Don’t Wrestle with Pigs

If you speak, write books, or blog, you will get criticism. It is inevitable. I have certainly had my share. I’d like to say that my skin has gotten thicker with age, but it hasn’t. Criticism still stings.

Pigs in a Pig Pen - Photo courtesy of ©, Image #12327217

Photo courtesy of ©

Recently, I was tempted to respond to a blogger who had attacked my company. As I was considering what to say, I heard a politician on the radio responding to an opponent who had called him a liar.

He said,

A wise friend once told me, ‘Don’t wrestle with pigs. You both get dirty and the pigs like it.’”

That was all I needed to hear. I dropped the issue and moved on.

Question: Have you had a recent pig wrestling experience?
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  • @scottvandam

    Thanks for this post Michael! I think we all struggle with criticism, no matter if its in the blogosphere or in the general world of work.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I think it is really true for every leader. If you stick your head up above the crowd, someone is going to take a shot!

  • Senseq

    Very true! I can see the application to work as well!

  • Donna Earnhardt

    I recently received some "anonymous" criticism. I knew that if I responded, the cycle wouldn't end. I needed to see this tonight. Thank you!

    • Michael Hyatt

      There is something about responding that often energizes your opponent. I find it much better to just keep quiet, receive what you can, and keep doing what you know you are supposed to do.

  • Daniel Decker

    So true. Heard it also say that no cynic has ever changed the world. :)

    Many times those critics just want to insight a riot (so to speak). I've encountered this as a Christian many times with those who "appear" hostile to Christianity. In most cases though, they are just looking to validate their assumptions by pushing buttons to draw a negative response. What really throws them off is when you respond counter to what they expect… in love rather than justification and trying to prove a point. It's a choice of responding versus reacting. Reacting adds fuel to their flame. Responding snuffs the fire out (responding doesn't just mean replying, it can also mean choosing to stay silent).

    • @DarrellWolfe

      So Daniel… what you are saying is that in some cases you need to: “Win The Person, Not The Argument”? I like it, good point!

  • Laurinda

    Yesterday I was at a pig roast. I get not wrestling with them. But can we stick a large skewer through them and throw them over a fire pit? It was sure delicious!

    Criticism comes with leadership. I tend to keep quiet but it sure messes with me sometimes. I do try to hear any truth in it and receive correction. But the hurtful attitude behind it may bug me for a while.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Me, too. I wish I could just turn off my brain and stop thinking about it!

  • sabaitechnology

    Rock on Michael!!!

    Here's another truth… Don't try to teach a lobster to sing… It frustrates you and just makes the lobster mad :-) I think of this anytime I'm starting to work on convincing someone of something they'll never believe. Talking with Newt Gingrich about how great Obama is… or vice versa. It's trying to teach a lobster to sing.

    Thanks again for your posts and time that benefits us all! – William

    • Michael Hyatt

      That is an awesome analogy, too. I’ll have to remember that one.

  • chrisloach

    this is great! just wondering, what would you do if that pig continued to attack your company? ignore? respond? block?

    • Michael Hyatt

      I think it depends. Every situation is different. What I don't want to do is give them a larger platform than they would otherwise have.

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  • Kent Sanders

    Michael, thank your for this post. I love it! I read your blog regularly and appreciate it a lot. Please keep up the good work!

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Kent! I appreciate the encouragement.

  • Cyberquill

    These little pigs are so cute. I wish we wouldn't eat them. Pork chops. So sad.

    Might you ever so subtly be referring to my review of the Lis Wiehl book?

    If so, no offense taken. If not, never mind.

    • Michael Hyatt

      No, not at all. I am referring to a personal attack.

      • Cyberquill

        Good to hear. I hope it isn't simply because you never read my piece ;-)

        People have wildly different thresholds for what they will perceive as an "attack," versus, say, a good-natured working-over that springs from verbal playfulness rather than genuine malice. I've certainly been called mean and malicious for the weirdest reasons (albeit perfectly legitmate ones from the point of view of the offended party, of course).

        I suppose it's all very subjective.

        • Michael Hyatt

          No doubt.

  • alisa hope

    Speak to a fool and become a fool! I'm sure that person is not a fool 24/7, but it's good to ignore it when it happens. I've been a fool and, thank God, people ignored me. This gave God room to put a mirror to my face. Let's just say that I learned my lesson ;o)

  • Ann Voskamp@Holy Experience

    As a farmer’s wife who has blogged that last six years (book forthcoming with Zondervan, 2011 and DaySpring blogger), this post made me smile.

    My husband and I farm 600 acres — and we raise hogs.

    Yes sir, I’ve dealt with more than a few stubborn pigs over the years — moving pigs into pens, on to trucks, into trailers, down a side road or two. Through cornfields and once even hosted a catch-the-pig event at a church picnic. (We oiled up the pig and invited folks to give it go!)

    And over the course of 2,000 posts, yes, too — the slipperiness of the blogosphere and the muddiness of criticism. The blogosphere can be much worse than the barn.

    And yes, Mr. Hyatt, may I humbly submit, as a pig farmer and blogger, you are wise and right:

    Best to maintain a silent and steady composure and lead the pigs by your grace.

    Excellent post. And may I too offer my thanks for your words in this place? Yours is a regular read and I deeply appreciate your ministry here…

    A farmer’s wife and longtime reader….
    All’s grace,
    Ann Voskamp

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for your perspective, as both a pig farmer AND a blogger. What a combination. Maybe I should take up pigs. (I’m not sure my neighbors would appreciate that!)

      I appreciate the encouragement, Ann.

  • Reg

    Hope you dont mind if I copy the pig quote. Good one!! Thanks! You are great and extremely motivational and a positive thinker! Regarding this tho, it is so hard not to respond to criticizers, bit my tongue many times and am doing so currently with a situation! Getting past the hurt is a whole other thing tho. Very hard!

    • Michael Hyatt

      No, please quote it. It wasn’t original with me. In fact, if you Google it, you will find a number of people who say it.

  • lonestar

    This is certainly very meaningful to me right now. Someone came at me with both barrels, recently. I fretted. I worried. I withdrew. I examined my life and motives. I prayed and prayed and prayed. Then I gave it to God. I never did wrestle with that pig and I never will. I'm still praying. But I am free.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Good for you!

  • chrisloach

    thanks for the response!

  • Terry Wilhite

    This is really timely! I got knocked over the head this weekend because I had a typo in a Facebook post. Apparently because I'm the communications director for a school system that was totally unacceptable. I left out the "a" in beautiful. Oh wow, crucify me. The dart was from a city leader who surely has had darts tossed at him and knows how it feels. Great post, Michael. I've added it to the one recently by Seth Godin who reinforces the notion to not criticism keep us from shipping. I greatly appreciate your work. I most appreciate that you are real!

    • Michael Hyatt

      I get those, too. Some people can’t believe that the head of a publishing company would dare to have typos. Frankly, I probably have at least one in every post. But, as you point out, “shipping” is the important thing. I am in total agreement with Seth about that.

  • ReRe

    I think that's my biggest fear "criticism". As a person who is inspiring to write, I have already allowed criticism to bite me, and the crazy thing about is I haven't published my work yet! Aargh…!!!

    • Michael Hyatt

      Steven Pressfield refers to that as “The Resistance” in his must-read book, The War of Art. I encourage every writer I know to read it.

      • ReRe

        Thanks for the advise; purchased it and will have it in a few days…Can’t wait to read it!

  • Forrest Long

    Over the years in ministry I have faced criticism, as every pastor will. In my early years I thought it was best to confront my critics and in hindsight I realized that wasn't the wisest thing to do. There were times when I would win an argument but lose a person or more. Eventually I came to the place of seeing that if the criticism was justified then I stood to be corrected and if it wasn't, then I would let the Lord look after the matter. Criticism is never easy to take- just our nature I guess- but I have learned not to respond to it in a confrontational way. Critics can either be learned from or silenced when they get no response.

    • Michael Hyatt

      That's a beautiful summary, Forrest. I think criticism is also a great opportunity to ask, “Where does my identity and security come from?” If it comes from God, nothing can shake it. If it comes from other people, life will be a roller coaster!

  • davidbmc

    I understand the not wrasslin part but I also think if the pig breaks your fence you have to fix it. There are times to respond in order to correct the record, etc. i totally agree however that sometimes you may be giving the critic a bigger platform than they may have had otherwise.

  • Paul Gardner

    Hmmm. Certainly hope this didn't relate to my little tongue in cheek post about "WOW" and BookSneeze! If so, please accept my apologies as I was just trying to point out something amusing!

    • Michael Hyatt

      nope, sorry. I missed that.

  • jdavidtrotter

    2.5 years ago, I imploded my life through some heinous decisions that sent shrapnel flying in every direction. My email, phone, and the blog world lit up. Venomous, painful attacks. From the beginning, I didn't respond to a single word…not even to the people from my church who stood in front of my home taunting me.

    After patting myself on the back until my arm was sore, I re-read Luke 6…
    "But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you."

    Even a couple of years later, I felt like I should start praying and blessing these individuals to the point of mailing apology notes and gift cards to several couples. Ironically, they mailed the notes and cards back, but I am challenged to continually praying, blessing, and doing good…not just refraining from retaliation.

  • Joanna Schiele

    Wise words! Thank you.

  • Simon Hay

    I find it hard not defend others, but I’m able to ignore it when I’m attacked. I have strong views, and I understand that my opinions and experiences can unsettle some people. What happened to disagreeing respectfully? I love the title of this post.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I don’t know what happened to disagreeing respectfully. I think talk radio and television have polarized people and become increasingly disrespectful. It is rate to hear people debate without resorting to personal attacks.

      • Larry Shallenberger

        I agree with that thought. Most talk media approaches a sum-zero approach to conflict.

        I'm reading the new Bonhoeffer bio and I'm impressed with Bonhoeffer's willingness to befriend and engage theologians with whom he had strong disagreement.

        So Dietrich might be a celebrated martyr and theologian. But we'd never give him a radio show today.

  • Elaine Simpson-Long

    I recently reviewed an autobiography in which the author mentioned hisseemingly disfunctional family. When the review was posted up popped an abusive and unpleasant comment from his sister who obviously took a different viewpoint. I wrote a polite but firm reply back and then left it. She had her point of view which she was entitled to and I told her this but did not mean she could be abusive to me – and that was that. First time this has really happened to me but it comes with the territory.

  • John Gallagher

    Michael, So true. I try hard to live by (and encourage friend and family to) the mantra of "Picking your battles" in times of criticism. AND, my skin isn't that thick, either. In a case of harsh criticism, I prefer to pick up the phone and chat with the person or talk to them face to face. In John Maxwell's book 'There's No Such Thing as Business Ethics', he refers to the 8 rules of respect. I try to remember 1 & 2. 1) If you have a problem with me, you come to me…in private. 2) I will do the same for you.

    Or, in cases where you just can't hold your tongue, I use Mom's advice: "Kill 'em with kindness."

    And last but not least…Irish diplomacy – Tell 'em to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip!

    Not that I have ever received any criticism or anything like that.

  • Trish McFarlane

    If we can step back and consider the source when receiving criticism, that is what differentiates whether or not we need to spend time on it. Coming from a friend, family member, or trusted colleague, criticism can be helpful as long as there is constructive intent. I let all the rest roll off my back. The biggest challenge is not what comes from other people, but the criticism I see people putting on themselves. Working in HR, it is a common occurrence to have employees at all levels being their own harshest critic. I guess we need to make sure we're not being the pig too. Nice post.

  • Bradley J. Moore

    Michael – Criticism also comes with the territory, the higher up you are in an organization or in terms of public visibility. I just turned 50, and even with all those years of experience, like you, I still cringe when faced with criticism. You would think it would get easier with time!

    I have found that taking a deep breath and allowing for some emotional distance/detachment helps. Also, of course, it is important to have trusted advisors to bounce off and "vent" the situation, to help to know if and how to respond. It's so easy to go quickly into an emotional response, which does not always lead to the best outcome.

  • Renato T.

    That seems to be a old style version of “don’t feed the trolls”. Also makes me think if I haven’t been a pig a few times.

    Thank you for the post.

  • Blessing Mpofu

    I like what Elbert Hubbard said, "To avoid criticism do nothing, say nothing, be nothing. " Darn! i've just responded to someone, very politely but am just wondering whether i should have? Anyway, i think a good challenge is in "striking the balance" i.e. how do i determine whether this warrants my response and or not? thanks for the thought Michael… just made me rethink my "response strategy".

  • Don Heatley

    Or as I once heard a preacher say, "Never get in a spraying match with a skunk."

  • Blessing mpofu

    i read this sometime and sort of forgot about it – the air force web response chart:

  • John Richardson

    It amazes me how critical people can be at times. Take the iPhone 4 as an example. It's unquestionably one of the best pieces of technology ever invented, yet it is disparaged over a very minor antenna problem that affects the phone only if you hold it in a certain manner. Obviously this was a case that ignoring the complaint made it worse. Or look at Toyota, complaints and recalls about an accelerator problem that may not have actually existed, and instead been a case of driver error. The fallout has been severe. Both of these are great case studies for doing business and responding to criticism in a hypersensitive world.

    • Joe Papp

      With three engineering degrees (one of which is in Chemical Engineering), 20 years in nuclear power, 5 years in medical devices and 5 years in 3 other fields…I’ve finally figured out that most people are technically illiterate MORONS. Not worth the time to explain the difference between H2O and He4…! Makes life easy, knowing that unless it’s a surgeon who could save my life, or a roofer who can and DOES fix the leak on my roof, most other people can be ignored.

  • Chris Spradlin

    great post Michael! wrestling w/ some pigs right now and i in the past month i have made the intentional decision to get out of the mud pit, clean off and never go back! no upside.

  • Henrik Wist

    I live to the mantra “Never argue with idiots. They drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.”

  • mke mouse

    Applies in many venues — parenting is another one. Some (many?) times it seems that the kids see arguing as entertainment…

  • Ken Davis

    Mike, What a great reminder at a perfect time. I have had very few pigs over the years but have spent days wrestling with them emotionally and mentally. I don’t often get in the pen with them anymore. HOWEVER, your blog reminded me of a couple of times I HAVE BEEN THE PIG! Ever wanted to take “send” back?

    • davidbmc

      i have a man crush on ken davis. nice to see him commenting here!

  • Michael

    Unfortunately I have wrestled with pigs, especially with blogging. At first it really bothered me, because all I want to do is encourage, but I understand that some have other agendas.

  • @obihaive

    Great advice….I don't know what that other guys' beef was with Thomas Nelson but I think you all are great! Especially this blog. I read it almost every day and it challenges me to be a better leader.

    Keep up the good work!

  • moweezle

    Thanks for this! I recently had a similar situation and I was also tempted to jump into the dirt, but now I know what I can use instead ;)

  • Travis Robertson

    Great and timely post, Michael! Thanks for reminding me that strength of character is often not shown in how we respond, but in when we choose not to respond.

    Travis Robertson

  • Anthony

    I love the quote. Do you worry that by refusing to engage, you may miss a ministry opportunity. I have trouble distinguishing pigs that are truly mean and inconsiderate from those that are just in pain and scared.

  • Kathy Butryn

    Great reminder! Thanks for sharing Michael. Very timely!

  • Blair

    I totally understand your frame of mind. It is difficult not to defend yourself or at least send back a friendly “you’re welcome” message.
    But as I was reading your post I was thinking of something I heard a preacher (I believe it was Leonard Ravenhill) once say. After he finished preaching at a church a young gentleman approached him and said “sir, I didn’t like your preaching tonight”. With that the preacher responded and said “young man, I totally agree with you. It should be better”. The young man went totally silent and that was the end of the conversation. The basis of the preacher’s point behind this story was that the enemy will try anything to move you away from God’s plan and have everything be focused on you – basically pride. But when we become more like Christ pride gets stripped away and then it really doesn’t matter what anyone says to us because it is not about us. I always admired how many times Jesus kept silent and let things just roll off his back – so to speak. This may not relate totally to your incident but I thought I would share it cause it helps to remind me when things like this happen to me.

  • Brad Harmon

    I wonder if we don't like the wrestling too sometimes. I've noticed that self-righteous people tend to get a sense of enjoyment from being offended. It's almost like they seek it out. I've been guilty of this myself.

    Like you, I don't think I've learned how to not let criticism sting me. I've done a good job not displaying my wounds to others, but often it festers in secret. It's in those times that I have to stop and ask myself why it is bothering me that much.

    Am I just being self-righteous or is there some truth in the criticism that I don't want to face? Too often it's the latter; however, I've learned a lot about myself when I take an objective look at the criticism.

    Knowing your character, I'm sure the criticism was baseless. "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" is still hard for me to do, but I've learned to be thankful for people who give me this opportunity because it makes me a little more like Christ.

  • Rosslyn Elliott

    This post made me go back and read your "Friends, Critics, and Trolls" post, which is just excellent. I have received painful criticism many times, some of it with an element of truth, some not. A friend recently sent me this study, which I honestly think is the best study I have ever read on the subject. The quotations are so excellent that I repeated them to myself like a healing prayer during a recent difficult time. Perhaps it will be of help to you too, as I know it can't be easy to hear abusive stuff as frequently as you must.

    It's from a study called "A Man to Match the Mountain" that my husband has been reading.

    I count myself thoroughly blessed as a newly-signed TN author, and I have really appreciated your posts here for the past two years.

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  • Stefan

    good advice! not sure where you heard it, but I remember mccain pulling out this zinger in ref to a debate with romney. hadn't thought about it in this context, but you are so right on

  • Marc Millan

    That is an awesome, short, sweet post and memorable quote bro, thank you.

  • Garrick D. Conner

    This is incredibly accurate. Anyone in leadership gets his fair share of criticism, and I'm pretty good at being able to look to find truth in it. As a pastor, I get all kinds of criticism — much of it probably well-meaning but ill-conceived. Of course, the frustration lies in the fact that there are just certain things you ethically can't disclose in order to 'set the record straight.' I've learned to respond to unwarranted and misplaced criticism with a simple word that lets the person know I heard them (or in the case of the coward, received the email). I simply reply, "Perhaps." I've found that I get fewer and fewer rude criticism from the same people.

  • Heidi Segal

    So true and such difficult thing to practice. Sometimes you just can't reason with the unreasonable. And as my mom always tells me, it's God that protects our reputation if we are unjustly criticised. The truth comes out in the end.