Leaders will have critics. The author Elbert Hubbard quipped, “Do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing, and you’ll never be criticized.” And while feedback is different from criticism, both can be helpful. Feedback is different from criticism in that it seeks to correct and restore rather than embarrass and destroy. Nevertheless, the Lord can and does use criticism. God uses trials to transform us, and He can use criticism to cause us to evaluate our decisions, our motives, and our practices.
A wise leader looks for truth in a critique and sees the critic as a person formed in the image of God and a brother or sister in Christ, if the person is a believer. A loving leader seeks to win the person over with kindness and grace.
However, there are times to move on.
There are times that investing in constant communication with a critic is just bad stewardship. Time spent attempting to reconcile with an irreconcilable critic is time that could have been invested in something else. Or more importantly, someone else. How do you know when it is time to move on, time to ignore? Here are five signs:
1. Every word is parsed
If you engage a critic and the whole of your case is not heard because every single word is parsed, the critic is not seeking to understand your view but to annihilate it, and likely to annihilate you. If you continue engaging, you will find yourself defending your defenses and explaining your sub-points. In other words, you will feel like you are going backwards.
2. Motives are continually questioned
If the motives behind your thinking or actions are constantly questioned, you will be unable to have a fruitful conversation or interaction with a critic. Even if your viewpoint is sound and your decision solid, your case will not be heard because you have been deemed untrustworthy. Of course, it is wise to ask the Lord to search your heart and to walk in community and in humility so you are doing all you can to continually repent to ensure your motives are pure.
3. Emotions are constantly elevated
If conversations with a critic are constantly emotionally elevated, logic will not be heard. If every interaction is filled with the antithesis of the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and SELF-CONTROL), move on.
4. Details are sought for unwavering conclusions
You have likely seen this before, maybe even in your own heart. A conclusion is made, and to prove the preexisting conclusion, evidence is searched for. Random and unconnected things are connected, stories are pieced together, and unrelated conversations are linked. When a critic is searching for anything to bolster his or her unwavering conclusion about you, you really cannot win. Thus, everyone’s time is wasted and more fruitful work is neglected.
5. The past is repeating
If the person has a past record of divisively criticizing or of vehemently seeking to destroy others, move on. If you are a pastor and the person instigated a church split at the last church he/she attended, the behavior is likely to repeat. Of course, people can change as the Lord has the power to conquer the human heart and lead people to repentance, and we should pray and hope that change occurs. But if the past is repeating, this is a good sign you are wasting time in conversation with this critic.