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Notes and Thoughts
All leaders will be criticized!
If you thirst for the approval of all and recoil at the slightest reproach – get back in line and don’t attempt to lead. Because when you step out from the pack and attempt to lead – you will be criticized.
Here are a few things that I’ve learned when encountering criticism:
1. Don’t Shut Out the Critics
A great leader is assertive enough to lead but confident enough to listen.
- Consider the Critique
Only an extreme egotist is unwilling to evaluate and analyze his positions or personal behavior. What your critic said about your church might actually be true. What your critic said about your attitude might be right. Take what was said and look at it through 3 filters: the Word, your wife, & an honest friend. If any of these 3 agree with the criticism you would be wise to listen and change.
- Consider the Source
There are many reasons why someone may publically or privately criticize you. Politically some may have to do so in order to retain their own influence. Narcissistically some may do so in order to gain attention. Habitually some may do so because they are simply unable to mind their own business. Jealously some may do so because they secretly covet the assignment you’ve been given. Philosophically some may do so because they see themselves as some kind of avenger of truth and beacon of righteousness. In each of these cases, ignore the criticism. Their critique has more to do with their own particular issues & insecurities than it does with anything you’ve done – so relax.
- Consider a Conversion
Every critic is a possible convert. Look at what Jesus did with Paul. This man was a Pharisee related to the Sanhedrin. He was from the “enemy” camp and hated everything related to Jesus Christ. But Jesus, instead of attacking him and damning him, converted him through love, patience, and personal interaction. Give your critic the benefit of the doubt. Just because they are against you doesn’t mean they are against God. They may need time to mature and grow in grace. I do things now is service of my Master that 10 years ago I would have condemned as wrong, wicked, and worldly. I’m thankful that the Lord was patient with me. If you are patient with that godly deacon, youthful seminarian, or elder pastor – you may just lead him from critic to convert. Trust me, I’ve seen it happen.
2. Focus on Who Matters
Remember the 25% rule. A quarter of everyone in the world will love you – nothing you can do about it. A quarter of everyone in the world will tend to like you – with dedication you can convince them not to like you. A quarter of everyone in the world will dislike you – with dedication you might convince them to give you another chance. A quarter of everyone in the world will hate you – they can’t be convinced otherwise.
- The Master who Set your Direction
When you’re a servant of Christ it doesn’t matter when someone questions your “direction”. I’ve found great comfort in the reality that I follow Jesus – daily. If the critiques of fellow servants become overwhelming then I simply return to the Master and discuss my assignment with Him.
- The Family who Loves You
There’s nothing like family support. Thankfully I have a big one. I’ve learned to get my validation from the Lord. However, sometimes he chooses to bring encouragement through my Heather and kids. They know my weaknesses and failures but they also know my heart – and they love me. Having supportive parents and siblings, a father-in-law and brother-in-law who actually know me and still like me – this helps wonderfully. Sadly, for many, you may not have these supports or they may be taken away as was the case with Job Then I remind you of the third group that actually matters.
- The People You’re Meant to Lead
God has shaped you perfectly for the people you lead. You are not called to lead everyone. That’s why God has created other leaders. But you are meant to lead the ones He has brought to you. So, lead them. Love them. Listen to them.
3. Toughen Up
Criticism, the more it happens the less it hurts. This is why they call it having a thick skin. I wish I could put this into the hearts of every young minister who is just starting out. Sometimes we need to just NOT care about what someone said about our ministry, life, or family. I’m not saying that you should be calloused, I’m simply saying that with time, the sharp darts won’t be able to puncture as quickly or sink as deeply as they once did. You’ll grow stronger.
This is why high performance leaders are able to forge forward knowing that people hate them. They don’t let it get to them because they know that universal acceptance is not their goal. Look at Jesus, He was so despised at the end that they crucified Him. Are we surprised that we his followers are not continually receiving the accolades of a sinful world or the religious establishment? We shouldn’t be.
It is a weakness to crave continual approval from everyone. Remember, criticism will happen and will increase as does your influence. Stay focused on the Master as you’ll be just fine.