Advice for Dealing with Criticism

heart of a servant leader

By Bob Pittenger

I am so thankful for those who are willing to step up and lead. Regardless of whether it is a paid or volunteer position, leading a dozen or thousands, or public or behind closed doors, we must have leaders who are willing to be the target of criticism. Leadership is never easy. There will always be spectators sitting on the sidelines telling everyone who will listen how it could have been done better. It may not be right, but that is the life of a leader.

So, if you are a leader of any kind THANK YOU! Thank you for your leadership. Thank you for having a passionate vision that will not allow you to sit idly hoping that someone else will rise up and meet the challenge. Thanks for giving of yourself for the benefit of others, the team, the organization, or the Kingdom of God. Thanks for working to the point of exhaustion because more than anything else you want to make a difference. THANKS!!!!

During my morning devotion I read a great post by Dr. Chuck Swindoll on dealing with criticism. So, I want to share his post with you as a way of saying thanks to all our great leaders out there. I hope you find this as comforting and encouraging as did I.

Swindoll writes:

Looking for a role model on how to handle criticism? It would be worth your while to check out the book of Nehemiah. On several occasions this great-hearted statesman was openly criticized, falsely accused, and grossly misunderstood. Each time he kept his cool . . . he rolled with the punch . . . he considered the source . . . he refused to get discouraged . . . he went to God in prayer . . . he kept building the wall (Nehemiah 2:19–20; 4:1–5).

One of the occupational hazards of being a leader is receiving criticism (not all of it constructive, by the way). In the face of that kind of heat, there’s a strong temptation to “go under,” “throw in the towel,” “bail out.” Many have faded out of leadership because of intense criticism. I firmly believe that the leader who does anything that is different or worthwhile or visionary can count on criticism.

Along this line, I appreciate the remarks made by the fiery president of a past generation, Theodore Roosevelt:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; who does actually try to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.

Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.

To those words I add a resounding amen.

A sense of humor is of paramount importance to the leader. Many of God’s servants are simply too serious! There are at least two tests we face that determine the extent of our sense of humor:

the ability to laugh at ourselves

the ability to take criticism

Believe me, no leader can continue effectively if he or she fails these tests! Equally important, of course, is the ability to sift from any criticism that which is true, that which is fact. We are foolish if we respond angrily to every criticism. Who knows, God may be using those words to teach us some essential lessons, painful though they may be.

Isn’t this what Proverbs 27:5–6 is saying?

Better is open rebuke
Than love that is concealed.
Faithful are the wounds of a friend,
But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.

And let me call to your attention the word friend in these verses. Friendship is not threatened but strengthened by honest criticism. But—when you are criticized by one who hardly knows you, filter out what is fact . . . and ignore the rest!

Nehemiah did that . . . and he got the wall built.

Source: Insight.org

A Shelter in the Storm

Weathering the Storms of LifeHave you ever been caught out in a severe thunder-storm? The rain was coming down so hard that you couldn’t see five feet in front of you? You are trying to run toward cover, but because of the high winds and massive amount of rain you can’t see anything? You know that if you just keep moving forward, eventually you’ll find shelter and relief from the deluge.

After you’ve been running awhile, you begin to wonder why you haven’t reached  shelter. You ask yourself, “Did I go in the wrong direction? It is raining so hard that I couldn’t actually see the shelter, so I just started running in the general direction? Maybe I went the wrong way, maybe I passed it, maybe it is not really in front of me, maybe—maybe I’m lost and out on my own.”

As you continue questioning your hope of finding shelter, panic begins to well up within your heart. “I’m cold, wet, and tired from running. Maybe I should stop and wait for the storm to pass. Maybe I should go back the other direction.” Just as you’re about to give up, something within pushes you on. The voice says, “Don’t give up, just keep trusting what you know to be true.” So, you press on finding greater confidence with each and every step. “I’ve jogged in this park for years, and I know for certain that shelter is just a little bit further ahead.”

Suddenly, through the rain you see a dark shadow just a few yards ahead. You begin to run faster as you realize it is the long-awaited shelter right where you knew it would be. Entering the shelter you double over to catch your breath, and after a few minutes something incredible happens. You look outside the shelter at the overwhelming downpour that had left you blind, helpless, and confused, and you begin to see the beauty of the storm from within the shelter. Outside the shelter you could only see a few feet, but now you can see up and down the trails, and behold the beauty of the falling rain. You now realize the only way to go through a storm is under the safety of the shelter. After all, you’re still in the middle of the storm—the wind is blowing, rain falling, lightning flashing, and thunder crashing; nevertheless you are protected within this old, trusted safe haven.

I have found myself many times over the last forty-eight years being battered about by the storms of life. I was tired, cold, and weary. I kept calling out to God for help, but He never seemed to come and rescue me from the terrifying tempest. Continuing on, blinded by the wind and rain, soaking wet, and shivering, I just couldn’t understand why God wouldn’t point me in the right direction, why He wouldn’t stop the rain—I couldn’t comprehend how leaving me lost in this storm could possibly bring Him glory.

But then I remember, I had gone out into the storm on my own. I had chosen my own direction and took off running thinking that I could withstand the beating long enough to find shelter. What I needed to do was stop running away from God, remember the shelter of God’s presence, peace, and protection, and begin running to where He had always been. Sure enough, when I quit struggling, trying to get through the storm in my own strength, and relied on God it happened. My eyes were opened to see His shelter, and from there I was able to see the beauty of the storm and understand that He is glorified most when I find my strength, safety, and satisfaction in Him regardless of the circumstances.

God has never left you to fight alone, but He will freely let you go out and try it all alone. There has never been a moment when He wasn’t patiently waiting for you to stop thrashing about in your sea of self-determination and cry out to Him, “God, I CAN’T DO THIS!” Nope, not for a moment has He ever forsaken you! All you have to do is open your eyes to see Him, run to His shelter, and then find your rest in Him!

If you find yourself in the middle of a raging storm, you don’t know where to turn, and you are thinking of giving up, then you need Jesus. He is as close as your next breath and is waiting on you to cry out to Him. If you need help finding your way to Him, email me at pastorbob@lobc.net, and I’ll help you find your way to His shelter.

Here is a beautiful song by Meredith Andrews, “Not for a Moment.”

Whom Shall I Fear?

One of the worst memories I have of my school-years is of bullies. To this day, when I see a news report in which someone is being bullied a fire starts to build up within. Even as adults, we have to deal with those who try to intimidate us with fear.  They may threaten our job, family, health, or property. They demand we give them exactly what they want or pay for disobedience.

Bullying didn’t just start in the twenty-first century.  When we look back in history, we see that bullying today is nothing new under the sun. In the Old Testament, we can see how scare tactics were used against David; and yet, most of the time he responded in a godly manner. His trust in God allowed him to endure the trials of life. No matter what the threat or how difficult the circumstances, David’s trust in God led him to find peace which led to praise.

An example of this in Scripture is Psalm 27.1-6:

“The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?  The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?  When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh, my adversaries and foes, it is they who stumble and fall. Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident.  One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.  For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble;  he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock.  And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to the LORD” (Psalm 27:1-6 ESV).