How To Deal With Negative Criticism

Let's face it.  At some point in your journey, someone will confront you with the cold, hard fact that they don't like what you've done, made, said, created.  Some will take a tactful approach, others will get right in your face.  Learning how to handle criticism is important as a worship pastor, and, well, as a human.  Here are a few suggestions:

1. Ask yourself, "Is it true?"
Even the harshest of critics can teach us something, if we are willing to learn.  Really evaluate what's being said and see if there might be some element of truth that you can learn from.  Even in the most intense of critiques, there can exist something that you can take and use to improve. 

2. Look for the heart
Behind critical words often lies deeper issues.  Instead of taking offense to a critique, see if you can identify the real issue at hand.  Often what might seem like an attack on you could be coming from a place of loss, or unwanted change in the life of the person speaking to you.  See if you can look past any offense to reach out and help with the real issue.

3.  Be proactive
While it might be easier to just blow off a negative evaluation, it's up to you to do what you can to learn from it.  In my job, most of the criticism comes in the form of the "comment card" you fill out at some point in a church service. If it's anonymous, it goes directly in the trash, but if there's a legitimate concern, many times I'll reach out to that person and see if I can understand where this comment is coming from.  If you ignore it, it won't go away (believe me, I've tried).

4. Don't react
On one hand, you might be tempted to ignore criticism, but on the other hand, you might just want to give your critic a piece of your mind. After all, don't they know how hard you're working to make, create, develop?  This is NOT proactive.  You might feel better for a second, but often times, you'll create more backlash and even more criticism.  Perhaps it's best to say "I'd like to have some time to think about this issue," and then go clear your head so you can really process a critical comment in a helpful way before reaching out.

5. Seek feedback from those you trust
Most often, the people around you that you trust can see you in a way that you can't see yourself.  If you need to, reach out to a friend and have them help you process a critical comment.  It's not really productive to get together and bash the person that made the comment, but you should really evaluate what was said, and if any of it can be used to help you improve. 

6. Revisit the "why"
Do you know why you are doing what you're doing?  Is there a vision that drives your process?  If the answer to those questions is "no", you don't really have any foundation to stand on when critical comments come.  If you know why you do what you do, you can be secure that, even though there may be some push back, you're moving forward to accomplish what you've been called to accomplish.  A vision helps create consistency and stability. 

Feedback in the form of critical comments can be hard to handle.  It can also be very helpful, if you process it in the right way.  Ask God to help you be patient, self controlled, and loving as you seek to do life together with others.