Originally posted June 5, 2008
In ministry, criticism comes early and often. I believe that mostly this happens because people understand what they want, but mostly they have no idea what they really need. Everyone of us in ministry has gotten one of those criticism-laden, UNSIGNED letters about how we are totally missing the mark, blah, blah, blah.
My first experience with one of these was when I was a freshman in college. I had just been selected to be in one of the college’s traveling groups for the summer. A couple of days later, I went to get my mail and in there was a letter explaining why I was totally wrong for the group. And as those types of letters typically do, it ended with a tirade about how my clothes were uncool, my hairstyle was bad (which now I totally concede), and how I must be in the hip-pocket of the ones picking the groups. The letter finished up with no name. I was devastated. Was this person right? Was I all of these things? As I later discovered, everyone in our group received one of these letters. The director of our group called us together and gave us this piece of advice on how to manage criticism, which I have carried with me ever since:
1. Examine the writer’s motives.
You have to determine why the writer decided to write this letter. In some cases, the writers motives are pure and they really care about you and the situation. In my case that was a big…N-O. That writer was ticked because I got picked and they didn’t. Their motives were purely selfish.
2. Examine the criticism for truth.
I always (ok, there is a situation where I don’t do this, see below) look at the content of the criticism for any shred of truth. I ask myself if there is anything in the criticism that has shined a light into a place in my life that needs some attention. If criticism doesn’t force me to reflect in some way, it doesn’t do anybody any good.
3. If the criticizer doesn’t take responsibility for the criticism, throw it away and forget about it.
If someone isn’t confident enough in the position of their criticism to sign it, don’t spend a single minute worrying about it. In ministry there is too much at stake to waste time on a criticism that a person didn’t have the guts to sign.
This is advice I will carry with me for the rest of my life and ministry. There are criticisms that I need to hear. If I go around thinking I am always right and invincible, I am not carrying myself with the love of Christ. BUT…there are times when people’s selfishness fuel these criticisms and Satan uses these to discourage us (Do you think Satan intentionally sends these criticisms our way on Mondays for a purpose?) and try to isolate us from God’s people.
How have you learned to manage criticism?