The Leader and Criticism

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

If you are a leader, you will be criticized. It goes with the territory. You will be misunderstood, misinterpreted, and misrepresented. This happens to good leaders and bad leaders alike. However, good leaders develop the skill of “mining” the gold while discarding slag in each load of criticism.

Going Deep // Focus: 1 Samuel 11:12-15

Then the people exclaimed to Samuel, “Now where are those men who said, ‘Why should Saul rule over us?’ Bring them here, and we will kill them!” Saul replied, “No one will be executed today, for today the Lord has rescued Israel!” Then Samuel said to the people, “Come, let us all go to Gilgal to renew the kingdom.” So they all went to Gilgal, and in a solemn ceremony before the Lord they made Saul king. Then they offered peace offerings to the Lord, and Saul and all the Israelites were filled with joy.

Put aside for a moment the fact that you know the rest of Saul’s story—and admittedly, it is a sad one. Yet there were moments when we see why God chose him and gave him the same opportunities that God would later give David. This chapter is a case in point.

Saul was the new leaders in Israel—the nation’s first king. But while he’d won the electoral college—God’s anointing—the popular vote was still coming in. People were still deciding if they wanted him or not. Some didn’t. And when those who didn’t were shown to be short-sighted and foolish—and worthy of being forced to live in Canaan, according to Saul’s sycophants—the new king acted in the most gracious and winsome way imaginable—and he demonstrated a critical posture for godly and good leadership: staying cool when criticized.

If you are a leader, you will be criticized. It goes with the territory. You will be misunderstood, misinterpreted, and misrepresented. This happens to good leaders and bad leaders alike. However, good leader develop the skill of “mining” the gold while discarding slag in each load of criticism.

When I was in my early adult years, a friend of mine once received what I perceived was some unfair criticism. My encouragement to him was to consider the source and reject the criticism outright. But he wisely said to me, “I think on this one I will chew up the meat and spit out the bones.”

In other words, he believed there might be an element of truth in the painful things that had been said to him. There was possibly something here that could help sharpen him. Or at the very least, there would be in his response to this situation an opportunity for him to learn and grow.

His wise response revealed my own immaturity and insecurity that day. I would have reacted harshly, (Proverbs 15:1), proudly (Proverbs 15:33) and defensively (Proverbs 15:18), but missed an opportunity to honor God’s word, grow in his wisdom and cement my leadership in the eyes of others. My estimation of this friend grew that day. And over the course of his adult life, he has proven to be a great man.

Long after Saul exited the monarchy, another king arose who was very wise, at least he was when he first began. As we listen to Solomon’s advice, we discover there is always an opportunity to grow in wisdom, understanding and honor through criticism directed toward our leadership. Here are five keys Solomon gives to making criticism and correction, even when it’s unfair and unjustified, work for us:

First, practice open-mindedness. Proverbs 15:31 begins with these words, “He who listens to a …rebuke.” The failure of some people is to quit listening when they find themselves being rebuked, corrected or even challenged. But Solomon says the wise person will tune in rather than tune out when they hear things that are personally unpleasant.

Second, recognize the positive. Solomon calls it “a life-giving rebuke…” (Proverbs 15:31) We need to be open to the possibility that within the criticism is an element of truth that can keep us from harmful behavior in the future. Sometimes we will experience life-draining criticism from people who, perhaps, are speaking out of their own issues and don’t have our best interests in mind. But before we reject their words, we need to look for life-giving nuggets of truth.

Third, reject defensiveness. Simply refuse to discard criticism outright. Solomon talks about the danger of brushing aside valid criticism when he says, “He who ignores discipline despises himself…” (Proverbs 15:32) When we make a practice of seeing the truth or the good in criticism, then the consequences of rejecting it becomes a lot less attractive.

Fourth, embrace criticism as God’s tool. Solomon says “…whoever heeds correction gains understanding.” (Proverbs15:32) He then says “the fear of the Lord teaches wisdom.” (Proverbs 15:33) Solomon is saying that criticism can be a great teacher, a tremendous source of understanding. A person of understanding will see the criticism not just as coming from a human mouthpiece, but from the Lord himself. The New Testament writer of Hebrews says it this way,

“The Lord disciplines those he loves, and punishes everyone he accepts as a son. Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and life. Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12: 5 –11)

Benjamin Franklin captured the essence of both the Proverb and the teaching of Hebrews when he said, “Those things that hurt, instruct.”

Fifth, cultivate humility. Solomon taught, “…humility comes before honor.” (Proverbs 15:33) There is no way we can take a rebuke with a right spirit without humility being a characteristic of our lives. Humility is what disciplines us to hold our tongue and not respond with anger. Humility is what enables us to see the long-term benefits that may be hidden in the criticism. Humility is what enables us to turn unfair and unwarranted criticism, and the person who delivered it, over to God’s care. Humility receives; pride reacts. Humility responds wisely, pride explodes with defensiveness. Humility makes rebuke a growth opportunity, pride shuts the door to a life-giving experience.

At the end of the process, Solomon says, is a life of distinction. When we handle criticism well, we gain understanding and wisdom. And at the end of the day, honor awaits us.

Going Deeper With God: Are you undergoing a season of criticism? Embrace it as the Lord’s tool to sharpen you. And be grateful!

It’s Lonely At The Top

How To Endure In Your Position of Influence

If you are a leader—in your home, or at school, in your business, in the community or at the church—live for God’s smile, and you will be a great and enduring leader. At least God will think so, and he is really the only one who ultimately counts.

Read: Psalm 109 // Focus: Psalm 109:28

“My accusers may curse me if they like, but you will bless me! When they attack me, they will be disgraced! But I, your servant, will go right on rejoicing!”

Can you imagine what it’s like being the president? At any given time, about half the country admires you and thinks you are doing a decent job while the other half can’t wait for you to just go away. And that’s on a good day! It is often much worse than that for the person in the Oval Office. Think about it—it is not uncommon for a sitting president to have sixty to seventy percent of the citizens treat him as if he were Satan’s spawn.

It is hard to imagine why anyone would want that job. And yet, every four years, a herd of politicians line up for their chance to live at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. That can only means one of two things: They are either crazy or they are called. (Actually, there are several other motives we could talk about—but we’ll save that for another time.)

I’m not sure who said it, but there were right: it’s lonely at the top. Leadership at any level is a tough job. In fact, it is not only tough, it can be a lonely, sometimes thankless, even downright painful job. It certainly was for King David.

David is another man whose leadership we tend to romanticize. But if we were able to catch David in a brutally honest moment, I think he would tell us just how unromantic his job was. If we just go by what he says in the psalms, David lived with persistent criticism for a goodly portion of his reign. It might even seem from reading these psalms, which in a way, was nothing more than David’s spiritual journal, that he was a little paranoid. But that was only because people were out to get him.

I think what made David a great leader was how he endured under the pressure. It wasn’t just his amazing victories, his ever-expanding kingdom, his winsome personality or his musical skill, it was his dogged determination to please God. David took his cues from the Chief Justice of the Universe rather than what would make him a more popular leader at the moment.

As you read the entirety of Psalm 109, you will notice yet again that David bookends (verses 1-2 and 30-31) this detailed account of his detractors vicious accusations with his dependence on God:

O God, whom I praise, don’t stand silent and aloof while the wicked slander me and tell lies about me.

But I will give repeated thanks to the Lord, praising him to everyone. For he stands beside the needy, ready to save them from those who condemn them.

Above all, David wanted God’s blessing more than anything—high approval ratings, more power, a larger palace. He simply lived for God’s smile, and that’s what made him great, that’s what fueled his endurance under pressure, that’s what enabled him to run strong and finish well.

If you are a leader—in your home, or at school, in your business, in the community or at the church—live for God’s smile, and you, too, will be a great and enduring leader. At least God will think so, and he is really the only one who ultimately counts.

Making Life Work: Give your president a break. Here is a good rule of thumb: Pray for him or her twice as much as you criticize. Do that, and I’ll bet you dollars to doughnuts that you will quit criticizing the leader of the free world at all.

Evaluations—How Fun!

Making Life Work
Read: Psalm 71
Focus: Psalm 71:7

I have become like a portent to many, but you are my strong refuge.

The New Living Translation renders this verse, “My life has become an example to many.” The New King James says, “I have become a wonder.” Portent, example, wonder—whatever the case, people were talking about the writer of this psalm. He was being evaluated—how fun!

We’re not sure if David wrote this song, or if it was one of his musicians. It is generally believed that the composer was in his old age, and, surprisingly, still facing trials—reminding us that much like weird relatives, they never really go away!

As is always the case, with trials come evaluations. For that matter, evaluations come no matter what, be it trials or triumphs. If you are alive, you are going to get evaluated! And if you are in a position of influence of some kind, just multiply that to the “nth degree.” Again, how fun!

The psalmist was going through a challenge, and people were talking. Some thought his trial was proof that he was under God’s curse, while others saw that was God caring for him even in his trial. Now if I were to venture a guess, more people were amazed that God’s loving care had yet again sustained him than those who were putting a negative spin on it. Yet the psalmist was more focused on his naysayers than his encouragers. (Psalm 71:4,10-11,13,24) He was just doing what we human beings shouldn’t do, but do anyway: Giving undue weight to the critic.

But he also did something right—something you and I need to practice when we’re under the bright lights of another’s evaluation: Put our hope in God. (Psalm 71:5,14) Whether the critics are dead on, or dead wrong, or perhaps even both (as they say, even a broken clock gets it right twice a day), leaning on God to see us through (Psalm 71:12), and even cover our goofs with his grace (Psalm 71:20) is the only good way to go through challenging times and blunt the criticism of our evaluator.

Crisis, or not; critics, or not—put your hope in God!

__________________

“I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.”(The Apostle Paul, I Corinthians 4:2-4)

 

Making Life Work: Yes, you will be evaluated in life—how fun! Until the day you die, you will be evaluated—and even after you die. So what! Put your hope in God—after all, that’s the only thing that really matters.

Hertz Donut

Making Life Work
Read: Psalm 26
Focus: Psalm 26:1-3

“Vindicate me, O LORD, for I have led a blameless life; I have trusted in the LORD without wavering. Test me, O LORD, and try me, examine my heart and my mind; for your love is ever before me,and I walk continually in your truth.”

Have you ever been savagely and unfairly criticized? Sure you have! Hurts, don’t it?

To be human means to be born in criticism season with a big ol’ bull’s eye on your back. And the higher in leadership or influence you climb, the greater your visibility, the more you accomplish, the uglier and more devastating criticism becomes. And even worse, it is usually unjustified, indefensible, and anonymous. It’s just part of the territory.

Apparently David was facing some tough criticism, which was bothering him a great deal. And there wasn’t a whole lot he could do about it, except take it to God—which is always the best thing to do, by the way—and there lift his innocence and integrity before the only Critic who really counts.

You will notice in this psalm that David doesn’t claim perfection—which is a good thing, since he was far from it. If he were that deluded about the true condition of his life, inviting Divine scrutiny (“test me…try me…examine me…” v.2) would have been the worst thing to do in that moment. David was not under the illusion that he was perfect, but he could offer an innocent heart before the Lord; he could point to the integrity of his way and call upon God to vindicate him before his human critics.

To be anything and do anything means to invite criticism; it is just one of the harsh and unpleasant realities of life. So expect folks to criticize you, but like David, so live your life in innocence and integrity that nobody will give your critic much credence—especially God.

And the next time the critic is getting the best of you, remember that you answer to the One who knows your heart, and if you can lift a life of innocence and integrity before him, feel free to call out to him for his vindication.

__________________

“God knows our situation; He will not judge us as if we had no difficulties to overcome. What matters is the sincerity and perseverance of our will to overcome them.” (C.S. Lewis)

 

Making Life Work: Divine vindication is always the sweetest revenge you can dish out to your critic!

Evaluations—How Fun!

Read Psalm 71

Featured Verse: Psalm 71:7

“I have become like a portent to many,  but you are my strong refuge.”

The New Living Translation renders this verse, “My life has become an example to many.” The New King James says, “I have become a wonder.” Portent, example, wonder—whatever the case, people were talking about the writer of this psalm. He was being evaluated—how fun!

We’re not sure if David wrote this song, or if it was one of his musicians. It is generally believed that the composer was in his old age, and, surprisingly, still facing trials—reminding us that much like weird relatives, trials, troubles and tribulations never really go away!

As is always the case, with trials come evaluations. For that matter, evaluations come no matter what, be it trials or triumphs. If you are alive, you are going to get evaluated! And if you are in a position of influence of some kind, just multiply that to the “nth degree.” Again, how fun!

The psalmist was going through a challenge, and people were talking. Some thought his trial was proof that he was under God’s curse, while others saw that was God caring for him even in his trial. Now if I were to venture a guess, more people were amazed that God’s loving care had yet again sustained him than those who were putting a negative spin on it. Yet the psalmist was more focused on his naysayers than his encouragers. (Psalm 71:4,10-11,13,24) He was just doing what we human beings shouldn’t do, but do anyway: Giving undue weight to the critic.

But he also did something right—something you and I need to practice when we’re under the bright lights of another person’s evaluation: Put our hope in God. (Psalm 71:5,14) Whether the critics are dead on, or dead wrong, or perhaps even both (as they say, even a broken clock gets it right twice a day), leaning on God to see us through (Psalm 71:12), and even cover our goofs with his grace (Psalm 71:20) is the only good way to go through challenging times and blunt the criticism of our evaluator.

Yes, you will be evaluated in life—how fun! Until the day you die, you will be evaluated—and even after you die. So what! Put your hope in God—after all, that’s the only thing that really matters.

“I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.”
—The Apostle Paul (I Corinthians 4:2-4)

Hertz Doughnut

Read Psalm 26

Featured Verse: Psalm 26:1-3

“Vindicate me, O LORD, for I have led a blameless life;
I have trusted in the LORD without wavering.
Test me, O LORD, and try me, examine my heart and my mind; for your love is ever before me, and I walk continually in your truth.”

Have you ever been savagely and unfairly criticized? Sure you have! Hurts, don’t it?

Do you remember that old schoolyard prank?  A kid walks up to you and asks, “hey, ya want a Hertz Doughnut?”  Thinking you’re about to get a glazed cruller, you say, “yeah, man, thanks.”  Then he hauls off and slugs you in the arm and says, “Hertz, Dougnut?” Kind of lame, I know, but still, it hurts, don’t it?

That kind of stuff doesn’t stop just because you become an adult. In fact, it’s a little more devious because now you’re not even asked weather you want that “hertz doughnut”.

To be human means to be born in criticism season with a big ol’ bull’s eye on your back. And the higher in leadership you climb, the greater your visibility, the more you accomplish, the uglier and more painful the criticism becomes. And even worse, it is usually unjustified, indefensible, and anonymous. It’s just part of the territory—and it really hurts, don’t it?

Apparently David was experiencing a “Hertz Doughnut” when he wrote this psalm.  He was facing some tough criticism, which was bothering him a great deal. And there wasn’t a whole lot he could do about it, except take it to God—which is always the best thing to do, by the way—and there lift his innocence and integrity before the only Critic who really counts.

You will notice in this psalm that David doesn’t claim perfection—which is a good thing, since he was far from it. If he were that deluded about the true condition of his life, inviting Divine scrutiny (“test me…try me…examine me…” v.2) would have been the worst thing to do in that moment. David was not under the illusion that he was perfect, but he could offer an innocent heart before the Lord; he could point to the integrity of his way and call upon God to vindicate him before his human critics.

To be anything and do anything means to invite criticism; it is just one of the harsh and unpleasant realities of life. So expect folks to criticize you, but like David, so live your life in innocence and integrity that nobody will give your critic much credence—especially God.

And the next time the critic is getting the best of you, remember that you answer to the One who knows your heart, and if you can lift a life of innocence and integrity before him, feel free to call out to him for his vindication.

Divine vindication is always the sweetest revenge you can dish out to your critic!

“God knows our situation; He will not judge us as if we had no difficulties to overcome. What matters is the sincerity and perseverance of our will to overcome them.”
—C.S. Lewis

Psalm 71: Evaluations—How Fun!

Read Psalm 71:1-24

Evaluations—How Fun!

I have become like a portent to many,
but you are my strong refuge.
(Psalm 71:7)

The New Living Translation renders this verse, “My life has become an example to many.” The New King James says, “I have become a wonder.” Portent, example, wonder—whatever the case, people were talking about the writer of this psalm. He was being evaluated—how fun!

We’re not sure if David wrote this song, or if it was one of his musicians. It is generally believed that the composer was in his old age, and, surprisingly, still facing trials—reminding us that much like weird relatives, they never really go away!

As is always the case, with trials come evaluations. For that matter, evaluations come no matter what, be it trials or triumphs. If you are alive, you are going to get evaluated! And if you are in a position of influence of some kind, just multiply that to the “nth degree.” Again, how fun!

The psalmist was going through a challenge, and people were talking. Some thought his trial was proof that he was under God’s curse, while others saw that was God caring for him even in his trial. Now if I were to venture a guess, more people were amazed that God’s loving care had yet again sustained him than those who were putting a negative spin on it. Yet the psalmist was more focused on his naysayers than his encouragers. (Psalm 71:4,10-11,13,24) He was just doing what we human beings shouldn’t do, but do anyway: Giving undue weight to the critic.

But he also did something right—something you and I need to practice when we’re under the bright lights of another’s evaluation: Put our hope in God. (Psalm 71:5,14) Whether the critics are dead on, or dead wrong, or perhaps even both (as they say, even a broken clock gets it right twice a day), leaning on God to see us through (Psalm 71:12), and even cover our goofs with his grace (Psalm 71:20) is the only good way to go through challenging times and blunt the criticism of our evaluator.

Yes, you will be evaluated in life—how fun! Until the day you die, you will be evaluated—and even after you die. So what! Put your hope in God—after all, that’s the only thing that really matters.

“I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.”
—The Apostle Paul (I Corinthians 4:2-4)