Jerrie Barber is one of my ministry heroes. I love how he ministers to ministers, I love how he is willing to confront an issue, even if uncomfortable, head-on, I love his willingness to own his own weirdness, and I just love being around him and his unique way of saying things. BUT, there are things I don’t love. I can’t stand how he loves criticism (and he can’t be upset with me saying that, since he loves criticism). I’ve tried, but so far, I can’t. I’ve listened but just can’t get there. From the lady who described me as her fat preacher back 35 years ago (now if she’d said I was her Phat Preacher, that’d be another deal), to the man who offered the elder $500 a week to fire me since I didn’t preach exclusively from his KJV, I struggle with enjoying critics and criticism.
But, criticism is a part of ministry. Always has been, always will be. As I like to say “I signed up for this.”
Yet, how you deal with it affects your joy and your joy will affect your effectiveness. Jerrie teaches me that different people will handle criticism differently. I say that to say that not everything I say here will help everyone. But, here are a few questions I’ve collected over the years of being human that help me evaluate how I deal with criticism and critics:
Do you try to really see yourself? Can you honestly step back and look into the mirror of yourself and ask: “Is this thing said about me true or false?” If it is false can you reject it? If it is true is it something you can improve?
Have you grown? Are you stagnate or are you willing to try to become better as a result of your critics? Have you made any effort to change, to improve, to add to your toolbox? I don’t like criticism but when it is correct some of my best growing has been from it.
Can you admit that you could be wrong about something? If not you are probably heading toward a lifetime of moving boxes and restarts. I heard Aubrey Johnson say that one of the keys of highly effective people is the ability to say: “I could be wrong.” I could be wrong, but I think he’s right! Here’s how you personally test if you can do this: Have you admitted that you have been wrong about something?
Do you have people in your life who can correct you and speak truths into your life that you then accept and try to correct or improve? Who? When? If you can’t chart a history of learning from the people who you love and respect and who love you and have a vested interest in your improvement then you are quite possibly a fool. Did I say that out loud? I’m just paraphrasing Solomon (Proverbs 12:15; c.f. 1:5; 11:14; 15:22; 19:20).
Can you spot it when someone suggests something about you that is wrong and be OK with them not liking you for what they perceive that is a wrong perception? I had a person say to me a few years ago: “You never say that you are a sinner.” I thought, “I think I do that often.” So I asked some people who hear me often and who are honest with me and they all were shocked someone even said that. Now, that someone thinks of me that way has made me more self-aware and to be sure I’ve tried to be even more transparent about my own struggles, but even that can be overdone.
Can you live with the fact that you will never be perfect here but still keep trying? I remember dad once saying something about making grammatical mistakes when speaking that it was a reminder that he is not perfect. If you knew dad, you know he didn’t make many such mistakes but it made me aware. He went on about people realizing you are not perfect and relating to you. My struggle that is obvious is my weight. A dear friend once joked that he wanted to call me Duncan because my weight was up and down, up and down (like a Duncan yo-yo). Yeah, it’s ongoing. I am not perfect here (and weight is not the only thing), but I do remain in the struggle to be better.
Can I find some positivity in it? My friend Ryan Gallagher says it helps to try to find the positive even in the negative.
Hope this little set of questions helps you. What would you add?