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6 Lessons on Dealing with Criticism

Thought I’d share a few thoughts on the topic of criticism. I’m honestly surprised I don’t have more critics than I do, but I have my fair share. Here is a simple rule of thumb: if you are a leader you will be criticized. Period. If you’re not being criticized you might not be a leader! But how you handle it is so critical.

A few months ago I heard Brian Houston say something so good and so true: “I’d rather be a film maker than a film critic.” His point? There are those who do and those who criticize those who do. I’d rather be a doer than a critic. And I’ve learned that the more critical a person is the less they’ve probably done. Just shooting straight.

In the words of Teddy Roosevelt: “It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or the where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood.”

Life is too short and the message is too important to spend our energies criticizing each other. Infighting must break the Heavenly Father’s heart. It’s self-righteous. It’s sideways energy. And when we take pot shots at each other we’re just playing into the enemy’s hands. We need to be about the Father’s business!

Let me share a few lessons I’ve learned about criticism:

1) Thou Shalt Offend Pharisees. Jesus didn’t have the time of day for the self-appointed critics who formed the religious establishment. He didn’t back down. He confronted their hypocrisy. If you follow in Jesus’ footsteps, you’ll offend some pharisees along the way!

2) Don’t play defense. Life is too short to get defensive. Celebrate your weaknesses and failures. That’ll defuse criticism quicker than anything else. Keep a humble spirit but keep playing offense for the kingdom!

3) Consider the source! An insult from a fool is actually a compliment and a compliment from a fool is actually an insult.

4) Preach for an audience of one. The only person you’re accountable to as a preacher is the One who called you in the first place. Never forget it. And for the record, critics will also be held accountable for the criticisms they wield so easily and so quickly.

5) Don’t get into an argument! I love Proverbs 26:4, “When arguing with fools, don’t answer their foolish arguments, or you will become as foolish as they are.” The very next verse says, “When arguing with fools, be sure to answer their foolish arguments, or they will become wise in their own estimation.” Those back-to-back verse seem to contradict each other but I think they reveal a deeper truth: if you’re arguing with a fool you can’t win.

6) Make sure criticism passes the filter test. I love the way Erwin McManus says this: “Don’t let an arrow of criticism pierce your heart unless it passes through the filter of Scripture.” If criticism passes the biblical filter, then you better repent. If it doesn’t pass the filter test, then rebuke it. Either way, make sure your heart stays soft.

One last thing. A leader is never beyond rebuke, correction or exhortation. But I would advise that you listen to the people who know you and love you. In fact, make sure you have people in your life that can speak truth and hold you accountable.

The bottom line? Don’t be a critic. Be a doer of deeds.

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Mark Batterson is the lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, D.C., a multi-site church and a leading fellowship in the nation’s capital. Meeting in movie theaters and Metro stops throughout the D.C. area, NCC is attended by more than 70 percent single twenty-somethings. Mark’s weekly podcast is one of the fastest growing in America. His book, In A Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day: How to Survive and Thrive When Opportunity Roars peaked at #44 on Amazon.com’s best-seller list. He has just released his newest book entitled, Wild Goose Chase: Reclaiming the Adventure of Pursuing God. He and his wife Lora live on Capitol Hill. They have three children.