Navigating the Turbulent Waters of Criticism


I don’t know if you have noticed, but there is a lot of criticism in our world today. Turn on the news and you will find people with opposing views “yelling it like it is.” It is like they think that the louder they make their point, the more they demean their counterpart, and the more outlandish they are in their criticism, the more they validate themselves. Add in social media and we have a firestorm of condemnation and criticism.

No one likes to be criticized. Some people handle it well and others do not. You could deal with criticism by becoming bitter, angry, defensive, and withdrawn. You could be too sensitive and let it hurt you and lead you into discouragement or depression. Or you could see criticism for what it is, keep a good perspective, learn from constructive criticism, and ignore invalid criticism. Here are a few ways to handle criticism.


1.     Don’t take it personally.

Learning to separate the criticism from the person is an important skill to master. This applies to public and professional relationships especially. Why? Because there will always be criticism. Think about how good you have it if only a few people criticize you. The most popular and effective presidents in history normally have at least 40% of the people who disagree with them and 25% of the people who despise them!


2.     Stay calm, assess, and release.

It is easy to obsess over one critical comment. In my personal experience, I have found myself upset over one or two negative comments. 99% of the comments I receive could be loving, approving, and encouraging, and I will fixate on the negative comment that may not even be true! Don’t focus on the one. Focus on the big picture. Stay calm and remember the love of Jesus. Assess whether or not the criticism is valid. If it is, address it. If it is not, release it.


3.     See the big picture.

My dad used to tell me that if people were kicking me in the rear, it meant that I was in front of them. If you want to avoid all criticism, then never lead and never do anything. In fact, just talk about how you would do it differently and criticize those who actually lead and take risks. Criticism goes with the territory of leadership. You must believe in your vision and learn to ignore the critics. Give yourself permission to succeed. If you don’t believe in your vision, then no one will.


4.     Give yourself permission to be yourself.

God only made one you. He gave abilities, gifts, and a personality to you that he loves. Be yourself and be OK with how God made you. That does not mean that we should not learn, improve, and receive instruction. We should never make excuses for bad behavior and claim, “That is just the way I am.” Successful leaders are comfortable in their own skin. You must decide whether you want to please God or your critics.


5.     Don’t feel guilty about success.

People often criticize because of envy or jealousy. That is not always the case, but it is the root cause of much criticism. Some will criticize without having all the facts. Don’t let your success be a stumbling block in your life. If you become filled with pride over your success, then that is sinful. On the other hand, don’t apologize for being successful. Thank God and give him the glory.


6.     Realize that it is ok if not everyone agrees.

Why some people believe that everyone has to be exactly the same baffles me. I am not talking about major points of the Christian faith. Nor do I believe in relativism that denies absolute truth. Truth is truth and differing opinions do not change the facts. But it is OK to be unique. God is wonderfully creative and uses many unique things for his glory. If he created over 300,000 species of beetles why should it surprise us that he creates people with differing styles, abilities, ideas, and personalities? It is OK if not everyone agrees with you. Unfortunately, the enemy uses disagreements over minor issues to divide us and to hinder the spread of the gospel. Don’t let it bother you if not everyone agrees. Keep your eyes on Jesus Christ and worry about pleasing him!