Friday, May 9, 2008

Ouch, that hurts! (on criticism)

I know if you know me, it may be hard for you to believe that I've been criticized! I bet though, that as great as you are, and as hard as you try, you've been criticized too. Over the years, I've gathered some thoughts I find helpful.

Dr. Robert Cook gently reminded us not to fight it, but to learn from criticism. Even to love our critics. He encouraged us to keep doing what we know we should, and to give God time to deal with our critics himself. (I don’t have to get even or defend myself to them.) Even his patented advice applies well, "Walk with the King today, and be a blessing.")

If you try to do anything at all in life of any significance, you will be criticized. Expect it. Everyone else who does anything important gets it too, not just you. Read the biographies of some great men - it doesn’t matter which ones, and you’ll see.

Pastor Chuck Swindoll warns that we'll never survive in ministry if we can't learn to receive and to ignore criticism. Most of us have probably seen people give up on something important because they couldn't handle criticism.

God above, and daily life here below, conspire together to take off our rough edges. You and I will be better for it.  I'm sure this is like what Joe Bayly meant when he said, "Criticism is the manure that makes the plants of the Lord grow strong." Being married has an advantage at this point, because, if you're lucky, you're spouse will point out things to you that you need to know - but that no one else cares enough to tell you. ("You can't wear those shoes with that!", "You need a different deodorant.")

It’s also important to consider the critic. Does he love you and have your back, or is she just a chronic PITA? Why pay any attention to someone who isn’t committed to you?

Abraham Lincoln’s remark that, "He has the right to criticize who has the heart to help." is also worth remembering. Lincoln knew something about being the target of criticism.

Finally, we also need to watch that we don't become grumblers and complainers ourselves.

The Bible says that "God hates ... the man who stirs up dissension among brethren", and the Apostle James writes that a man's religion is worthless unless he keeps "a tight rein on his tongue". (James 1:26) The Apostle John reminds us that "anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen." (1 John 4)

As you may know, some of us are pacifiers and some are blamers. Obviously, both approaches fall short - but ask yourself, "Am I a blamer?" No ... really, ask yourself. If it’s a pattern or M.O., then that’s significant.

As for me, I tend to become defensive very easily when criticized. I guess that's why this topic appeals to me - and I’ve had my share of criticism. I hope I'm becoming wiser. I remind myself to look for the truth in it, to look for the love. I try to refuse to defend myself. I can leave it in God’s hands. I also remind myself that the truth is probably harder to take than the lies of any critic. I know my heart - and my life. A little criticism is certainly merited - to say the least. Remembering this helps me dial my response down a notch.

Well, I’m done. I hope you won’t think that this was too negative, too predictable, too shallow, too secular, too long, or poorly written. Instead, I hope, like me, you’ll be able to benefit and grow through loving criticism - that you won’t let it make you quit, that you won’t become a sourpuss, and perhaps most of all, that you’ll determine not to be a critic yourself.

Here’s to being there for each other and building each other up!

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Clergy on Call ministries was started by Reverend William Britton. Pastor Bill is an ordained minister (clergy) serving as a wedding officiant or wedding minister – helping couples to write their wedding vows and plan their wedding ceremony so that they have “no regrets” on their day of celebration - whether religious ceremonies or civil ceremonies. (Pastor Bill is also available if you’re renewing your marriage vows, or eloping or doing a destination wedding.) Pastor Bill serves couples planning a wedding in the Greater New York area including Long Island (Nassau County and Suffolk County), Queens, Brooklyn, New York City (Manhattan), and Westchester County. If you’re thinking of using a Judge for your wedding, or a Justice of the Peace – or if you’re thinking of going to city hall for your wedding – or perhaps you’re working on a last minute wedding plan –in any case, Pastor Bill would love to speak with you. (Pastor Bill is also available for families that have suffered the loss of a loved one and are planning a funeral.)

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