For a large part of my ministry career, I struggled with taking criticism.
Call it youthful rebellion; call it stubbornness, or whatever you like, but the fact remains that when I started the ministry, I couldn’t take criticism. (it’s hard to learn when you know everything, amIright?).
Over the years, I like to think that I’ve picked up a few things and learned that taking criticism is a part of life. Very few people are stars, hardly anyone gets it right the first time, and perfection is impossible.
Now, when someone criticizes me or they criticize something I’ve created, I try to remember the following questions…
Is the source of the criticism trustworthy?
We live in an age where everyone believes that their opinion matters on every subject, but the truth is, it doesn’t. Why get worked up over someone’s opinion who is either not a knowledgeable source, an authority over you in your organization, nor are they directly effected by your creation?
If they are one of those things, stop and consider what has been said carefully, even if you don’t agree. Do this before responding to the criticism…you’ll thank me.
Pastors and worship pastors sometimes get emails from church members on Sunday afternoons that can really hurt about the band being too loud or your teaching isn’t deep enough blah blah blah. Don’t open church emails until Monday. Then you can prayerfully respond and it doesn’t ruin your Sunday with your family.
Is it possible the criticism is valid?
Even if the source of your criticism has hit you with a freight train of meanery, sometimes it pays to stop and make sure that they aren’t on to something.
It would be easy to dismiss criticism just because you don’t like the way it sounds, but honestly, do you expect to ever hear criticism that you like? Maybe if they say it with an Austrailian accent…I just love listening to that accent.
Whether you’ve received constructive or destructive criticism, if there is a shred of truth to it, you owe it to yourself (and if you consider what you do to be important) to validate it.
Was the Criticism Intended to be Personal?
Sometimes, even when we’ve worked through the first two questions, there’s still a nagging feeling that the criticism wasn’t meant to be helpful, but hurtful. Be careful not to jump to conclusions here.
I’ve learned that giving someone you know the benefit of the doubt often gives you time to learn that what you thought they meant to be personal wasn’t personal at all. This “stop, breathe, put the baseball bat down” tactic has saved more than a few work relationships for me.
How should I respond to this criticism?
However, if there is substantial evidence that the criticism wasn’t constructive, but personal, then first, I would take it to my superior to talk it out before you confront this person (if possible). That way when you do confront them, your boss isn’t surprised when he gets word if it doesn’t go well.
Next and last, you need to tell that person that what they said hurt and that while you’re willing to hear criticism (showing humility), you’re not going to allow yourself to be treated that way. Try to have a great conversation that’s productive instead of dragging them into court with you and your righteousness.
You have a right to stand up for yourself and you should. Often, those who are criticizing you will see it as a reason to respect you. Keep your cool, keep focused on the issue, and even if they’ve resorted to personal attacks, you shouldn’t.
Stay above the fray.
Criticism can be very valuable, regardless of the source or tone if we are humble. Remain open to the fact that you aren’t perfect and can learn from anyone or anything and you will find yourself in a much stronger position for moving forward in life and ministry.
What are some other questions you might add to help you deal with criticism? Are there certain situations you think are different and might need a different approach? Sound off in the comments if so. See you next week!