A Note to Those Who Criticize Me

August 31, 2013

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.

Thank You

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.

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  • A friend sent me a link to this post. I have encountered three pretty intense verbal attacks in the past 10 days, so she knew this would speak directly to my heart. The Lord has called me to speak truth on my blog. Sometimes it is truth that people don’t want to hear. So, it was with at least one of these verbal attacks. I’m not thin-skinned, but three in a row (2 very public and 2 from relatives) has me thrown a bit off kilter. I’ve chosen to step back from my blog and FB posting for a few weeks and seek the heart the God. I desire not only to allow Him to minister to my heart, but even more to hear from Him the things He desires for me to learn from these attacks. Thankfully, I have walked with the Lord long enough that I responded to each out of love, rather than hurt. Thank you for reminding me that I owe a debt of gratitude to those who criticize me. Awesome post!

  • Larry McKeon says on

    Jesus had his critics too and they crucified him. We all have a cross to carry, and you carry yours well Thom. Just as Jesus intended you to carry it! Thanks for all you do!

  • Beautiful, Thom. It’s so hard being criticized! I too am a “think-skinned introvert”. I think I’ll adopt your 24-hour rule.

    May God bless and sustain you in your leadership and in your life, now and always.

  • Sir Winston Wotton used to say that critics are like brushers of noblemen’s clothes.

    Press On my friend!

  • Longtime listener first time caller, there is a difference bt a critic and a cynic, and whether hatred or help is intended. I suspect u r right more than u r wrong and appreciate free gift of ur writing. Jealousy is An undercurrent to hateful rhetoric too.

  • David Hooper says on

    I approached this blog carefully… I read your blogs, and a few others because I love it when people challenge my thinking.

    I regularly arrive at the bottom of a blog feeling challenged, and grateful to the writer, only to be dismayed by the barrage of negativity and misunderstanding in the comments. Of course there is always some good comments too, but that simply causes arguments.

    Your response to critics is much more mature than mine often is (no surprise there)

    How refreshing it is to see 86 complimentary comments!!!! I am very happy!

    Do you know God is using your books, your blog and you, to help build a church in ‘outback’ Australia? Port Hedland, 1300 miles from our major city, Perth.

    Keep it up! You’re leaving a legacy.

    Regards, David Hooper.
    PS I would love to ask you about the possibility of putting together a survey along the lines of the one you used for “the Unchurched next door”, I think our demographic is similar but different to the USA.

  • Thanks for being vulnerable. A great reminder that God can still use us to do great things despite our fraility. Thanks for epitomizing great leadership.

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