How are you at handling criticism? I don’t know about you, but I sure like pats on the back better than criticism. I like to think I am always right. Be honest…. So do you… If you are willing to listen, you can learn a lot from healthy criticism.
Thom Rainer wrote a good blog post yesterday on the subject. Check it out below.
I don’t really enjoy receiving criticism. In fact, for me, it’s one of the least enjoyable parts of leadership. I particularly cringe when my family members hear or read about criticisms of me. It hurts them and so it hurts me even more.
But, if I am truly honest with myself, I have to admit I’m a better person and leader because of the criticism I have received. And while I certainly don’t agree with all of my critics all of the time, I have learned from many of them.
What’s To Like about Criticism
Perhaps “like” is not the best choice of words. I don’t have a special fondness for criticisms. But there are some positive aspects of being on the receiving side of negative words. Here are a few for me personally:
1. I deserve some of the criticism I receive. I am wrong more times than I am often comfortable admitting. If I look at the words of a critic objectively, I sometimes see that he or she is right, and I am wrong. Such admission can then lead me to a path of correction.
2. Criticism teaches me humility. I wish I could say that I am this great humble guy that always has his act together. Of course, that is not the case. When I am criticized, justified or not, it reminds me that I am a fallen sinner who still has much to learn.
3. Criticism makes me depend on God more. It’s really not a very good statement that I’m not already totally dependent on God. Frankly, I do have my sinful moments where I think I can do things in my own power. But when I receive criticisms, I am reminded that I am nothing without Christ. I need those reminders.
4. Criticism teaches me empathy. Many times I hold my tongue or still my keyboard right before making a critical statement of someone. I pause and think about criticism I have received, and how it made me feel. I am not nearly as quick to speak or write negative words because I have been in the shoes of those who receive criticism. Why would I do something so hurtful when I have experienced that pain myself?
5. I am a better leader because of criticism. Many times I have led poorly. Then I receive a criticism that makes me reevaluate the direction I am leading. On more than one occasion, I have changed directions because I realized that the critic was right in part or in total. The critic thus made me a better leader.
An Important Lesson
The writer of Proverbs typically spares no words. He gets right to the point, and leaves little doubt of the path we should take. Recently in my quiet time, I read Proverbs 10:17: “The one who follows instruction is on the path to life, but the one who rejects correction goes astray” (HCSB).
Many times when I receive criticism, I am receiving healthy correction. Sure there are some critics whose words are malicious and unfounded. But that does not mean I should reject the critics altogether. And even when I feel like I have been wronged, I should not assume that I can’t learn something from the critic’s words.
Though I am a man in my mid fifties, I still have much to learn. I need to be a better leader. I need to be a better husband, father, and grandfather. And I need to be a better follower of Christ.
Sure, the critics’ words sting. But many times, those words have been a needed correction to me, and they have put me back “on the path to life.”
May God use my critics to make me to be more like the man He has called me to be.