I will never forget that moment. It was a Sunday morning well over a decade ago. I had labored over my message for the church all week. I worked diligently to craft a sermon with the right mix of exposition, illustration, and application. I poured hours of my life into that message.
As I stood behind the pulpit and delivered the message the Lord had prompted in my heart, it seemed to be connecting with everyone in the place. It was one of those days you felt like you hit a home run.
Until the moment came.
As I talked to people after the service, a man walked up to me and gave me some sharp criticism over my message. He strongly disagreed with something I said and wanted to be sure I knew it. I thanked him for his input and moved on to the next person.
The remainder of the day I could not find the ability to celebrate all that God did in that service and in the lives of people simply because of the criticism of that one person. I was blinded to the potential blessings that hundreds may have received because of the sharp and painful words of one man.
Have you ever had that experience? I have had many others like it since then. However, as I have grown in leadership, I have learned how to grow through criticism as well.
Criticism is a natural part of being a leader. The criticism you receive as you lead may or may not be helpful. It may or may not be delivered with the right intentions. It may or may not be substantiated. However, the criticism itself will not ultimately determine anything in your leadership, but how you respond will.
As I have grown as a leader and in the grace of our Lord, I have learned two significant key components on dealing with criticism:
Don’t internalize criticism from someone you wouldn’t seek advice from
The presence of critics will be a permanent fixture throughout your leadership. I have learned that the people who truly care about me give criticism in a way that is helpful and profitable in my walk with the Lord and my calling. They are not just out to get me or out to find something to criticize in order to hurt me. These are the people who spur me on to be a better leader every day. If you are in a position of leadership, I encourage you to be diligent and only accept criticism from those you trust.
The best response to criticism is always prayer
As a leader I am constantly drawn back to the life and leadership of Moses. He rarely got a day off from being criticized for the challenges the nation of Israel faced. Almost every time he was criticized by the people or even his own family, you found him on his face praying! Moses knew the best way to respond to criticism was to seek wisdom from the Lord.
I started doing this in my life a few years ago and it was a game-changer. In moments of sharp criticism, nothing calms my mind and heart like taking it directly to the Lord. Praying allows me to guard my heart from becoming bitter or angry at the one who is criticizing. In fact, it puts me in the right place to be objective with the criticism I receive. Prayer should be our first response. Let me encourage you to stop and pray next time you feel the weight and sting of some critic’s words.
You will have challenges, you will have critics, and you will have voices seeking to derail you from what God has called you to. However, never let your mind and heart get positioned to listen to those voices above the One voice that called you and equipped you to lead.
I am praying for you as you lead and lead well! I am in your corner. I am your cheerleader. I believe in you! I love you and am honored to serve you!