No one wakes up in the morning looking forward and hopeful for opportunities to be criticized. Criticism has a brutal sting. However, I am in the midst of learning that criticism can actually be good for my heart and my role in ministry but when filtered through Godly wisdom. I believe that God wants to help you (and see you) grow in the midst of criticism. When growing through criticism the first thing to do is to acknowledge the pain it has caused. Often when criticism comes it can cripple our pride or belief in ourself and we put on a mask and just pretend everything is okay. It is very true that when being a leader you’ve got to have “thick-skin” but just because you know you need to be ready for it, and strong when it happens, it doesn’t mean you should deny the pain connected to criticism. James 4:7-9 reminds us that we should “submit yourselves, then, to God….” because we should take and submit even the pain of criticism unto the Lord. Verse 8 continues to say that when we “come near to God, he will come near to you.” When growing through criticism, acknowledge the pain before the Lord and even a trusted friend. Admitting the pain can be freeing and will allow you to evaluate what was said.
When growing through criticism, the second thing to do is to learn everything possible. Choose to take any criticism as even a divine opportunity to learn something new about your character, your leadership decisions, your ministry and yes, even how may criticize others. Many fail at making this decision to learn everything possible from criticism and it keeps them trapped. Choose to make the assumption that God has something for you to learn in this time of pain. God can use your hurt to make you a better leader. He does not waste pain. Hebrews 12:11 says “no discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”
Thirdly, write it out. When growing through criticism the action of writing out what happened can help you examine the situation and sort out your feelings. Doing this action step will help you communicate with your critic in a more meaningful, positive manner. Our emotions can get the best of us and I know that when I’ve been hurt I have to fight myself from hurting them back with my words or actions. Writing it out may not be a lot of fun, but it will allow you to more clearly see what happened, and perhaps, why you were truly criticized.
When growing through criticism the fourth thing is to realize that it’s not always personal. When some brings about some form of criticism its not always a challenge to your leadership and influence. Sometimes criticism is personal (duh right?), but not always. Next time you are criticized ask yourself this question: “How would I respond to this criticism if I knew they weren’t out to hurt me, that they love me, and that they want to help improve me?” Perhaps looking at criticism in a new light may even lead to new insights. Most of the times when God is at work in our lives, and even though its a hard experience, we look to as an opportunity to be changed and to grow. Do the same thing with criticism, don’t take it so personally and look toward growth from this hard, difficult moment.
The fifth way to grow through criticism is to realize not everything needs to be fixed. Let your critic know you understand there concern, and share with them that you will take time to prayerfully consider there concern. If you discern it’s wise to continue the conversation about there concern then remember this: have compassion for your critic and discern what are the different issues and deal with them separately. The greater your compassion the greater your greater your chances for a successful resolution. Self control will yield better results, so deal with the substance of what they said first (whether they are right or wrong) and save how they said what they said for another conversation.
You’re not alone if criticism hurts you but even in the midst of criticism God is faithful and He deeply cares about you and will provide a way through the difficulties of criticism and grow you through the process. Psalm 100:5 says that “the Lord is good and His loved endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations.” We have to remember that too, that “the one who calls you is faithful and He will do it.” He will help you to grow through any criticism you face.