One well-worn adage reads, “The two things you can’t avoid in life are death and taxes.”
I’d like to suggest one more, for those in ministry.
The two things pastors can’t avoid are…
people late to the service and…
Having served in full-time ministry for 30 years, I’ve experienced my share of critics. I’ve responded well to some and not-so-well to others. When I’ve sensed a good heart from the critic, I tend to respond with more grace.
As Abe Lincoln said, “He has a right to criticize, who has a heart to help.”
Here are 10 ways I’ve learned to respond to my critics (actually 9, I’d love to hear your 10th).
1. Give them your ear, but within reason. Don’t allow someone to destroy you with caustic criticism.
2. Let your body language communicate that you are truly trying to understand.
3. Avoid an immediate retort such as “Yea but,” or “You’re wrong,” or some other defensive response.
4. Breath this silent prayer, “Lord, give me grace to respond and not react.”
5. Before responding take a few moments to check what you’re about to say. Abe used to suggest counting to 100 when you get angry. That may a bit of overkill, but he is on to something.
6. Look for the proverbial ‘grain of truth’ in the criticism.
7. If you see more than a grain of truth and you can’t process it alone, seek feedback from the safe person in your life. (see my post on What to Look for in a Safe Person).
8. Ask God to keep you approachable to your critics (within reason). You probably don’t want to vacation with them.
9. Learn from your critics on how best to deliver criticism to others. When someone delivers criticism that you received well, ask yourself what about how they did it made it easer to receive. For those who botched it, remember to avoid their tactics.
10. …tell me how you’ve responded to your critics. I’d love for you to give me a 10th.