Dealing with Criticism?
Dealing with criticism is part of life. It does not matter who you are or what you do, you will at some time have to deal with criticism. In my life there have been times when I allowed criticism to define my perception of myself, and other times when I did not pay enough attention to criticism which was given to help me improve in areas of weakness. Both ends of the spectrum miss out in the hidden value of criticism.
I am far from alone in this. Since we all deal with criticism at some point, we also all have times when we can grow from it. However, being able to grow from criticism is usually determined by how we process it.
So why am I thinking about this? Earlier today a friend in ministry asked me how I deal with criticism. Here is what I shared with them. Perhaps it might be an encouragement to you as well.
1. Keep your purpose in mind!
As a Christ follower my job is first and foremost to glorify God in my actions, attitudes, and in every relationship. the same is true of any follower of Jesus. Unfortunately, this does not mean that we are always going to make others happy. Sharing difficult realities in truth is better than trying to make everyone happy.
Taking the time to listen to the one who is being critical can calm might storms. Do not feel rushed to give an answer. It is quite possible that there is no answer which will be acceptable to the individual who is raising the criticism, but allowing them to know you are listening will provide them some peace. Also, intentionally listening to their heart will help out comprehend how to take next steps.
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. (James 1:5, NIV)
God promises to provide wisdom whenever we ask, so why not take him up on it? God sees all the different perspectives of the issue you are dealing with. Inviting the Holy Spirit to guide you through the situation assist you in ways you cannot even imagine. Praying for the person lodging the complaint will often help you see the situation from their perspective.
4. Observe and Reflect
After the initial criticism was raised, take some time to work through the complaint on your own. What are the real issues? Who is really impacted? Is there a spiritual or emotional issue which needs to be addressed? Perhaps there is more to the complaint than what you first saw on the surface?
Criticism is often a result of misunderstandings and miscommunication. Could it be that there are some expectations which have not been made clear to you? Are there expectations which the other person has which are not in line with your responsibilities? Are you new to a position, or are you part of a new system? Is your position new? If this is the case, many criticisms are a result of what "used to be." There is likely need to better communicate roles, positions, and expectations. Could it be that this complaint is actually an opportunity to invite someone into a new way of doing things?
Another area which needs to be reflected upon is if this issue truly needs your attention or is this keeping you from what you are truly called to be doing. Sometimes we get derailed by criticism, especially when we give it more credibility than it deserves.
Criticism can be a good tool when we allow it to speak to us about areas we have not yet looked into. Could it be that God is using this complaint to alert you to an area needing your attention?
5. Tension or Problem
Properly identifying the criticism is vital. Is this a problem to fix or a tension to manage? Problems can be solved. Tensions are issues which will not change but need to be properly managed. If you get them confused, you will only make the situation worse. If you identify them correctly you will better understand how to address them and be able to have reasonable expectations for possible positive outcomes.
6. Ask a mentor
Sometimes the complaints we face and the issues they deal with are so big that we do not even know how to begin to unpack them. This is where a spiritual mentor is an incredibly valuable tool! It is likely they have been through similar situations, perhaps dealt with the same criticism. Share your situation and listen carefully to how God leads them to respond. Invite them to help you observe and reflect on the situation. Quite often a second set of spiritual "ears" will help you discover some of the deeper issues which need to be addressed.
Now, when you do this, go into it expecting that you will be the one who needs to change first and likely most. God is allowing you to experience this process to shape you and better prepare you for the road ahead. Allow the spirit to mold you through this.
Together you will be able to set some initial plans of response. Even if the plan is to wait on God for more insight, that is a plan. Invite your mentor to hold you responsible for carrying out the plan. This will help insure that you will not let this opportunity to grow simply fall to the wayside.
7. Let your action be for God's glory!
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters (Colossians 3:23, NIV)
Before acting, we need to ask ourselves if our efforts will bring glory to Jesus. If the answer is "no," we need to adjust our thinking. When the answer is "yes" it is time to take steps of faithful obedience.
Even if criticism is warranted, this does not detract from your value as a person or as a member of the team. Do not allow the criticism to become personal, even if the individual lodging it is trying to make it so. You do not have to receive it that way.
You are a child of God, equipped and empowered by Him with specific abilities to serve Him in all you do! Never forget it!
Will following these steps reduce the amount of criticism you face? I doubt it. It will help you process the criticism for God's glory rather than simply appeasing others.
How about you? What have you learned about handling criticism?