The criticism felt like a kick in the gut. My first response was to cry and feel sorry for myself, but I stopped the emotional reaction and did these five things instead:
1. I considered the source. I asked myself, Is this person criticizing me from a place of love and concern, or is this person just critical in general? I think maybe both were a little bit true in this case.
2. I asked God if the person’s criticism was true. I have a friend who he is a youth pastor, and he receives criticism often for how he does ministry. He always stops and considers whether the person is correct or not. If the person is correct, then my friend takes the criticism to heart and tries to make the necessary changes or apologies necessary. If the criticism is false, he sets it aside.
After a talk with God yesterday, I felt a chunk of this person’s criticism of me was unfounded, but I did see that some of what he said was true, and I’ll keep that in mind the next time I do this ministry task.
3. I refused to give up. My gut reaction was to say, Well fine, I’ll just quit this ministry!! Discouragement, humiliation, and insecurity just about knocked me over, but with rational thinking I realized I do have a positive influence in this area of ministry, so I refuse to let a criticism derail me.
4. I remembered criticism came because I took a risk to serve. People who don’t lead or teach or minister never get criticized for leading or teaching or ministering. I reminded myself that if I’m going to take a risk to put myself out there and walk in obedience to God, I’m going to have critics (Jesus did!) Sometimes the critics will be right, because I’m a flawed, weak, sinful person doing ministry. Sometimes they’ll be wrong, and I’ll have to let the criticism go like water off a duck’s back.
5. I thanked God for the criticism. Paul says, “Give thanks in all circumstances.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) So I did. This criticism will build my perseverance and maturity, will sharpen my ministry skill, and will help me remember what it feels like to be criticized next time I feel like criticizing someone. That’s a lot to be thankful for.
I heard a pastor say that criticism is neutral. It just sits there and does nothing except for what we choose to do with it. It can crush us, or we can use it as a tool to become a better person. (Listen to that intriguing sermon here: http://www.northpoint.org/messages/climate-change/part-1)
I’m sorry if someone has criticized you. It hurts, and I know exactly how you feel.
How will you respond, though?