Published: 10 years ago

Deconstructing Criticism: Receiving It

(This is the 2nd in a five part series. Catch up on the rest of the posts below.)

There was a point in my life where I really enjoyed criticism.  It helped me know where I was hitting the mark and where I was missing it.  But once I felt like I had arrived…that I had learned all there was to know about life and ministry and by the way if you need me I’ll be sitting in the lotus position on a tall mountain with low-lying clouds and you’re going to need to crawl up on your hands and knees to ask me a question…then criticism began to be annoying.  The reason?  Because I pridefully thought that I was above criticism (get it?  Above criticism?  On a mountain?  Above criti…never mind.).

I’ve since come somewhat full circle, realizing the criticism can be healthy.  It can help me learn, and improve my life and ministry.  (I’ve also become a pretty hearty critic of pastors who have their negative e-mails filtered before they can read ’em.)  But I’ve also learned that while criticism can be a valuable tool to use as a starting point for improvement, we need to strategically receive criticism.

In his book Simply Strategic Stuff, co-author Tim Stevens says that “answering every criticism and explaining every questioned action will wear you out…You need to filter your critics.”  Here are a few questions we should all ask in the filtering process:

  1. Has my critic displayed a history of care for me? If I get one off-the-wall, out-of-right-field criticism from a complete stranger (“Hey ya moron!  Stop driving on the sidewalk!”), I tend to give it less weight than a criticism from someone who has invested in my life, served alongside me in ministry, and cares about me as a brother in Christ.
  2. Can I do anything with this criticism? Since we’ve been at the Brier Creek Campus, I’ve had people tell me, “I don’t like the fact that we worship in a warehouse.”  I listen, nod affirmingly, tell them I’m so sorry they feel that way…and then I move on.  We’re in a warehouse. We don’t have a building with stained glass and a steeple.  Other churches do.  We don’t.  We probably never will.  And besides…until someone votes me a 6,299% raise (give or take 3%) I can’t do anything about it.
  3. Does this criticism come from a legitimate concern? I recently fielded an e-mail from someone who attended our church and thought the font size on the screens were too small.  After drafting a lengthy e-mail acknowledging their concern, apologizing for the small font, and kindly suggesting they sit closer to the screen, the response was, “Oh, I don’t mean me!  I can see it just fine.  I just think that some people might think that the font is too small.”  (Hint: don’t be a crusader for the anonymous “they.”  Or at least if you decide to, don’t e-mail me about it and cause me to be concerned for no reason.)

Once you’ve filtered your criticism, you can then begin to look at it with an objective humility and process what to do with it.  That’s what we’ll cover tomorrow.


Other posts in this series:


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  1. Anonymous says:

    This is great advice. Thank you for this. I am going to try and implement some of these techniques with my wife’s criticism.

  2. Zack says:

    I have a fourth question that may also be helpful: How big is this dude?

    Or to put it another way: Can I take him?

    Generally, if you can just use brute force to intimidate your critics into silence, then you don’t have to deal with any criticism at all. I have found this to be the cleanest route…

    The downside to this approach is that if you happen to be small or a geeky-looking individual, then you have to be really creative to accomplish the necessary intimidation.
    Blackmail, for example, can be useful…

  3. Veronica Greear says:

    What a great topic for the week! Such easily applicable principles for how to take it. I always say one of the things that God blessed me with in J.D. is his ability to deal with criticism. SO many of my pastor wife friends say this is what makes their job terrible, but for us, it really isn’t. And it isn’t bc we don’t GET criticism, it’s really bc J.D. operates from the perspective you wrote above. Great job and thanks for the reminder!

  4. Phil White says:

    Criticise JD, sure. Criticise Veronica, NO WAY……….. : )

  1. By How to Complain « Connective Tissue on November 27, 2012 at 10:15 am

    […] Deconstructing Criticism: Receiving It […]

  2. By Deconstructing Criticism: Ask For It « Connective Tissue on November 27, 2012 at 10:20 am

    […] Deconstructing Criticism: Receiving It […]

  3. By Deconstructing Criticism: Giving It « Connective Tissue on November 27, 2012 at 10:21 am

    […] we’re 4/5 through this series.  Catch up here.  And here.  And oh […]

  4. By Deconstructing Criticism: Using It « Connective Tissue on November 27, 2012 at 10:22 am

    […] (Still on Criticism Road.  Catch up here and here.) […]

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