Ever been criticized? Well of course you have. Anyone who has ever attempted to do something for Jesus has been criticized. Usually the criticism comes from those who are doing little to nothing for Jesus. Occasionally it actually comes from others who are walking closely with the Lord and are actively involved in seeing people come to a saving knowledge of the Lord and become born again. The latter you should listen to – the former have not earned the right to be critical.
Recently a Facebook page posted a fairly scathing criticism of a ministry I use to be involved in. The leadership shut down the ministry after realizing that it would be impossible to bring it back to any semblance of health. In fact, it was “dead” and simply needed to be buried. However, some of those involved – both leaders and followers – are still, a year later, being critical of what happened. Of course, they have their own point-of-view and we need to accept that. Of course, they are accusing me of unilaterally shutting the ministry down – which is not true. Reading through the posting and some of the comments posted by others, anyone who had any knowledge of what happened would know that the comments made are not based in truth. But, this is usually what happens – people justify their position and actions regardless of the facts and the reality of the situation.
So, some of the others who were involved and have read the posting have come and asked what they should do. They realize that the situation has been badly misrepresented and that what was posted was not what happened. Here is my advice… not just in this situation, but in any situation where others, even believers acting in a non-biblical way, are speaking critically about you or a situation you were involved in.
First, remember that criticism is inevitable for those who are attempting to following the biblical commandments out of love for the Lord. Throughout biblical history and beyond, prophets, priests, pastors and God’s people have dealt with criticism, adverse circumstances, and even persecution. The question is not whether tough times and criticism will come; they will. The question is how will you respond in those tough times. Here are seven suggestions:
1> Don’t take most of the criticism personally. Most of them are really not about you, your character, or the real situation. They are about a different opinion, a different perspective, or someone attempting to justify their non-biblical behaviour and attitude. And some of the criticism may have no logical basis whatsoever. They can come from a person who is hurting deeply. They arise out of the need to justify and explain their actions – not yours.
2> Pray for the critic. Your feelings towards the critic and the criticism will change when you do. Remember that God loves them and so must you because that is a biblical command. Even if there is no love expressed in the words of criticism you must return love – in your thoughts, attitude, and actions.
3> Develop a winsome spirit. Defensiveness and bitterness never help. Learn to laugh at yourself. Have a joyous spirit. Rejoice in the Lord always.
4> Be transparent. Criticism often goes to far greater depths and frequency when there is a sense that those involved (leaders and others) are not being totally upfront on an issue or perspective. The transparent disciple will be given the benefit of the doubt more times than not. Of course this will not eliminate criticism, but you will be able to go to bed at night with a clear conscience.
5> Pray for your own attitude. True Christians, disciples who are following Jesus and His Words, are not perfect. They can have bad attitudes. They can see critics as the enemy. They can have a spirit of defensiveness and even retribution. Disciples of Jesus must constantly be on guard with their own attitudes. If they do, they not only will deal with ministry in a more effective and godly way, but they also will develop thicker skins for dealing with criticism.
6> Focus on the majority. Almost all of the time, more people are with you than against you. The minority critics can seem so loud that we get the impression that everyone is against us.
7> Look in the mirror. We are all wrong sometimes. Some of the criticism is not without justification. The true disciple will gain more respect and credibility with a response that admits wrong when it is there and apologizes.
If you are doing anything for the Lord, criticism is inevitable. Examine your heart and conscience, deal with your feelings, do everything you can to bring peace into the situation, and then move on and continue your work for the Lord. Don’t defend your actions. Don’t get involved in a fresh discussion of the issues. Never let a criticism or a critic stop you from labouring in the harvest field and seeing others saved.