take a pill," which is echoed by the altos, "take a pill," then thundered by the basses, "take a pill." Then as a surprise endim: the whole chorus concludes, "Take a pilgrim journey to the sky."

Nevertheless, in spite of seeming repe­titions let me offer one or two pointers on a take-it-or-leave-it basis, and please be kind enough not to say as did Coleman Cox, "I hate to have some people give me their advice when I know how badly they need it."

"This is success: to be able to carry money without spending it; to be able to bear an injustice without retaliating; to do one's duty even when one is not watched; to keep on the job until it is finished; to accept criticism without letting it whip you.—ALEXANDER COOPERATOR.

Success calls for hard work, action—plenty of it. The story is told of a young minister who wanted to be successful and so went to a veteran Seventh-day Adventist minister and administrator, the late Charles Thompson, for advice. The still vigorous but aging pastor listened attentively to the young man's somewhat lengthy questions, then turned to go, shooting back the terse advice, "Keep your heels hot," and walked briskly away to attend to other busi­ness.

If the words "Do your best" seem trite, the following from an unknown author is pertinent and profitable:

"Did anybody ever do anything as well as he could? Did a man ever build the best house it was possible for him to build? Did any man ever write the best book he was capable of writing? Did the merchant ever run his business to the ultimate of his ca­pacity? Almost everybody gives a little less than he has. Some men come close to their limit and they are the men we admire and look up to. Some men don't. They sort of slouch through. There isn't so much differ­ence between people as the greatness of Abraham Lincoln and the unimportance of John Doe would make you think! John Doe would be a right big fellow if he buckled in and did the best that was in him. Failure to do doesn't mean lack of abil­ity. Mostly it means you don't use more than half the tools you have in your chest."

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C. L. TORREY, Retired General Conference Treasurer

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