Whether you are a doctor, janitor, president, or a guy who just finished a controversial series about race relations, chances are that you are going to receive your fair share of criticism. But how can you handle criticism in a way that will not leave you drained and stressed? Here are 7 principles to keep in mind for handling criticism like a champ!
1) There is a difference between a disagreement and criticism.
Don’t be frustrated because someone has a different opinion than you. Just because someone disagrees with your idea, thoughts, or viewpoints, that doesn’t make the the disagreement a criticism or mean that the person is a critic. First, you have to make a logical, conscious choice to not become defensive when our instinct may be to fight back when someone disagrees with you. Leave your ego at the door; you can always learn something from a disagreement or even a criticism.
Like Romans 12:3 says, “Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.”
2) Differentiate between constructive and destructive criticism.
I define criticism as an insult that is attached to a complaint in order to show displeasure. For example, when as a janitor, your superior says, “You missed a spot. Go over it again,” that’s constructive criticism. However, if he says, “You are the worst janitor I’ve ever had. This job is terrible,” that’s probably destructive criticism (and your supervisor needs a chill pill). The key difference to remember is that destructive criticism usually takes aim at the person rather than just the issue at hand.
3) Get used to the fact that you will be criticized.
No one is immune or above criticism. You are constantly being judged for what you hear, wear, do, or don’t do. Everyone will have something to chime in about. You could just stay home and play video games all day in an attempt to avoid criticism, but guess what? Then you’ll get criticized for being lazy. Since you can’t get around criticism, you might as well learn to get ahold of it.
4) The higher the profile, the more criticism you will receive.
A while ago, I shared my beef with Dr. Ben Carson. He probably has no idea who I am (nor does he probably care what I think). My point is that someone who is in the public eye, and/or has a prominent position of leadership, and is taking a stand for something they believe in will probably become a lightning rod of opinions. That’s the nature of the beast. I may get my fair share of criticism, but compare me to the kind of criticism that someone like President Obama gets and it makes me look like I shouldn’t have a care in the world!
5) Don’t lose your focus of your mission just because people say unkind things about you.
People who have a heart for people tend to take criticism personally. You often remember one criticism over 50 compliments. Don’t overthink it.
Interestingly enough, I have learned from experience that no one operates in a vacuum. The saying is true: “Hurt people, hurt people.” Often I have found that behind every critic, there are other factors playing into their response that has nothing to do with you personally. Maybe they are going through a hard time at home, or perhaps something about you reminds them of a past hurt; thus, they are really projecting their problems onto you. Sure, some people may be straight up jerks, but learn to see the good behind every critic. No matter how nasty they may be, Jesus died to save them too, right?
6) Learn when to let criticism slide.
Like one cool little video blog says,
“Most successful people are too busy creating things in the world and actually living their lives to harshly criticize and judge you. The majority of the time, the people who are your harshest critics are creative cowards. They are bystanders on the sidelines of life who risk nothing and create nothing. It’s easy to attack and destroy an act of creation. It’s a lot more difficult to perform one.”
How do you do this? For example, you don’t have to respond to every email or comment directed your way online. Another way to let criticism slide is, if you get a nasty letter from an “anonymous concerned individual,” throw that mess away. If they are anonymous in sending you criticism, they don’t deserve the right to be heard if they are not willing to put a face on their complaint. Also, if the person that you are hearing criticism from is always critical of everything and everyone, let it go. That person probably just needs a hug (or a swift kick in the pants).
Besides, are you really going to let people’s opinions have that much power over you? Remember, you will be criticized since even Jesus got criticized form others. Yeah, Jesus…so, if he couldn’t get out of it… neither will you. But if he could manage to get through it, you can too (as a side note, Jesus rarely defended himself in the face of criticism. He often kept silent and/or let his work do the talking).
7) You are not defined by your critics or your success, but by your identity as a child of God.
This actually cuts both ways. The comments from haters should have little bearing on you as you try to fulfill your mission to change the world. On the other hand, you may have a moderate to great amount of success with the work that you do (and your ability to rise above criticism). However, don’t think that any success makes you better than the rest of the world, in the same way that criticism makes you think of yourself as less than everyone else. Don’t be tempted to think of yourself as God’s gift to the world.
It goes back to Romans 12: “Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.” Follow these principles and you will be on your way to living out God’s calling in your life!
Care to share any other tips that have helped you handle criticism? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!