Critics are everywhere. The manager of the Cleveland Indians, Tris Speaker, said of Babe Ruth: “He made a great mistake when he gave up pitching.” Jim Denny, manager of the Grand Ole Opry, fired Elvis Presley after a 1954 performance and said, “You ain’t goin’ nowhere son. You ought to go back to drivin’ a truck.” The president of Decca Records said of the Beatles in 1962, “We don’t like their sound. Groups of guitars are on the way out.”
Whatever your feelings toward criticism, don’t expect to miss out. No matter how hard you work, how great your ideas, or how wonderful your talent, you probably will be the object of criticism. No one is exempt. Well, maybe you can evade it, but there is a catch. Aristotle said, “Criticism is something you can avoid easily by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.”
Maybe you face criticism at work, at home, or at school. Your boss nit-picks, your coworker second-guesses, your business partner points out the flaws, your friends see only the bad, and your family members take pride in pointing out your mistakes.
The nature of a critic can be identified as follows: One, critics resist change. The heart of the habitual critic resists change. To the critic, change is a threat. Two, critics run with critics. Critics have a “herd” mentality. They function as a group. Three, critics demoralize. They seek to suck the life out of a vision and the heart out of a willing worker.
How can one deal with the critic? Here are some powerful action steps to take.
Evaluate the criticism.
Since criticism is inevitable, we must measure the value or worth of the criticism. This step requires great self-control that prevents us from becoming impatient and defensive. Someone said, “Patience is the ability to let your light shine after your fuse has blown!”
Ask yourself if the criticism is true or false. Take an honest look at yourself. If the criticism is valid, do something about it. Sometimes the best course of action is to respond to criticism and learn from it. If the criticism is invalid, forget it. Sometimes the best course of action is to completely ignore it.
A. W. Tozer wrote, “Never fear criticism. If the critic is right, he has helped you. If he is wrong, you can help him. Either way, somebody gets helped.”
Pray about the criticism.
Once you weigh the criticism, play it down and pray it up. Instead of turning it over and over again in your mind, turn it over to God. Take the criticism to God in prayer.
When we are criticized, we need to talk to God about the critic and the criticism. A song we sang as teenagers had the line, “You can talk about me whenever you please, but I’ll talk about you when I’m on my knees.” Chuck Swindoll wrote, “You are never more successful than when you are on your knees in prayer: The saint who advances on his knees need never retreat because prayer provides an invincible shield.”
Stay at the task.
Critics demoralize. Leaders encourage. It’s easy to give up when criticized. But we need to persist.
Calvin Coolidge wrote, “Press on. Nothing can take the place of persistence. Talent will not. Nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not. Unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not. The world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are overwhelmingly powerful.”
Use the criticism to motivate.
We need to use the criticism as a motivation to bigger and better things. Winston Churchill wrote, “Kites rise highest against the wind.” The wind of criticism enables some to rise to new heights, new potentials, and new strengths.
Keep your dream alive.
There are times when criticism does not lie down—it intensifies. In such situations, keeping the dream alive calls for an intensified response.
Perhaps the deadliest poison of criticism comes when it is aimed toward one’s aspirations. Years ago, the sister of an innovative college professor suffered from a hearing deficiency. In the midst of building a device to help her hear better, he invented an unusual contraption. After many years of trial and error and eventual success, the professor was ready to take the device into production. He traveled extensively to gain financial backing for his dream. But everywhere he went, potential supporters laughed at his idea that the human voice could be carried along a wire. The professor could have allowed his critics to discourage him. He could have given up, but he didn’t. And nobody laughs at Alexander Graham Bell today.
Don’t allow your critics to snuff out your dreams.
Know that time answers a lot of criticism.
Time and success has a way of erasing a lot of criticism.
Colonel George Washington Goethals, the man responsible for the completion of the Panama Canal, had big problems with the climate and the geography. But his biggest challenge was the growing criticism back home from those who predicted he’d never finish the project.
Finally, a colleague asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer those critics?”
“In time,” answered Goethals.
“When?” his partner asked.
“When the canal is finished.”
In the end, remember they don’t build statutes to the critic. In the words of 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.”