One of the occupational hazards of being a leader is receiving criticism (not all of it constructive, by the way). In fact, I firmly believe that the leader who does anything that is different or worthwhile or visionary can count on criticism. In this regard, I appreciate the remarks made by Theodore Roosevelt:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled 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; who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; who does actually try to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.
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 grey twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.
To those words I add a resounding AMEN and add the following advice: A sense of humour is of paramount importance to the leader. Many of God's servants are simply too serious! They must have the ability to laugh at themselves.
Equally important, of course, is the ability to sift from any criticism that which is true, that which is fact. We are foolish if we respond angrily to every criticism. Who knows, God may be using those very words to teach us some essential lessons, painful though they may be.
Isn't this what Proverbs 27:5-6 is saying? "Better is open rebuke than love that is concealed. Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy."
And let me call to your attention the word "friend" in these verses. Friendship is not threatened by honest criticism. It is strengthened.
Leaders are not the only ones who receive criticism, of course. We all do. So just remember: When you are criticized by someone who hardly knows you, filter out what is fact...and ignore the rest!
Read Nehemiah 6:1-14 and notice how Nehemiah handled criticism. He kept his cool, he considered the source, he refused to get discouraged, he went to God in prayer, and he kept building the wall!
Excerpted from Day by Day with Charles Swindoll, Copyright © 2000 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. (Thomas Nelson Publishers). All rights reserved worldwide. Used by permission.