It is inevitable in leadership that criticism will come. Usually when change is proposed in any system that affects the perception of stability, the critic will emerge to try and “right the boat.” Critics come in all shapes and sizes, and all of us have not only been criticized but if you’re honest, you will have to admit that you have also been the critic!
But what should we do with the critic? Do we simply dismiss them because they make us uncomfortable? Do we dwell on their criticisms?
An author of a leadership book proposed the following acronym to help us deal with critics in church, in business, in education, or in any area when leaders are present and are leading change. He suggested the idea of thinking “slim” when it comes to critics.
S Consider the source of the criticism. Nehemiah had to do this with Sanballat and Tobiah and Geshem the Arab in Nehemiah 4. These critics had followed him from the moment of his arrival in Jerusalem. He knew their agenda was to keep progress from coming that would allow the Jews to regain power, thus dethroning them or lessening their influence. Their criticisms had to be weighed in light of their motivation.
L Listen and learn from the critic. This is hard to accept but there is usually some kernel of truth in most criticism. Every critic is not irrational. Some are making a point that we may not want to hear. Be humble. You don’t have it all figured out. Listen to the critic. Learn what you can. But then….
I Ignore most of it. Most criticism needs to be handled like chewing gum. Chew on it a little while, then spit it out! Don’t swallow it! And don’t chew on it too long!
M What is the motivation behind the criticism? What is the critic really saying; really doing? In psychology there is a syndrome called “reaction formation” which basically means we act out in ways that are opposite of how we feel on the deepest subconscious level. Sanballat and his friends criticized Nehemiah for inciting rebellion. Perhaps on a deeper hidden level they were planning to do the same! Sometimes we need to understand that a person may be reacting against some unresolved issues with a mate or a parent. We can’t always know but we dare not take this type of communication personally. It may not be meant that way at all!
Learn to think SLIM. This isn’t a diet plan, though it will filter the kinds of things that pollute our minds and wreck our days. And when the critic comes, sift the criticism through this lens. It will be amazing how the sting of the critic is lessened!
FOR MEDITATION: Nevertheless we made our prayers to our God, and because of them we set a watch against them day and night.
FOR REFLECTION: When the critic appears, the two things Nehemiah practiced are crucial: “Pray…..and watch.” Keep your heart humble and before the Lord in prayer… and watch out for those who would stab you while your eyes are closed!