A Repost from 2011
“Criticism is normal” says Michael Hyatt in his post titled ‘Friends, Critics and Trolls‘.
Every leader will attract criticism. As C. J. Mahaney notes in his latest post about ‘The Pastor and Criticism‘, this reality is probably what lies behind Paul’s instruction to Timothy in 1 Timothy 5:19:
Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses.
Much criticism is unsubstantiated, unfounded, jealous and petty. It can still damage the soul of the one criticised. Hyatt, in his article, goes on to talk about the way criticism affects him:
emotionally, it kills me. It always knocks me off-kilter. You might think I would be past that. But I am not. I obsess about it, spending way more time thinking about it than I should. I wish this wasn’t true, but it is. (Just ask my wife!)
I think Michael has read my mind – or spoken to my wife! Either way, he is smack on target with my vulnerabilities. He provides a bit of a matrix or model to filter the criticism that is helpful.
One of the things that has helped me in the past few years is to distinguish between three kinds of critics:
- True friends. Not all criticism is bad. God forbid that we should turn a deaf ear to everyone who disagrees with us. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Proverbs 27:6). Some people are in our lives to save us from ourselves. As a leader, the trick is to create an environment that is safe for dissension, so these people can speak up.
- Honest critics. Some people decide that they disagree with you and go public. They aren’t malicious. They aren’t out to destroy you. They simply disagree with you. That’s okay. We need to allow for a diversity of opinion. Besides, we might learn something from it. It enriches the conversation. We need to engage these people and refrain from making it personal. Not everyone has to agree with us.
- Unhealthy trolls. These people have an agenda. They are out to hurt you—or at least use you for their own ends. They want to lure you into a fight. I have had three this week. They taunt and mock you. They are unreasonable. If you engage them, they will only distract you and deplete your resources. The best thing you can do is ignore them. As someone once said, “resistance only makes them stronger.” You will never satisfy them. Just keep doing what you know you are called to do.
As a leader, you must learn to distinguish between these three. I personally assume that everyone is a friend or an honest critic until they prove other otherwise. I may be naive, but I would rather give people the benefit of the doubt than live a life of paranoia. What about you?
So, just keep on keeping on, following God’s will and vision for your ministry and let the Word direct you, not the whims of a whiner :)
As my own Senior Pastor said recently, “Push through and push ahead, God will do the rest.”
Mahaney adds an important qualifier, quoting Tim Keller. If you dismiss a criticism, beware you don’t also become the critic.
If the criticism comes from someone who doesn’t know you at all (and often this is the case on the internet) it is possible that the criticism is completely unwarranted and profoundly mistaken. I am often pilloried not only for views I do have, but also even more often for views (and motives) that I do not hold at all. When that happens it is even easier to fall into a smugness and perhaps be tempted to laugh at how mistaken your critics are. “Pathetic…” you may be tempted to say.
Don’t do it.
Even if there is not the slightest kernel of truth in what the critic says, you should not mock them in your thoughts. First, remind yourself of examples of your own mistakes, foolishness, and cluelessness in the past, times in which you really got something wrong. Second, pray for the critic, that he or she grows in grace.