Dealing with Criticism

I rarely feel totally comfortable and qualified to share my opinion on a subject. But if I was ever going to feel like I has something worthwhile to offer it would be this on handling criticism. That’s not because I’m an expert either. I’ve just gotten this one wrong so much that I’m able to spot when somethings off. Not being able to handle criticism and conflict was the cause of my failure in ministry on my first go around. It took six years of work by God (through secular management) to get me to the point where I could be most effective for Him in the Church. I’m now able to look back on those three years of failure and six years 0f growing and see His hand-prints all over my life. Here’s a few things I’ve picked up along the way. Though they are not in order of importance, they really do flow in order from one to the next.

First, even if the criticism is meant to be personal, don’t take it personally. NOTHING positive will result from that, ever. If you receive criticism (especially as a leader) it’s most likely that you’re being criticized for what you stand for or a decision that you’ve made. That’s not personal. That type (of criticism) is directly related to your role or position that you occupy.

Second, don’t get defensive. Another way of saying this – don’t build up a wall, set up camp behind it and start tossing hand grenades over it. This will lead to immediate conflict and potential damage to the relationship. Defensiveness is really a sign of immaturity and lack of accountability. Those are traits that we should definitely avoid.

Third, LISTEN to what the other person has to say. By actively listening to the persons’ concerns (nice word for criticism) you are validating them and communicating to them that their opinion matters to you and that they matter to you. And in the process you are earning respect and building trust.

Fourth, sit in their seat and see it from their perspective. Chances are, you’ll realize that they really do have something to offer you in terms of improving and growing. It’s rare that a person is just blowing hot air, wanting to be difficult and really has nothing valuable to offer. Most of the time, people have valid concerns and by listening to them you can learn, grow and improve yourself and likely the situation or organization that you’re both involved in.

Fifth, be grateful that the person chose to bring their criticism to you. Don’t think for a moment that Satan wasn’t encouraging them to take it to everyone else but you. Now, instead of just being part of a problem that you may know nothing about, you can be part of a solution to one. That’s definitely something to be grateful for. Don’t forget to express your gratitude to the person. If the person is there with pure motives, this type of reaction will win them over. If their motives are questionable, this type of reaction will blow them away (because they are probably ready for a fight).

Sixth, and most important, pray together. For all my deficiencies and failures, I’ve never once made things worse by asking the other person to pray with me.

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Dangerous Lines

Ever notice how some people delight in walking up to “the line,” examining its clarity and stepping over it? I’ve never given it much thought. Probably because I’m always looking for the next line to cross. That’s not something to boast in. I don’t think. Certainly, I’ve disappointed myself, my parents (and even my wife) on too many occasions because of my cheerful inclination to challenge the status quo. It’s seems that some people have a particular passion for this behavior. I suppose that some of us line chasers simply lack the moral compass that would point us in a more favorable direction. But for others (I hope to include myself in this category) it’s more of a desire to know why–why is that line placed in that location–instead of over there? Does it help me? Does it help someone else? Is it necessary? Does the line drawer doubt my ability to make an informed and responsible decision?–and then judge for ourselves if that line is worthy of our submissive obedience.

If you find this disregard for the line to be morally reprehensible or contemptuous, then you may belong to those who equally as cheerfully locate the line and set up a holy commune at least one mile away from it. For us chasers, the commune is fine–albeit a little strange, but fine nonetheless. We do seem to take exception when the commune elects a line sheriff and charges him or her with the responsibility of guarding that one mile radius like it’s a demilitarized zone that leads to very gates of hell.

Believe it or not, I have actually spent the past few hours contemplating this dichotomy. I’ve been considering the merits of each view and critically examining my own place in the discussion. On some points I have determined my attitude to be out of bounds and in need of repentance. On other points, I have become annoyed, if not upset, with some of the sheriffs that I know. One in particular has my attention at this moment.

A congregation with which I have become acquainted believes strongly that their assembly ought not worship with musical instruments. Good for them. While I do not share in their method or rationale for arriving at that conclusion, I nonetheless concur. So in that way, we have both identified the line, agreed that it ought to be there and that we all should give it due respect and attention. However, this congregation has nominated for themselves a few sheriffs that have determined to move their camp back about two miles on the subject. In doing so they have turned their property into the reincarnation of Israel’s Holy Temple and decreed that no musical instrument or recording of a musical instrument being played shall ever be brought into the building regardless of the occasion (including a wedding). Make that five miles back.

And you wonder why some of us ask why?

What is the point of this? I have learned the hard way not to make assumptions. That being said, it may be that their sheriffs are: ignorant of the Holy Scriptures, power hungry and desire to flex their muscles ¬†or prefer their traditions over the desires of people. Maybe it’s none of those or some combination of all three. I don’t know. I’m not sure if it even matters?

So what? That’s their church and their choice. Agreed.

It’s just so very disappointing that they have decided to condemn anyone who has violated their five mile wide demilitarized zone. I just want to make sure that instead of drawing lines, I’m spending my time looking for the ones that the Holy Spirit has already marked.

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