Criticism can help you grow

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Recently, I shared an article from a Christian site that raised questions about the public’s trust of my profession – pastor. I originally shared the article on an online forum for pastors of small churches like my own. Most reacted, as did I, with sadness and a desire to do all we can to make the situation better. Other responses fell to the more negative side. Criticism is not easy to receive.

The responses of the forum members were varied and set me to thinking. How do I react when presented with news that I may not want to hear?

All of us hear or read critiques that challenge us personally, our behavior, and/or our thinking concerning certain issues. How we respond to those critiques reveal our heart and could determine whether or not we grow. 

Here are a few thoughts centered around the various reactions to the post and what I think they may mean.

Rejection

One responder wrote, “I’m not trying to please the American populace- thankfully.”  The article was not about “pleasing” anyone.  It merely surveyed public perceptions of trustworthiness. 

We often too quickly and easily dismiss unpleasant critique as unwarranted.

Rationalization

Another responder opined that the survey also included other religious groups whose clergy have experienced high profile moral failures.  He also blamed the entertainment industry’s depiction of clergy for public perception. Many have often sought to determine if art imitates life or vice-versa. Does the entertainment media depict clergy as unreliable because many are? Or has the public falsely judged us based on what they have seen on TV.

This responder ended his post by writing off the value of the survey. “Personally, these kinds of assessments are mildly interesting but have no impact on my day-to-day life and ministry.”

We may find it easier to rationalize away the critique. We can believe that circumstances outside of our own have skewed reality and rendered the critique irrelevant to us.

Reflection

Most responded with sadness that the public had lost trust in us as a profession. That was my response to the article as well. I didn’t like what I read, but I accept it and want to do all I can to change that perception.

I once had a wise teacher tell me that I can find a nugget of truth in every criticism. The secret is to find the nugget and forget the rest. Then I can plant the nugget in my heart and watch it grow into productive fruit for my life. I have found his advice true on every occasion.

The Bible’s Advice on Taking Criticism

Consider a few verses that challenge us to receive and process critique. As you read these, will you commit to having a teachable spirit in 2019?  The nuggets in the criticism await you. Find them; and discard the husk.

“Poverty and disgrace come to him who ignores instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is honored.” – Prov. 13:18

“The ear that listens to life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise.” – Prov. 15:31

“Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” – Prov. 27:5-6

“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” – Prov. 27:17

You can read the article I shared about the public perception of clergy here.

I also wrote a previous article on handling criticism.  You can read it here.

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