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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- Deconstructing Criticism
- Deconstructing Criticism: Using It
- Deconstructing Criticism: Giving It
- Deconstructing Criticism: Ask for It