Coping With Criticism
“When we can praise God and be thankful for criticism, then we know we are growing in spiritual maturity.”
Anyone who dares to speak against today’s secular-progressive agenda has to anticipate venomous attacks. Ironically, the most vocal voices who plead for tolerance are often thuggishly intolerant of anyone who disagrees with them. Those who insist no one has a right to judge others don’t hesitate to judge anyone who verbalizes biblical truth.
This is nothing new. Over 2,500 years ago the prophet Nehemiah was doing an effective job of rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls. His determined team was on schedule to complete the task in less time than expected. He had the people’s enthusiastic support.
Yet, he was also the target of vicious criticism. Two local residents, Sanballat and Tobiah, despised the Jews and scoffed at the wall, saying, “Even a fox could knock it over.” When Nehemiah refused to be intimidated, they wrote him a letter expressing their displeasure and requesting a meeting to discuss their objections.
Nehemiah’s response was classic. He basically said, “I’m doing an important work and I don’t have time to hear your gripes.” This was smart and an effective use of his time.
Likewise, in the past, disagreement discouraged me and wounded my ego. Eventually, though, experience and Scripture helped me cope with criticism. I saw that, like Nehemiah, trying to constantly answer my critics wasn’t a wise use of my time.
Evaluate the criticism
Perhaps some younger Christian leaders can benefit from some of the lessons I learned.
*All effective leaders are criticized. If you are on the front lines of battle, you’re probably going to get shot at. It’s that simple. We are involved in an intensifying spiritual war, and the enemy is becoming increasingly malicious and mean-spirited. If you dare to speak God’s truth, or attempt to lead God’s people, you are going to be attacked as a hate-monger, hypocrite or a fool. Expect it and toughen up.
*Consider the source. Is the criticism from a petty, small-minded person, or someone you respect? If it’s from someone you hold in high regard, evaluate it carefully. Maybe the Lord is using them to point out a blind spot in your life or your work. However, if it originates with a puny-minded Sanballat or Tobiah, then it’s not worth the time to answer.
*Evaluate the objection. If it has some validity, receive it with grace and make the necessary adjustment. If it isn’t, then ignore it and move on. I almost never answer a mean-spirited criticism. The critic is too angry to listen; he or she just wants to vent.
*Keep your focus on the ultimate goal. Don’t grumble about the critics or let Satan distract you from what needs to get done. Your assignment is to please Christ, not men. People are so fickle. The same people who criticize you today may sing your praises tomorrow.
*Get bolder. The temptation is to become timid and avoid controversy, which is what the enemy wants! Jesus warned, “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory” (Luke 9:26). Don’t let the enemy’s bullying tactics intimidate you. Speak the truth in love, but speak the truth.
*Give God thanks for persecution. Jesus said, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt. 5:11-12).
Shedding the woe
Years ago I complained to a friend about a nasty anonymous letter I had received. I read it to him, hoping he would feel sorry for me and lash out verbally against the writer. Instead he quipped, “Well, now you’ve got that woe off your back!”
“What do you mean by that?” I asked.
He replied, “Well, Jesus said, ‘Woe to you when all men speak well of you.’ You’ve got that woe off your back and you don’t have to worry about that anymore!”
When we can praise God and be thankful for criticism, then we know we are growing in spiritual maturity. We are also following in the footsteps of prophets like Nehemiah—which is pretty good company.
At just twenty-two years of age, Bob became the pastor of Southeast Christian Church. That small congregation of 120 members became one of the largest churches in America, with 18,000 people attending the four worship services every weekend in 2006 when Bob retired. Now through Bob Russell Ministries, Bob continues to preach at churches & conferences throughout the United States, provide guidance for church leadership, mentor other ministers and author Bible study videos for use in small groups. More from Bob Russell or visit Bob at http://www.bobrussell.org/