More About Criticism

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If you are leading, let me tell you something that is going to happen. You are going to be criticized. Get ready for it. I know what you are thinking, I already know that, right? I’ve been criticized already today. Here’s the thing, when you lead and you make the tough decisions, it’s always going to create friction, and there will be people that criticize you. Now, the desire not to be criticized is something that goes back to Adam and Eve. It’s really something that God created within each of us. The desire to be liked; the desire to be accepted; the desire to be a part of a community. And so when we are criticized, it hurts, and I get that. But I want to encourage you and challenge you with a few thoughts today.

First of all, remember that you’re not alone, right? You are not alone. Whenever someone leads, and the world is full of leaders, whenever someone makes a hard decision, they will be criticized. I tell people that no matter what you do, no matter what you say, no matter what you decide, two percent of the people won’t like it. I heard Craig Jutila talk about this twenty years ago; he called it the two percent nut factor, and his point was that no matter what you do two percent of the people won’t like it. It always happens. Two percent of the people will disagree; they will push back; they will say it is a dumb idea, so you just have to know that going into it, and you just have to lead. Remember you’re not alone.

Second, when you are being criticized (and I will close with this challenge), avoid what I call “knee-jerk reactions.” Knee-jerk reactions immediately get defensive. A knee-jerk reaction is I immediately formulate a response in my head. A knee-jerk reaction is I build a wall. A knee-jerk reaction is I allow bitterness to set in my heart. Avoid those knee-jerk reactions, and learn to grow through the criticism. Learn to grow through that criticism. Criticism can make you better if you will learn to grow through it, and if you will learn to ask the right questions.

For example, if someone criticizes you, don’t say, “why would you say that,” or get all upset, or get angry, or get defensive. Instead, ask some real meaningful questions like, “would you help me understand why you would say that?” Big difference between “why would you say that,” and “will you help me understand why you would say that?”

Those few words right there, “would you help me understand,” those five words can be a game changer for you when you are talking to people, when you are in the middle of a conflict; when you are in the middle of criticism; when you are feeling a bit of anxiety; and you’re feeling like you are being attacked, “would you help me understand,” can make all the difference in the world, if you really mean it. Because here is what happens: now that person that is criticizing you begins to share with you why they said that, why they feel that, and you can grow through it.

Now, remember if you are being criticized, it means you are doing something right. Now it may mean that what you are being criticized for needs to change. Or it may be a reminder to you that what you are doing matters, and you are actually making the right call. The key is not to knee-jerk react or immediately respond. What does James 1:19 say? James 1:19 says to be slow to speak and slow to anger, right? Listen, and ask yourself “what can I learn,” “how can I improve?” Ask the person who is being critical, “would you help me understand what you meant by that?” Aristotle said that there is only one real way to avoid criticism, and that is to be nothing, say nothing, and to do nothing. None of us want to do nothing, so if you are going to do something, if you are going to be action-oriented; if you are going to lead your ministry forward; you’re business forward; you’re family forward, get ready because criticism will come. Good news is that criticism can be used for your good and God’s glory.

Your #1 fan,


Ryan Frank