Whoever heeds discipline shows the way to life, but whoever ignores corrections leads others astray. — Proverbs 10:17
Just as giving constructive criticism can be difficult, it is equally hard to receive it—especially for leaders. Hearing our own shortcomings or even our faults or sins can be awkward or embarrassing. Now I’m not talking about the kind of criticism that comes in the hallway during or after a huge church event—you know the kind. The kind that tells you the sanctuary was too hot or too cold. The kind that gently reminds you that you didn’t put the chafing dishes back on the right shelf or that admonishes you when you were late coming out of your breakout while all the time you were walking a sister on the path to the Lord. Those comments are like summer gnats: annoying and unavoidable.
The kind of criticism we’re talking about here is the kind that is beneficial to the kingdom and causes you to grow in Christ. It is the discipline that comes from discipling. And it is necessary to your personal growth and your growth and development as a leader.
Scripture teaches us that we “all sin and fall short of the glory of the Lord” (Romans 3:23).
Leaders, even though it’s difficult, we must allow our “iron” to be sharpened.
Here are some tips about how to receive constructive criticism:
Even though you may not see constructive criticism coming, you must allow yourself to go into an attitude of prayer in order to open your heart to what is being said. Often the person offering the correction may feel as uncomfortable as you do right now—so be the leader you are and submit to the instruction.
Do your best to listen to exactly what the person is saying. It’s tempting to interrupt and respond quickly. Try your best not to do that. Remember, James 1:19 teaches us “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.”
Take notes, if you have to. Be patient with yourself and your sister or brother. Once the person has finished, review your notes and ask for clarification on any point that is unclear. Be sure to show Christian courtesy during this situation. Don’t say anything you will regret or make any quick decisions.
If at all possible, make the next conversation you have be with the Lord. Take it to Him quickly and remember to pray for the person who has given you correction. Confess any bitterness or resentment you may have. Ask Him to show you how to respond and where you need to change. Continue to have dialog with the person, if possible. Follow up with another meeting to talk about your progress and any questions you may have. Avoiding the person will only make things more awkward and will allow the Enemy to create division.
As leaders, we are all committed to seeking a deeper relationship with God, growing in Him, and pouring into others. Don’t allow the enemy to convince you that, just because you have had a flaw pointed out to you, that this somehow lessens your worth in Christ Jesus. Sister, that is a lie from Satan and it will destroy your confidence in who are in Him. You are loved beyond measure, you are chosen by the King, and you are called until He releases you or gives you a new assignment! Now go out there and serve Him with joy!
For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. — Hebrews 12:11 ESV
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dolly Mink has a heart for women who are hurting. Years of experience in Christian leadership have given her a unique perspective and she is eager to share her observations insights, and words of encouragement all in a way that honors her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Dolly serves on the Women’s Ministry Leadership Team at River Oak Church in Chesapeake, and on the SBCV Women’s Ministry Leadership Team.
To read more, visit her blog, Grateful for the Grace.