None of us just loves to be criticized. In fact, if you are like me, you shy away from it if at all possible. What if God could use that to refine us and make us better leaders? What if how we react to criticism could even influence those we lead and serve with?
One day in my office, I received a harsh criticism. I can’t even remember now what it was about, but I knew it was hard for me to take. Someone was in my office when I received the news, perhaps one of our summer interns, and the first thing I said is, “I wonder what we can learn from this.” The intern was shocked because she felt it was unwarranted criticism. Now, it wasn’t me responding that way, but God through me. Because I listened to Him, I was able to model for a younger woman a godly response. I know it could only be God because that’s not my normal response to this kind of confrontation.
Recently a very unhappy customer sent a harsh email to our offices accusing us of deliberately advertising falsely. Knowing that would never be the case from our team, I started to type (or rather pound out) the response back to her. Instead I waited for a while, prayed it through and responded in kindness offering to do whatever she wanted regarding a refund. Later I received an apologetic email back saying she had overreacted. What if I had overreacted back? Then we would have made an enemy. Instead, we made a friend for life. She attended the event in question and I got to personally meet and talk to her. Once again she apologized and I was able to share our heart’s desire to serve her as a leader and that we were very sorry for the confusion.
LifeWay president, Dr. Thom Rainer, blogged on how to respond to criticism. I would encourage you to go here and read his wise suggestions for how to react when we face harsh comments from those we serve. Use this to train your leaders as well and you will also be able to make friends and followers out of opponents!
Your turn: How do you respond to criticism?
Loving Well, Beth Moore
Caring Enough to Confront, David Augsburger
Communication and Conflict Management in Churches and Christian Organizations, Kenneth Gangel and Samuel Canine