(Still on Criticism Road.  Catch up here and here.)

Do you know why I get criticized sometimes?

Because I’m wrong.

Sometimes I’m wrong in a really big way.  Sometimes I’m so wrong that even the people who generally agree with me are looking at me the way people looked at General George Custer when he said, “Hey guys, they’re just a bunch of indians.  Let’s do this!”

As we hit hump day of criticism week, I don’t want to infer that people’s criticism of me (or you) is misguided.  Sometimes it’s right on target and just what I need to hear.  Sometimes, criticism means that I have to eat a little crow (non-Southerners click here).  But hey…you eat enough crow and it tastes like chicken.

Whenever and however you’re on the business end of criticism, there are three primary ways you can use it:

  1. Evaluate the reasoning. I’m a firm believer that there’s something to be learned from every syllable of criticism received.  In my days as a student pastor, I remember an older lady in our church berating a student for wearing a Budweiser shirt in the church auditorium.  Was she wrong for berating him?  Yes.  Should he have been wearing it to church?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  But it was a good reminder to me that some people see unbelievers as bad people who should act good when they come to church.  I tried to walk a mile in her orthopedic shoes (I apologize…wait, no I don’t because that was funny) and I understood why she was upset.  She was still wrong, but at least I understood why she thought she was right.
  2. Share the vision. Here’s what I’ve found after 16 years of ministry: 98% of people I encounter silence their criticisms once they understand the “why” behind the “what.”  Note that I didn’t say they agree with it, but they understand enough of the method behind the madness that they no longer question why we do a certain thing.  That’s why I’m always happy to exhaustingly explain things to people who want to know.  And besides, if I can’t convince ’em, I’ll bore ’em until they walk away.
  3. Make a change. This is where eating crow comes into play.  Sometimes our critics are dead on.  Sometimes our best thought-through plans have huge holes that we can’t see.  When our critics point them out, we can’t pridefully ignore them.  Make a change.  That doesn’t mean that our plans cave every time someone speaks against us, but it means that every criticism is an opportunity to learn.  Don’t squander it.


Other posts in this series: