If you should ever lift your head above the parapet and attempt something new, then you will experience criticism at times. This is just inevitable. There’s no avoiding it. But it is wise to know how to handle it well.

Not everybody understands your journey and nor is it reasonable to expect them to. The disappointment of feeling misunderstood can often be the very thing that feeds insecurity in the hearts of dreamers. In this case, criticism is always personal and painful. However, when we learn to settle in our heart that not everyone ‘gets you’, then this managed expectation will go some way to helping us handle it better.

Having said that, criticism can still hurt. When your heart is right and you’ve been working to do good, it can be wounding to hear someone express their disappointment in something you’ve said or done, especially when the intent behind it was honourable.

Sometimes criticism is valid, or at least partly valid! Lets face it, none of us are perfect. We all have the potential to mess up. In this case, a large dose of humble pie is the order of the day. A simple apology for a mistake you’ve made can go a long way to putting it right. There are some battles in life which are just not worth fighting since there are no spoils in victory. Interestingly, a heartfelt ‘sorry’ can actually enhance a person’s credibility and gain them respect. There have been times in my own life when I’ve publicly acknowledged challenging situations I could have handled far better. See, I guess I’m still learning on the journey. Craig Groeshel got it right when he observed “people would rather be around a leader who is always real than always right”. I’m just deeply grateful for God’s grace – and for the grace of those people in my life who stay faithful & keep loving me despite my flaws.

Of course there are times when criticism is unjust and unfair. When motives are questioned & the critique is aggressive or even bullying, this can be tough to handle. When we first pioneered the Junction Church, I’ll never forget receiving a long email from someone who I’d never met in my life who was absolutely scathing about this ‘new church’. The level aggression was disproportionate to any legitimate concerns. It genuinely saddened me to think that another Christian would choose to believe the worst, without so much as a conversation. However, instead of reacting in anger, I chose to respond in grace. This was the wisest thing I could possibly have done, and it is something I’ve never regretted. Years later, the warnings of doom never materialised. Actually, the very opposite happened. 

The point is that wisdom sometimes means staying quiet when you’d prefer to speak up. Other times, it means speaking up when you’d prefer to be quiet. Whatever criticisms you might face in your life, God’s wisdom is the key to dealing with it. If you need to apologise, do it well. If you’re faced with unjust judgments, hold your nerve and stay gracious & humble. God will vindicate you in his own good time. In every circumstance, James encourages us to seek God’s wisdom and the promise is that God will give it to us ‘liberally’ (James 1:5).

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