Responses to criticism

It is hard to be an honest and fair critic.  It is a role I’ve played on my blog and in other situations.  Here are a few of kinds of responses I’ve run in to.

1) Silence – no one responds at all

This one is pretty common.

2) We’ll cover that in a future meeting…that never arrives.

I watched one leader do this pretty much every year.  After 5 years of this you start wonder whether we are ever going to face the issues.

3) You’re a doomer/you think we’re doomed. (or insert another label here like rebel, anti-church, post-modern etc…)

Much like response 6) is attempts to change the channel from the issues at hand.  With this one it makes the one offering the critique the issue.

4) I’ve invested too much in this system to give it up now.

This one is rare and refreshingly honest.  It is far more common from people who have given up on the security an organization or position provided them.

5) I think much of what you say is true, I’m waiting for [insert consequential future program or plan here] to see if that makes a difference.

It really doesn’t matter that similarly shallow changes resulted in very little change in the past.

6) There is no such thing as a perfect church

This response is popular and by itself it is true, but it attempts to change the question rather than answer the original point.  The issue is never whether we can be perfect, but whether we can be better. 

7) We shouldn’t question our leaders, they are very spiritual people who seek after God and want what is best for us all

I’ve only observed this among a select few, thankfully.

8) Paralysis

The issues raised are so big that facing them seems to be to challenging for people to process.

I’ve observed that criticism is acceptable but only to a certain point.  If the issues raised are ones that point to deep systematic problems that cannot be resolved without taking risky steps that threaten people’s security then expect one of the responses above.

Another option one might think would be more common is

9) I think you are wrong, and here is why.

I’d like to hear this one a little more often.

  1. #1 by Jaromir on March 13, 2010 - 7:17 pm

    LT, I think you’re all wrong.
    And here is why….
    just kidding 🙂

  2. #2 by Bene D on March 14, 2010 - 4:31 am

    I think you are right and here is why:

    I need criticism. I’m not talking emotional abuse and unfair attack, but honest open communication.
    It nudges me toward reality and balance.

    If I don’t receive criticism I become puffed up, self-important and safe, while my faults flourish.

    I need it because iron sharpens iron.
    That wise proverb acknowledges conflict, which is part of life. Criticism rightly given helps me know what peace, faithfulness and trust is.
    Criticism helps me learn what is iron and what is plastic.
    I don’t like pain, but pain warns me something is wrong, unhealthy, and it has an important function to nudge me toward health.

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