Responding to Criticism

Charles Swindoll, speaking on criticism, shared a lesson he learned from his father. “When a mule kicks you, consider the source.” His point: Mules aren’t good for much more than plowing and kicking. Similarly, not all of our critics are a source of helpful criticism.

Any leader worth their salt will, inevitably, attract criticism. Aristotle wisely suggested the only sure way to avoid criticism is “by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” Being on the receiving end of criticism is not one of the more enjoyable parts of being a leader. Still, we shouldn’t be surprised that every action we take or each new idea we propose isn’t immediately met with a standing ovation. In fact, some criticism can even be helpful, insuring that we are communicating well and at the top of our game.

So, how should we respond to criticism? Just some thoughts.

  1. Catch your breath: avoid the tendency to immediately respond. Give yourself time to cool off. It’s your choice when and how to respond. “You’ve given me something to think about. Let’s talk later.”
  2. Is there any truth here? Accept the fact there may be some truth in the criticism and something you should adjust. Criticism from some people is really meant to be constructive, not personal or hurtful.
  3. Pray for wisdom as you respond. Does the criticism merit a response at all? If it does, check your motives going in – Am I intent on “winning,” eager to prove I’m right? Will I respond publicly or in private, by phone or in person? As much as possible, avoid email responses. There’s too much possibility for miscommunication. And, once your response is online, it’s out there forever!
  4. Am I responding to the real issue? When you do respond, be sure you’re responding to the real issue and not a surface complaint.
  5. Focus on the issue, not people. As much as possible, don’t let people become the issue. Don’t allow your emotions to overload.
  6. It’s not intentional. Assume that even the cruelest criticism is not intentional. Always respond with love and grace. Out love your critics! Have you prayed for your critics hurt/need?
  7. Move from problems to solutions: Don’t allow your critics to focus only on the problem or issue without moving toward a solution. “How would you handle this?”
  8. At times, ignore it: Don’t give another thought to anonymous criticism.
  9. Accountability: Who tells you what you really need to hear? Give them permission to do so.

[print_link] [email_link] the Gary Chapman Newsletter, March 2014

Criticizing God’s Leaders

Not that it’s happening in our church, but I thought I’d stroll through the Bible to find out what happens when people choose to criticize God’s leaders. Consider the consequences for these men and women:

  1. Miriam: she mocked Moses because he had a Cushite wife and was struck with leprosy (Numbers 12:1-2, 10)
  2. Korah and followers: He led the people of Israel to rebel against Moses’ leadership and was swallowed up by the earth (Numbers 16:1-2, 31-32, 33, 34)
  3. Michal: she despised David because he danced before the Lord and remained childless her whole life (2 Samuel 6:16, 20, 23)
  4. Shimei: he cursed and threw stones at David and was executed at Solomon’s order (2 Samuel 16:6-8, 9-10, 1 Kings 2:41-42, 44, 46)
  5. Some Youth: they mocked Elisha and laughed at his baldness and got killed by bears (2 Kings 2:23-24)
  6. Sanballat and Tobiah: they spread rumors and lies to stop the building of Jerusalem’s walls and got frightened and humiliated (Nehemiah 2:19, 4:1, 6:2, 5, 12, 13, 14).
  7. Hananiah: he contradicted Jeremiah’s prophecies with false predictions and died two months later (Jeremiah 28:15-17).
  8. Bar-Jesus, a sorcerer: he lied about Paul in an attempt to turn the proconsul against him and was struck with blindness (Acts 13:6-12).