“Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.” Proverbs 11:14

It’s not a matter of if, but a matter of when. There will always be critics standing around ready to deflate you and your ideas. You know the kind.

There was a critical, negative barber who never had a nice thing to say. A salesman came in for a haircut and mentioned that he was about to take a trip to Rome, Italy. “What airline are you taking, and where will you be staying?” asked the barber.

When the salesman told him, the barber criticized the airline for being undependable and the hotel for having horrible service. “You’d be better off to stay home than make that trip,” he advised.

“But I expect to close a big deal. Then I’m going to see the Pope,” said the salesman.

“Aww, you’ll be disappointed trying to do business in Italy,” said the barber, “and don’t expect to see the Pope. He only grants audiences with important people.”

Two months later the salesman returned to the barber shop. “And how was your trip?” asked the barber.

“Wonderful!” replied the salesman. “The flight over was perfect, the service at the hotel was excellent; I made a big sale, and I got to see the Pope.”

“You got to see the Pope? What happened?”

“The salesman replied, “I bent down and kissed his ring.”

“No kidding! What did he say?” the barber asked.

“Well, he placed his hand on my head and then he said to me, ‘My son, where did you get such a lousy haircut?’”

What goes around comes around.

There are two kinds of people that get the most criticism: the leaders and the leapers. The leaders are those who are doing something and stand apart from the crowd. The leapers are those who are change agents; they bring up uncomfortable and unwelcomed change into people’s lives, for their benefit. People don’t like change, and, if we are not careful, we will stop growing because we have the wrong attitude towards those who are trying to help us.

If it is not a matter of if you will be criticized but when you are criticized, how should you respond?

  1. Learn the difference between constructive and destructive criticism. – It is fallacious thinking to regard all criticism as negative. People who do not accept that they might be wrong or that someone else might have a better idea have a pride problem. Often a “thin-skinned” person will take constructive criticisms as personal attacks. A humorist once said, “Constructive criticism is when I criticize you, and destructive criticism is when you criticize me.” Look for the motive behind the criticism; if the spirit is kind, regard it as constructive. If the person making the criticism is sticking his neck out, the last thing you want to do is chop it off. And remember this: to simply ignore the person’s criticism and do nothing is one of the most insulting things you can do to an individual who is trying to help you. Just giving a hearing to a person with a criticism is not enough. Reject your self-imposed fragile ego. Do not wait too long to respond to the critic and make changes as the Lord leads.
  2. Ask yourself some questions that should bring clarity. – First, is the person known to be Christian of character? Criticism from a wise Christian is to be desired over silence or passive agreement. (Prov. 12:15) Could this person be sent by God to help you? God uses His Word, the Spirit, andpeople to help us make needed changes. (Prov. 1:25,30) Thirdly, ask, “Is the person sincerely wanting to help me?” Leaders are constantly tempted to trust themselves more than they trust God. They work hard at success, but sadly it is often done in the flesh. If you are hearing the same criticism from more than one person, you need to regard the criticism as a challenge to work on. Back up and take another look even if it stings a little bit.
  3. Surround yourself with positive people. – Positive people are not “yes men.” Yes menare the last thing we need as we serve God together. As an administrator, principal, and teacher I actively invited those who knew me best to give me honest feedback. On purpose create an atmosphere that tells others, “I want your input and I value your ideas. Tell me what you think by being honestly transparent. Don’t wait for me to ask you, but come anytime you see a need for improvement.” This kind of attitude will enable those closest to you to come openly without fear of your response. When your family and friends know that you are open to their ideas and even their criticisms, there is a security formed in such meaningful relationships.

If you are a godly leader then you already stand apart from the crowd. Put yourself in a vulnerable position by seeking the truth from those who care most about you. Invite criticism and then evaluate the criticism. Those who trust the Lord are humble, correctable, and secure. Learn to take criticism gracefully and relationships will not be ruined. God has used the criticisms of others in my life to help me make needed changes. This is the beauty of God’s transforming our lives by His power.

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.  And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Romans 12:1-2