Taking the Sting Out Of Criticism

Time tested paths to peace while under attack

"One day a man met Spurgeon on the street, took off his hat and bowed, and said, 'The Rev. Mr. Spurgeon — a great humbug!' Spurgeon took off his hat and replied, 'Thank you for the compliment. I am glad to hear that I am a great anything!'" With some well timed words, Spurgeon took the sting out of the criticism. He knew how to respond to his faultfinders.

Many leaders struggle with appropriate ways to handle fault-finding. Some are able to turn a simple snide remark into a skirmish, a battle, and then all out war. Peace eludes them. The body of Christ wrenches in pain over the resulting turmoil.

Leadership and criticism go hand in hand. Harsh words come with the territory. What we do with criticism, our reaction, will magnify or minimize hurtful words. Our challenge is to find creative ways to take out the sting and maintain peace.

After 23 years of observation, prior mistakes, and well given advice, I have found four time tested means to peace while under attack: (1) Silence, (2) Settlement, (3) Sorrow, and (4) Strength.

1. Silence

Augustine said, "Lord, deliver me from the lust of vindicating myself." Some criticisms are best left alone. To respond is to aggravate our detractor. Ecclesiastes 3: 6 says, "There is a time to keep, a time to cast away." We should keep our reactions to ourselves and cast away valueless judgments of others. Verse 7 goes on to say, "A time to keep silent and a time to speak." Silence speaks volumes.

The story is told of a judge who had been frequently ridiculed by a conceited lawyer. When asked by a friend why he didn't rebuke his assailant, he replied, "In our town lives a widow who has a dog. And whenever the moon shines, it goes outside and barks all night." Having said that, the magistrate ...

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