This past Friday my wife, Rochelle, took a big step for her and was the guest blogger here. She was beautifully open and honest about her life as a pastor’s wife, a mother, and Christian. Most importantly, she wanted to shine a spot light on a resource that has blessed her. It’s a ministry to, for, and through pastor’s wives called Leading & Loving It!
I want to thank our friends and this blog community for the way you embraced her words, shared them on Facebook, and cast her reflections widely across Twitter. It was great! It was also a powerful reminder that she (and we) are not alone as we endeavor to live out the true and full calling of Jesus. It is an honor.
Before the post went live, I told Rochelle, “Most people will understand and be supportive and encouraging, but there will always be someone whose reaction will be unthoughtful, ungracious and critical.”
There was one blogger, who linked to the page, who decided to write a rebuttal to Friday’s post. The writer, instead of leaving a comment here and allowing for discussion and understanding, decided to respond to the post but not let anyone here know she was responding.
But this is no surprise.
If Rochelle and I have learned one thing about life it’s this: You can’t get out of bed without someone criticizing you. It comes with the territory. It’s not exclusive to ministry. If you lead anything there will be critics. In every country or company roughly half the people think you’re doing it wrong and the half that think you’re doing it right have “suggestions” for how you can do it better. That’s life.
Therefore, if you’re a leader you’re most pressing concern is not how to avoid criticism, but how you handle it once you get it.
Heres what we try:
- Thank God For Your Critics. In my journal I keep a Prayer Regarding Critics and Enemies by a Serbian Orthodox Bishop named Nikolai Velimirovic. Velimirovic spoke out against the Nazis and was arrested for doing so. In part the prayer says, “Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them. Enemies have driven me into your embrace more than friends have. Friends have bound me to earth; enemies have loosed me from earth and have demolished all my aspirations in the world.” Critics remind me that my life on Earth is the worse it’ll ever get. Every day with God is a day closer to glory. Your criticism not only points out my imperfections, they point out yours.
- Pray. Most critics are miserable people in need less of a sharp response from you and more in need of your prayers. Often, the subtext of criticism is your critic has and is being crushed by the weight of their own failures. One of my worst and frequent critics doesn’t criticize only me. She criticizes everyone…all the time! After a while you stop feeling criticized yourself, you just start feeling sorry for her. Constant criticism breeds an inner ugliness that can only destroy the soul.
- Don’t Be Offended. I know this will sound harsh, but there are like 15 people whose opinions matter to me. First, I always want to check that whatever I have done has been done in good faith and in full view of my faith commitments. After that there are set of people whose thoughts matter to me. It’s a small group. I have decided that if you’re not in that group, you can’t really offend me. Why? Because you can’t please everyone. I’m not advocating dismissing others. I am suggesting that we all need to determine how much of our inner peace we will allow others to control with their opinions. When you’re a leader, you know people will criticize you. You have to be okay with it. Hear it. Respond to fair and right criticism and then move on.
When it comes to criticism and offenses, a leader has to learn to let it go. This year I began reading a Proverb every day – whichever one corresponds to the date. I’ve been amazed at how many of the Proverbs talk about dealing with offenses. This is one I carry written in my journal: “A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.” – Proverbs 19:11
What do you do to deal with offenses? How do you handle criticism of you? Your family? Your work?
Leave a comment and let us know.