I don’t like criticism. I don’t like it when someone negatively critiques my sermon, my blogs, my teaching, or anything else. I want to be humble and teachable, but I still struggle every time criticism happens. So, I’m still learning to do these things that help me in those times . . . .
- Take a breath before doing anything. Even the old suggestion of counting to 10 is not a bad one. The point is, I don’t want to react without thinking.
- Ask God to make me teachable. When I immediately blow up and move toward defending myself, I’m not teachable. That’s a bad place to be.
- Assume my critic honestly cares. Even if I don’t know him or her, I can still assume my critic cares about the gospel and the glory of God. That allows me to hear the criticism differently.
- Try to separate the point from the tone. Much of the criticism I receive comes in writing. When that’s the case, it’s easy to assume in the words emotions that may not be there—so I try not to do that.
- Consider the possibility of kernels of truth somewhere in the criticism. To be honest, I can’t remember the last time I received a criticism from which I could learn nothing.
- If the criticism is entirely invalid, thank the critic—and move on. Sometimes I’ve needed to say, “Thank you for pointing out your concern. We don’t agree, but I commit to considering your point in the future.”
- Take appropriate steps to grow from any valid criticism. I might need to re-state something on a blog, correct an impression I wrongly left, or confess a wrong to a friend. I usually can’t rest with the criticism until I’ve responded rightly.
- Thank the critic. It’s not always easy for me to say, “Thank you for your honesty,” but it’s the right move.
- Ask God to help me rest at night. To be honest, I so much don’t like to be, say, or do wrong that I fret much over my failures. They keep me awake at night unless God grants me rest.
- Press on with my work. I want to learn and grow from criticism—not get stifled by it. Any thoughts of just stepping away from the task because of my mistakes aren’t warranted.
- Be a better critic in the future. Knowing the pain of criticism makes me want to be a more fair, Christian critic in the future.
Let’s help each other – what have you learned to help you deal well with criticism?
The popular way of handling criticism is to squelch it and the criticizer. This happens in the secular as well as the religious worlds. However, the risk you run is that if the person is right, they get to say “I told you so.”
My first step, always, is to say “Thanks for taking the trouble to comment”. My second step is to carefully consider what has been said. Whether well-motivated or not by the critic, it is indeed likely that there is a basis for the criticism. Third step, if what has been said is not clear, is to ask an open question to make it clearer, such as “What did you have in mind when you said (or wrote) that? Is there something you would like to add?” If the criticism is fair, be specific in thanking for the criticism; make the personal note to avoid any similar misunderstanding. Fourth step is to move on. Things not to do include re-opening an issue on which you have already commented; discuss with other whether they think the criticism is well-founded or fair; vary from that consistent manner of treating criticism. Hope these notes help. It beats simply developing a thick skin!
Thanks, David, for the thoughtful response.