Even after decades of ministry, criticism still stings. However, we’ve learned that criticism can become good for your heart and ministry when you handle it with wisdom. Here are our thoughts to help you grow in the midst of painful critique:
Acknowledge the pain.
We’ve all heard it before that to be a leader you’ve got to have “think-skin.” Absolutely! But even with thick skin you shouldn’t deny the pain connected to criticism. Admitting the pain of the attack frees you to share and evaluate it with a trusted friend. Awareness to the pain gives you the space to step back and wisely respond.
Learn everything possible.
Approach all criticism as an opportunity to learn something new about your character, your leadership decisions, your ministry, and even how you criticize others (not that you’d ever do that…right?). You’ve probably heard that old sage advice to treat criticism like chewing gum—taste it, but don’t swallow it. Assume that God has something for you to learn in this pain and try to discern “what the taste might be.” God can use your hurt to make you a better leader.
Write it out.
This action can help you examine the situation and sort out your feelings. The more specific you can be, the better you’ll be able to carefully communicate a response to your critic (if one is necessary). You may hate writing it out, but do it anyhow to find the diamond in the midst of the rubble.
Realize it’s not always personal.
It’s a mistake to assume every critique is a personal challenge to your leadership. Yes, sometimes criticism is personal, but not always. Next time you’re stung reflect on this question: “How would I respond if I knew they didn’t want to hurt me, they really loved me, and simply wanted to improve the ministry?” Seeing the critique in a new light may lead to new insights.
Not everything ought to be fixed.
Every battle opportunity doesn’t need to be fought. Sometimes the best response to a potential battle is to say, “Thanks for sharing your thoughts with me, I’m sure it took a lot to do that and I will prayerfully take some time to understand your concerns.” If you discern that it is wise to continue the conversation, here are some actions to consider:
….| Find compassion for the critic.
Remember what we wrote about on Tuesday? The greater your compassion, the greater your chances are for successful resolution.
…| Rarely use email.
The problem with email is that it’s void of tone and open to interpretation. Email leaves people thinking, “I wonder what he/she meant by that.” It’s more difficult, but it’s better to actually talk to the person.
…| Discern the issues and deal with them separately.
Fight against the feeling you’ll have to be vindicated as self control will yield better results. Deal with the substance of what they said first (right or wrong) and save how they said what they said for another conversation.
No one wakes up in the morning with a big smile and says, “I hope I get criticized today…bring it on!” You’re not alone if criticism wounds (actually, you’d be in the minority if it didn’t hurt a little) Even in the middle of criticism, God is good and he cares more about you and your ministry that you do. You’ll get through this criticism… and the next one too!