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Dealing with criticism l Worship


October 9, 2019

We all know people who seem to delight in finding fault with us. In their eyes we can do nothing right. They may ridicule us for making certain changes in our life or in the sphere of influence around us. Perhaps they are jealous or somehow feel threatened by our success. They may misunderstand our motives or fail to believe the best about us. It seems that every chance they get, they try to cut us down. These folks are masters of destructive criticism.

But it is important to understand that not all criticism is destructive. Constructive criticism is very different, and is generally offered to us by people who care for us and who want the best for us. In that case, we do well to humbly acknowledge the criticism and use it to grow in self-understanding. It can hurt our pride sometimes, but the learning is important.

I will never forget when I was first starting out in ministry. I preached my first sermon and was greeting people at the door after the worship service. One person said to me, “You know, if you are going to succeed in the ministry, you are going to have to learn to give a good, firm handshake. Shaking your hand is like shaking a fish.”

That hurt a little, but I was always grateful for that little bit of advice. I think I over-compensated by shaking too firmly the next few folks in line!

Even when the criticism seems destructive, it may still be our worthwhile to ask ourselves in all humility whether there is any light or truth in the heat of the attack. One of the most important disciplines every one of us need to learn on the way to spiritual maturity is to ask these kinds of questions in the face of criticism: Is there some course correction needed here? Have I been too impatient, to lax in my planning, too abrasive in dealing with others? Have I been too full of myself?

Is there any truth or light in the unwelcome heat that you and I sometimes suffer? Sometimes the answer will be yes, and other times no. We need to learn to say with David in the psalms: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23)

One thing we ought not to do is to respond to destructive criticism in kind. Retaliation only makes matters worse.

I am sure every pastor has gotten a harshly critical letter. I heard about a pastor one time that was talking to another pastor and he said, "Do you ever get any hate mail?" The pastor said, "I get it all the time." He said, "How do to you handle it?" He said, "I always write these people back and say, 'Dear Mr. So and So: I want to warn you of something terrible that is happening. Some lunatic is sending me outrageous letters and signing your name to them.’”

Now that is one approach you can take, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Abraham Lincoln once answered a scathing letter from a voter by saying: “If I spent all my time responding to accusations like you have made, I would have no time left to serve your country.”

When dealing with a destructive critic, stay positive. Heed the words of Scripture: “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.” (1 Peter 3:9)


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