Dealing with Criticism

Loving Critic Vs. Critical Destroyer

Critical: inclined to find fault or judge with severity, often too readily.  Trivial, a fault-finder.  To point out a fault without offering or being the solution.
Critique: to evaluate or analyze, diagnose, review with the view of offering a practical solution that will help the person or situation.

Be a loving critic – Exodus 18:13-27: “The next day Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood around him from morning till evening.  When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, ‘What is this you are doing for the people?  Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?’
Moses answered him, ‘Because the people come to me to seek God’s will.  Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God’s decrees and laws.’

Moses’s father-in-law replied, ‘What you are doing is not good.  You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out.  The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone.  Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you.  You must be the people’s representative before God and bring their disputes to him.  Teach them the decrees and laws, and show them the way to live and the duties they are to perform. But select capable men from all the people – men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain – and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens.  Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves.  That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you.  If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied.’
Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said.  He chose capable men from all Israel and made them leaders of the people, officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. They served as judges for the people at all times.  The difficult cases they brought to Moses, but the simple ones they decided themselves.

Then Moses sent his father-in-law on his way, and Jethro returned to his own country.”
Jethro was baffled by the inefficiency of what had taken place during the day.  Perhaps around the dinner table that evening, Jethro began to inquire about Moses’s rationale for his leadership decisions.

Moses was so buried in the ministry, so desperately trying to keep his head about the water that he did not have time to reflect on what he was doing.
Jethro, on the other hand, had already suspected a problem for some time.  Why?  Moses had not only sent his family back to Midian (for Jethro to care for), he had apparently had little contact with them.

This was a huge amount of time to be away from his family “cranking the ministry” (Exodus 18:2-3, 6)
Just because disciples come to you with personal problems does not mean you are to help them personally (Deuteronomy 1:18-19, Acts 6).
Instead of focusing on a few, Moses was teaching the same thing 100 times to 100 men.

5 keys to being a loving critic

  1. Watch and analyse for a good period of time.  In the case of Jethro, it was a whole day.  Are you analysing a pattern or seeing a one-off mistake where grace should be applied?  Are you emotionally responding or factually responding?
  2. Start with questions.  What are you doing?  Why did you do or say that?  What did you mean by that?  Maybe you’re thinking is wrong and you are the one that needs to learn and imitate.  You must get to the root of why the person is doing what they are doing.  You must understand their thinking, as it is their thinking pattern that you will try to help them change.  If you change the thinking pattern of others, it will lead to permanent change.  Many questions may be needed!
  3. If you think there is a better way, take the time to explain your new conviction with love and … ahem… patience.  Make sure you yourself have thought it through.  Your solution must be well-thought-through with specifics.  Jesus expected people who had questions to come up with solutions to their questions; he expected them to think for themselves.  Make disciples think! Luke 10:25-28: “On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus.  ‘Teacher,’ he asked, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ ‘What is written in the Law?’ he replied.  ‘How do you read it?’ He answered, ‘”Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind;” and “Love your neighbour as yourself.”’ ‘You have answered correctly,’ Jesus replied.  ‘Do this and you will live.’”
  4. Explain why you see something as wrong by clearly defining the negative effects it will have on the ministry.  Then you will need to clearly explain the benefits of your solutions to all concerned.  Use the Bible to communicate your heart.
  5. Be patient because love is patient.  Give the person time to digest your advice and take it in.  Remember this is the first time they have heard your solution.  You must give them the same time to get their mind and heart around it.

Criticality kills

Numbers 16:1-3: “Korah, son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, and certain Reubenites – Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth – became insolent and rose up against Moses.  With them were 250 Israelite men, well-known community leaders who had been appointed members of the council.  They came as a group to oppose Moses and Aaron and said to them, ‘You have gone too far!  The whole community is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is with them.  Why then do you set yourselves above the Lord’s assembly?’”

7 characteristics of a criticality that kills

  1. They were closed-hearted (or hard-hearted): They had already made up their minds that they were right, not coming with a heart of seeking to understand.  They had not brought their complaint to Moses in a loving manner.  They totally assumed that Moses was doing badly.  One of the most damaging mistakes a leader can make is assuming.
  2. They came as a group:  They were a faction (a group or clique within a larger group); this is a sin that will take us straight to hell. Galatians 5:19-21: “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies and the like.  I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” How does a faction form?  It starts when a person in fear or cowardice, goes with his or her feelings and concerns not to God or the person concerned directly but to another person and shares their thoughts with them and then forms a group of two, which then grows. If someone shares concerns with you, you must always point them to God.  If they cannot resolve it there, then they must take it to the person concerned.  You will often need to follow through with them.
  1. They were insolent:  Insolent means boldly rude and disrespectful, contemptuous, insulting, in an insulting manner.  They had no respect for either Moses as a person, or the position Moses held.  (Even Paul knew his place when he insulted the high priest.  Acts 23:5: “Paul replied, ‘Brothers, I did not realize that he was the high priest; for it is written: ‘Do not speak evil about the ruler of your people.’”) We must bring things up gently. Psalm 36:1: “An oracle is within my heart concerning the sinfulness of the wicked: There is no fear of God before his eyes.  For in his own eyes he flatters himself too much to detect or hate his sin.  The words of his mouth are wicked and deceitful; he has ceased to be wise and to do good.  Even on his bed he plots evil; he commits himself to a sinful course and does not reject what is wrong.”
  1. They justified their view using feelings not facts:  They made general statements without facts: “the whole community is holy”?  This is a total exaggeration.  “Everyone in the church feels like this”?  They actually thought everyone felt and thought like they did!  They used feelings, not facts, to substantiate their claims. “You have gone too far” – how?  In what area? Is 20x missions contribution going too far? Is disfellowshipping a contemptuous person going too far? Is a strong rebuke going too far biblically?  On the contrary, is gossip and slander going “too far”?  Absolutely!
  1. They made it personal: The use of the pronoun “You” indicates this.  “Why did you set yourselves above the assembly?” It was not about God or being righteous or helping a person with their weakness or sin.  They did not take into account God or Moses.  After all, it was God who chose Moses.  Moses didn’t even want the job in the first place! Revelation 1:20: “The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.” The right hand is a sign of strength and control. The strength of church leadership is in the hand of God. God holds the leadership (the 7 stars) in his hand.  Bottom line: God is in control. We do not need to try to usurp the authority of God.
  1. They did not offer a solution.  The only thing they said was that Moses was a bad leader.  “I don’t like the way LEADERSHIP IS HANDLING THINGS.”  Since when did any people feel great about all leadership decisions? There was no “we are concerned about your leadership decisions: here are examples.  We would like to propose some solutions.”  There was no gratitude for what Moses had done that was good in the past.
  1. They had no grace:  There was never a thought of showing Moses the man the error of his ways or mistakes and then giving him a chance to lead better. The consequence of their sin:  Numbers 16:31-35: “As soon as he finished saying all this, the ground under them split apart and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them, with their households and all Korah’s men and all their possessions.  They went down alive into the grave, with everything they owned; the earth closed over them, and they perished and were gone from the community.  At their cries, all the Israelites around them fled, shouting, ‘The earth is going to swallow us too!’  And fire came out from the Lord and consumed the 250 men who were offering the incense.”

How to respond to criticalness towards you or your position
Do not take it personally.  Numbers 16:4-5: “When Moses heard this, he fell facedown.  Then he said to Korah and all his followers: ‘In the morning the Lord will show who belongs to him and who is holy, and he will have that person come near him. The man he chooses he will cause to come near him.’”

Adopting the mantle of piety and justice, and pretending to champion righteousness and wisdom, Korah accused Moses and Aaron of harshly imposing their leadership upon the community.  What would you do?  Get angry?  Get even?  Moses got on his knees!
Make sure to look at the situation objectively.  Search for the deeper meaning in their sharing.  Find the underlying message.  Focus on WHAT IS BEING COMMUNICATED AND HOW.  Filter through the bitterness and hear the message, which honestly is most important.
Moses wisely fell face-down.  He did not attack them or get into an argument.  He understood he was not spiritually prepared to engage such a volatile situation.
Criticism will be a consistent thing if you are in leadership. This is called “life in the fishbowl.”
Being criticized is not the problem if you develop a Godly way of dealing with it.
Winston Churchill had the following words of Abe Lincoln framed on the wall of his office: “I do the very best I can, I mean to keep going. If the end brings me out all right, then what is said against me won’t matter. If I’m wrong, ten angels swearing I was right won’t make a difference.”

English evangelist George Whitefield (1714-1770) learned that it was more important to please God than to please men.  Knowing that he was doing what was honouring to the Lord kept him from discouragement when he was falsely accused by his enemies. At one point in his ministry, Whitefield received a vicious letter accusing him of wrongdoing.  His reply was brief and courteous: “I thank you heartily for your letter.  As for what you and my other enemies are saying against me, I know worse things about myself than you will ever say about me.  With much love in Christ, George Whitefield.”  He didn’t try to defend himself.  He was much more concerned about pleasing the Lord.

Just as much as criticism reveals something in other people (in this case selfish ambition), remember it also reveals something about you.  For a man is tested by the praise he receives (or doesn’t!).

Remind them of their blessings:  Numbers 16:8-11: “Moses also said to Korah, “now listen, you Levites!  Isn’t it enough for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the rest of the Israelite community and brought you near himself to do the work at the Lord’s tabernacle and to stand before the community and minister to them?  He has brought you and all your fellow Levites near himself, but now you are trying to get the priesthood too.  It is against the Lord that you and all your followers have banded together.  Who is Aaron that you should grumble against him?”
To grumble is to complain sullenly, to mutter discontent.  We grumble when we have lost sight of the blessings in our lives, lost our first love.

Find out who else has been poisoned by this sinful group: Numbers 16:12-14: “Then Moses summoned Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab.  But they said, ‘We will not come!  Isn’t it enough that you have brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey to kill us in the desert?  And now you also want to lord it over us?  Moreover, you haven’t brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey or given us an inheritance of fields and vineyards.  Will you gouge out the eyes of these men?  No, we will not come!’”
These two had been persuaded that living as slaves in Egypt was as they now put it living in “a land flowing with milk and honey.”  The hell they left was now in their minds the promised land!

Take your hurt to God, not out on people:  Numbers 16:15: “Then Moses became angry and said to the Lord, ‘Do not accept their offering.  I have not taken so much as a donkey from them, nor have I wronged any of them.”

Rescue the weak, drive out the poison: Numbers 16:20-22: “The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Separate yourselves from this assembly so I can put an end to them at once.’
But Moses and Aaron fell facedown and cried out, ‘O God, God of the spirits of all mankind, will you be angry with the entire assembly when only one man sins?’”
God wanted to kill them all but Moses’s heart was to help the misguided.

Understand that the effects of factions will go deep: Numbers 16:41-45: “The next day the whole Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron.  ‘You have killed the Lord’s people,’ they said.  But when the assembly gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron and turned toward the Tent of Meeting, suddenly the cloud covered it and the glory of the Lord appeared. Then Moses and Aaron went to the front of the Tent of Meeting, and the Lord said to Moses, ‘Get away from this assembly so I can put an end to them at once.’  And they fell facedown.”
You will have to root out the sin and teach and love until the wound is healed.
You will have to deal forcibly with contempt and revolt within the church.

Proverbs 22:11: “He who loves a pure heart and whose speech is gracious will have a king for a friend.”
Proverbs 15:1: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
Proverbs 12:18: “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”
Proverbs 18:8: “The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man’s inmost parts.”
Ephesians 4:29-32: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.  And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

Theodore Roosevelt wrote, “It is not the critic who counts, not the one who points out how the strong man stumbles or how the doer’s deeds might have been done better.  The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face I marred with sweat and dust and blood; who strives valiantly, who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, if he fails at least fails while daring greatly, that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

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