I am in a position of fairly visible leadership. I have written books and articles and blog posts as well. I am fair game for critics. I should expect criticisms.
I respond to some of the criticisms; some of them I don’t. I have my reasons for each, though I know I am often fallible in my judgment on those matters.
My Emotional Reaction to Criticism
Though I may be setting myself up for admitting it, I confess that I am a relatively thin-skinned person. Criticisms make me feel lousy. More times than I would like to admit, I get defensive when I encounter criticisms. My first reaction is to respond with my own heated rhetoric. That is why I usually hold to my own twenty-four hour rule: Don’t respond until twenty-four hours have passed. If I wait a day, I will respond more reasonably; or I will elect not to respond at all.
So why have I allowed myself to lead an organization and write books and articles when I know I’m opening myself up for criticisms? How does a thin-skinned introvert allow these things to happen? Good questions. I haven’t figured them out myself. One possible answer is that I am really stupid. In fact, I think that is the more logical answer.
The Other Side of Criticisms
But I began this article with the title clearly stating that I’m speaking directly to my critics. Please allow me to do so.
Despite my fleshly weaknesses in dealing with you critics, I really owe you my deepest appreciation. You remind me that I am fallible, and that I should never think I can do or say things well in my own power. If I become proud because I think I’ve accomplished something significant, you offer me balance and perspective.
Many of you who are critical of me are right, and I am wrong. I need to remember that. When I come to the haughty conclusion that I am an expert or person of influence, you remind me that there are millions of people smarter than I am, wiser than I am, and more godly than I am.
Some of you are critical of me because you are hurting. I am connected to something or have said something that has caused you pain. Instead of being defensive to you, I need to be more pastoral, more Christ-like, and more concerned. I need to see past the anger and to see the child of God that you are.
Please allow me to conclude with a few painful truths. First, I am fearful that this article will open me up to more criticisms. I should rejoice when God uses you as an instrument to humble me, but I am still weak and fearful. Second, I don’t want to pretend that this article is some type of resolution that will make me the perfect recipient of criticisms. I know I will still fail and continue to struggle with my weaknesses.
But I do want you to know, critics, that I thank you for your words of admonition. I have a strange relationship with you. I dread you and I need you. There will be times when I am right and you are wrong. But there will be many times when you are right and I am wrong.
Could I boldly ask you to do one thing for me if you are my critic? It is unfair to ask anything of you since you are already disappointed in me, my words, or my actions. Will you pray that I will have God-given wisdom to deal with those who disagree with me? Only in His strength can I ever hope to be the kind of leader He wants me to be.
Thank you, critics. I really do appreciate you.
Strange words from me. Strange words indeed.
Posted on August 31, 2013
With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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