Raise your hand if you like to be criticized. I don’t expect any takers for that offer! Nobody, with a normal emotional outlook, likes to be criticized. But since no one escapes it, all of us should have a “game plan” for handling it.
I once heard Rick Warren say, “The one who calls the shots takes the shots.” If you have ever led a team or group you have experienced criticism- it’s a part of leadership. But criticism isn’t limited to leaders- it reaches all of us. Even if you hate to admit it, you have been criticized in the past and more is on the way- it’s a part of life. (By now you may be switching off your computer- but read on!)
How will you respond to criticism? I have known people who react to criticism with such volatility, their anger makes what ever they were criticized for appear even worse. Other people I’ve known become withdrawn when criticized, and seem, as a result, to lack the necessary motivation to correct the original problem. Either way, both of those extreme responses are unrealistic since everyone experiences criticism. After all, some people find fault like there is a reward for it! You will no doubt run into those kind of people eventually if you haven’t already. They like to criticize.
There are instances, of course, when the criticism is valid- and we can all recall occasions when the critics nailed it! At times like that, humility, as well as the determination to learn and change, is required so we can improve and avoid that particular criticism in the future. But often we are the target of harsh and unjustified criticism. Then what? For one thing, it may help to remember that being right does not mean you will never be criticized.
Jesus was criticized constantly. The Pharisees called Him demon possessed (John 8:52). At one point, His own family thought He was “out of His mind” (Mark 3:21). Once, thousands of potential followers rejected Him in a single day (John 6:66). Of course, the ultimate “criticism” was more than a cruel word. The ultimate critique of Jesus was the cross where He was executed!
Yet, in spite of all He had to endure, Jesus persisted in the face of unjustified criticism. What do we learn from His example? First we might learn this- if the perfect Son of God had critics, we should never be surprised if we have them too. Second, if you believe you are doing God’s will, and what is right, don’t let criticism derail your efforts. Eventually, you might even win your critics to your point of view. There are few words more satisfying to hear than, “You were right after all.” You will hear those words someday, from some of your critics, if you carry a job to completion. But you will never convince a single critic if you give up because someone disagrees.
There are definitely times when the criticisms that come our way are warranted. When those times come we need to adjust, or repent, and do things differently. There may also be times when, even if we are right, the negative consequences of persistence outweigh the value of “winning”. We have to choose our battles.
Most of the time, however, we should be far more willing to endure criticism for the sake of doing what’s right if we are doing the will of God! If Jesus continued to do God’s will even though He was criticized, so can we.
“Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.“ (Hebrews 12:3 NIV)
Great word, Dr. Bowman, thanks!