Handling Criticism

Handling Criticism

Criticism has been around a long time. 

Adam seemed to think sin wouldn’t have occurred had God not made Eve.  What an oversight on God’s part, huh?!  (For those just waking up, that was sarcasm).  Jesus was criticized early and often by the professional religious people of the day.  There isn’t a leader in human history who hasn’t experienced scathing critique.  CEO’s, coaches, politicians, doctors, teachers, and all sorts of other talented people are criticized at every turn by someone.  There is no escaping criticism. 

I am convinced the most criticized person on the earth is a mother.  If her husband doesn’t do it, then other moms will.  Doctors, teachers, day care workers, high school baby sitters, grandparents, and neighbors will readily give their opinion on what she is, and is not, doing well.  Then there is the media.  Every day brings a new expert on a screen to point out THE way a child is to be reared. 

If her ears somehow miss the other reviews, she will certainly hear it from her own children.  “Mom, why isn’t lunch ready…Why didn’t you wash my favorite shirt…Why are you not entertaining me…You’re doing it wrong…I don’t like that…I don’t like you.” And although she knows the 10, 7, or 4 year old is not mature enough to filter emotions, the words still sting. 

But perhaps a mom’s worst critic is herself.  Mothers want to do everything within their power to provide a nurturing environment where each child of hers has a chance to be well adjusted, secure, stable, and godly.  That future is hard to see when her flaws are thrown in her face.  Usually, no one is more critical than herself.  Criticism can come at every turn, and trying to stay positive feels like trying to surf on a tidal wave.

Without implying that the answer to all of this is in the next paragraph, let me give some counsel.  Husbands and Fathers – encourage your wife and the mother of your children.  Speak words that bring life to her.  Memorize, meditate on, and practice the words of Ephesians 4:29.  Moms – listen closely to the voice of God.  Just as you sing over your children, He sings over you (Zephaniah 3:17).  God is far more interested in your kids than you are.  He’s done this parenting thing for several thousands of years.  So don’t think for a second he doesn’t have your back.  Love (God’s) covers a multitude of sins (mine).

But when it comes to handling criticism, Tim Elmore has proven to be very helpful to me.   Maybe this will resonate with you, maybe it won’t.  I offer it as a piece of godly counsel coming from a wise man.  He wrote a few suggestions for handling criticism in Book #2 of the Habitudes series – The Art of Connecting with Others:

Understand the difference between constructive and destructive criticism.

Do they want to help you or hurt you?  Can you see God redeeming anything good from it?

Recognize that people act out of what they are experiencing inside.  It may not be about you.

Hurting people naturally hurt people.  Intimidated people intimidate.  What’s inside comes out.

Remember that good people get criticized.

Some of the finest leaders in history were attacked, including Jesus.  You’re in good company.

Don’t just see the critic, see the crowd.

Don’t let minority rule.  Are others feeling the same way as the critic, or is this critic isolated?

Eat the fish and spit out the bones.

Digest the criticism and act on anything that’s accurate.  Improve what you can.  Discard the rest.

Trust God, and wait for time to prove them wrong.

Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address” was considered shameful and poorly written at the time.

Act, don’t react.  Don’t get defensive.

Don’t let their emotion dictate yours.  Thank them for their opinions.  Take the high road.

Seek wise counsel from others.

Consult other leaders to see what kernels of truth might be in the criticism.

Concentrate on your mission; change your mistakes.

Many leaders get so frazzled when criticized that they do the opposite.

Of course this will not be the magic bullet to encourage every mom out there, but I do think it can make a dent.  Mom, above all be encouraged.  God is not criticizing you.  The evil one condemns all the while shining the spotlight on our imperfections.  The Holy Spirit convicts all the while pointing to Jesus.  He reminds us that Jesus paid it all.  He promises that He who began a good work will complete it.  He whispers “I won’t leave you or forsake you.”

Mom, above all be encouraged. God is not criticizing you. Click To Tweet

So embrace and remember.  Criticism will come now.  Well done will come later.

Embrace the fact that you will be criticized for not feeding your children organic, hormone free, free-ranged food…for not homeschooling your 17 children (while making their clothes)…for not sending in handmade gifts/valentines/thank you notes to classmates/teachers…for not having a Pinterest worthy birthday party…for not allowing your children to flourish by putting them in every known sport/activity (or not depending on the article you read) all while being the best wife/cook/friend/neighbor/tutor/evangelist/volunteer/leader/sales rep for the newest work-from-home company at the same time.  Yes, criticism will come now. 

But remember that one day down the road you will breathe your last breath.  Ideally your children and grandchildren will be there and shed tears.  They’ll thank God for your motherly love, counsel, tears, and hugs.  They will praise God for your prayers.  Your body will stay but your spirit will rise.  You’ll enter into the presence of The One who redeemed you.  All the critique will have faded away and the only voice you’ll hear will say, “Well done my good and faithful servant.”