“You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.” — Winston Churchill
It’s an unpleasant but inevitable fact of life that if you attempt to do anything of significance, you will be criticized. J. Oswald Sanders wrote, “No leader lives a day without criticism, and humility will never be more on trial than when criticism comes.” (Spiritual Leadership)
When criticism comes, how do you handle it? While negative criticism often times may say more about the critic and his need to be critical than about the one being criticized, the way we respond to our critics always speaks volumes about us.
Here are 5 guidelines I follow when criticism is directed at me.
1. Refuse to let criticism consume you. You can’t let the fear of criticism immobilize you and you can’t let it crush you when it comes. If the criticism is true, learn from it and move on. If it is untrue, ignore it and press on.
2. Respond to criticism with humility and grace. Our natural tendency when criticism comes is to go into a defensive posture. Instead of rushing to defend yourself, however, be humble and gracious. The right response to the critic may be a simple, “Thank you, I needed to hear that. Will you please remember to pray for me?” A gracious response has the potential to turn a curse into a blessing.
3. Not all criticism warrants a response. If someone criticizes me with a hateful, arrogant, or mean tone, I simply ignore it. Again, criticism may say more about the critic and his need to be critical than about the one being criticized. In some cases, no response is warranted.
4. Don’t bear criticism alone. Seek the counsel of trusted people whose opinions you can depend on. Don’t let the nay-sayers and critics define your reality. Listen to the right people—people who have earned a right to speak into your life.
5. Seek the approval of God, not man. The apostle Paul wrote: “It is of little importance to me that I should be evaluated by you or by any human court. In fact, I don’t even evaluate myself. For I am not conscious of anything against myself, but I am not justified by this. The One who evaluates me is the Lord” (1 Cor. 4:3-4, HCSB). Paul knew that God’s opinion is the only one that counts. He wrote to the Galatians: “For am I now trying to win the favor of people, or God? Or am I striving to please people?” (Gal. 1:10, HCSB).
Maybe you’ve heard the saying, “The only opinion that truly counts is the one YOU form about YOU.” I think not. The only opinion that counts in the end is God’s. Seek His approval, not man’s. When we tune our ears to listen to God’s voice, the critics’ voices will become faint by comparison.