So when a young woman I mentor asked if she could come over and talk to us about how John has navigated the crises and criticism of leadership with a “non-anxious presence” and how I have achieved the victory of not, you know…killing, any of those critics, we said, “of course!”
John’s temperament just naturally sets him up better for criticism, but he also has a lot of wisdom to share and I have a lot to learn. Our conversation made me reflect on some of the lessons
I’ve learned I am trying to learn about dealing with criticism.
Here are a few:
1. Buy yourself time. When someone attacks, say: “I need some time to process and pray about this in order to give you my best response and not my first reaction.” Along those same lines, never fight through email (yep, I’ve learned this the hard way).
2. Reflect and Process. Ask: What was the situation? What emotions did I experience? What judgments did I infer? What is true?
3. Inquire for better understanding. My default mode is to jump to the worst possible interpretation: “You are a terrible, worthless wormy failure of a human being.” It might be wise to ask if there’s a bit more nuance they’d like me to hear. Or there may be context neither of us fully understand before we talk further.
4. Take responsibility. Acknowledge your weaknesses and failures. Own your part in any problem. This will defuse criticism quicker than anything else. Keep a humble spirit.
5. Consider the source! Mark Batterson reminds me: “An insult from a fool is actually a compliment and a compliment from a fool is actually an insult.” Listen to the people who know you and love you. Make sure you have people in your life that can speak truth and hold you accountable.
6. Filter criticism. 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 ignore it. Either way, make sure your heart stays soft.
Here’s the thing, though. All of these are strategies, but the root issue with criticism is identity. When we feel the ding of critique it’s often because we’re trying to protect our false self. It is only as we are confident of our true identity as “beloved child of God” that we will have a non-anxious presence, knowing that we have nothing to prove and nothing to lose.
What have you learned about handling criticism?