leadership, Ministry


The definition of a critic.—  “Someone who comes down from the safety of the woods after the battle is over to strip the dead.” I love that

They are not willing to fight with you in the battle but there are more than willing to criticize you and explain in great detail why you lost!

How Thick is Your Skin? the art of handling criticism?

It is much easier to be critical than to be creative.

No one ever erected a statue to a critic.

It happens to all of us…and the longer and higher you serve in leadership the more common is the experience. Leadership in any organization and at any level is subject to critique, second-guessing and outright criticism. It simply goes with the territory. Whether the venue is a small non-profit organization or a multi-national for-profit business; a church or civic organization; your decisions and conduct as a leader will be examined, analyzed, scrutinized and criticized.

The only way to avoid this appraisal is to “…say nothing, do nothing and be nothing.” Stay out of the fight and maintain the status quo and you’ll be left alone. But if your vision for the future includes venturing into uncharted waters don’t be surprised when your leadership is  under attack and the torpedoes of criticism explode all around you.

Criticism can either be just or unjust; objective or totally unfounded; constructive or pernicious. But whether the motivation behind the criticism is envy or deep loving concern, the personal injury that is caused pains us just the same. The motive behind the disapproval is almost immaterial, as your response is limited to that which you can control – your reaction. How are you going to react to criticism? How are you going to handle it? Let me suggest four principles:

1.  Consider the Source

The first step in handling criticism is to wisely consider the origin. Criticism can spring from a variety of sources: superiors, subordinates, peers, friends or the public. And your reaction and appropriate response will be determined by considering the source.

Frequently jealousy, anger, complacency or hostility motivates criticisms. There is a marked criticsdifference between genuine, constructive reproach prompted by a loving concern from a friend and the habitual complaining from a malcontent. Chronic critics are those individuals who go out of their way to find fault with fresh ideas, new procedures or original thinking. They tear down rather than build up and in the process often attack the individual rather than the issue at hand. You’re familiar with their rhetoric: “It’ll never work,” “We’ve never done it that way before,” “It’s not our responsibility,” “We’re doing just fine without it,” or “We can’t afford it.”

Some people who criticize may simply be expressing a negative outlook on life (Remember, out of the overflow of one’s heart the mouth speaks, Matthew 12.34). People who hurt the most often hurt the most! The sting of unexpected criticism from an unexpected source may reveal deep personal struggles. Take the time to investigate.

2.  Maintain your Dignity

When criticized our natural reaction is to become defensive and fight back, offering excuses for the behavior under attack. Defensiveness almost always results in an emotional reaction rather than a rational response. Resist the urge to lash back or to launch a counterattack. If you first keep your mouth shut, you’ll never regret what you didn’t say!

3.  Consider the Observation

It’s hard to see reproof as anything other than a threat. But if we ate to grow and develop as a leader, we need to see beyond the criticism and consider the truth behind it. Is it possible that the criticism is justified? Could this possibly be used to sharpen my effectiveness as a leader?

Robert A. Cook, former president of King’s College in New York, told the story from the early years of his ministry. He had been receiving some rather pointed criticism and he sought the counsel of pastor friend, Harry A. Ironside. Pouring out his heart, Dr. Cook asked what he should do about the accusations being made against him. Ironside responded, “Bob, if the criticism about you is true, mend your ways! If it isn’t, forget about it!”

The only worthless mistakes are those from which we do not learn. Proverbs 12.1 speaks plainly: “…he who hates correction is stupid.” Even under the most negative and unfair circumstances we can grow and criticism can bring new insights to ourselves and our organizations.

4.  Exercise Grace

Relinquish your right to revenge. Don’t seek retaliation. Remember the biblical counsel, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15.1) Practice “grace living.”

Twenty-sixth US president Theodore Roosevelt wisely evaluated criticism when he observed, “It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly…Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”

Mark it well, if you are trying to accomplish anything great, you will be criticized by those that are doing nothing. Your motives will be questioned; your character may be assaulted. But as leaders we need to develop the self-confidence and thick skin so to manage criticism constructively. If you are overly sensitive to the opinions and criticisms of others, you’ll end up carrying a burden of guilt and inadequacy that will manifest itself in ineffectiveness. Keep in mind that God’s love for us is based on His faithfulness, not our ability to be perfect. And a purpose derived from a sense of calling from God will help provide you with the courage to confront criticism. Ignore the empty faultfinding; refuse to be swayed by others’ chiding but never disregard the dream the Lord has given you!

Don’t be critical ….be creative and help make the world you live in a greater, cleaner, loving place.

I will close this blog by an awesome quote by George Burns

“Too bad the only people who know how to run this country are busy driving cabs and cutting hair. “

Love it!



  1. Pastor,

    I was just reading about this in 2nd Samuel 1. The amalakite brought back the royalties of king saul after he died. This amalakite stated he killed king Saul and brought back the royalites to David except this conflicts with the original report in 1st samuel of King Saul taking his own life. In the footnotes it stated that this amalakite was likely a battelfield scavenger, cleaning up the royalties from the dead after battle. He lied about the story and brought the royalties and took responsibility for killing “Davids enemy.” This is similar to your claim on top of a critic. Take note of Davids response to the scavenger – he was put to death. After reading a lot of the old testament the Lord will always remember the critic and give him his just deserves. I believe death would not be the punishment, but the Lord never fails.

  2. jacquiephelan says:

    Sorry this is actually a q about how to find Steve Kohler (20 things a mtn bike teaches you)
    I want to include those in my book “I married the bike”.
    Pls let me know…and: if I do a book tour, I’d love to come to Prescott….
    Yrs, Jacquie Phelan aka Alice B. Toeclips

    • Jacquie,

      I read the 20 things in one of my mtn bike magazines a couple of years ago. I then tried to google him with no luck.
      I will try to find the magazine and send you the info. when I get it.

      Anyway, yea get to prescott – great biking community here and I would love to read your book

  3. jacquiephelan says:

    Thanks for writing back. Please don’t try too hard, there are several versions of this that I created myself in the 1980’s…to me, his represents a masculine set of lessons learned. Perfect for contrasting with the lessons bikes taught me….. If you write me at Jacquie@batnet.com and lt me know your email addy, I’ll blab more…thaks for writin’!

  4. drmarcrochester says:

    That hoary old clichee about there being no statues erected to critics is simple balls. Eduard Hanslick, George Bernard Shaw, Robert Schumann; great critics all. Statues to be found in Vienna, Dusseldorf and Dublin

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s