I got a text from a friend last week. He sent me a picture of his company’s logo and a comment someone had made on the logo online.
My friend is leading a great organization that’s helping thousands of leaders. His ministry is having a significant impact.
The comment was typical ‘hater’ stuff. The commenter questioned my friend’s motives and integrity and even hinted at whether my friend’s faith was genuine.
Even with all the success and affirmation my friend is receiving (deservedly), that random comment hurt.
That’s how it is, right?
A hundred thank you’s and life change stories can vaporize when a single negative comment comes your way.
And even though that kind of feedback is cheap (it takes real guts to post a critical comment on line, doesn’t it?) it’s still hurtful.
Chances are if you’re a leader, you’ve been on the receiving end of criticism.
You pour dozens of hours (and your heart) into a message just to have someone dismiss it as ‘irrelevant’.
You navigate significant changes in your ministry for the sake of the future and someone says you should be fired.
You challenge the status quo and argue for a better future and you get written off as a dreamer.
How do you avoid criticism like that?
Believe it or not, there actually is a surefire way:
The best way to avoid criticism is to do nothing significant.
So go ahead.
Stop trying to change the world.
Stop trying to make a difference.
Stop believing when everyone else has grown cynical.
Stop investing in the lives of others.
Stop caring when others merely shrug.
Stop devoting your life to a cause bigger than yourself.
Stop fighting for what’s right when others pass by.
And then people will stop criticizing you.
Devote your life to doing nothing significant. The critics will leave you alone.
But of course, if you do that, you will come to the end of your life and realize you wasted it.
Here’s what’s true.
No significant progress is made without opposition.
And if you’re drawing unavoidable criticism (watch for my next post on the line between justified and unjustified criticism), you’re in good company.
The Israelites were ready to stone Moses, and even his siblings rebelled against him.
Joseph was sold out by his family.
Jesus was crucified by his enemies (you could argue that Jesus had more critics than supporters at the end of his life…just read to the end of the Gospels).
Luther was excommunicated.
Calvin was hated.
If you think there is a way to do something significant and avoid criticism, I’d love to hear it. I’m not sure you can escape it.
Case in point. There are few leaders in the church today with more influence than Andy Stanley. Being the Lead Pastor of a strategic partner church of North Point, I’ve seen Andy not only on stage but behind the scenes. I can vouch for his personal integrity at the highest of levels.
You would think with all the progress Andy has made not just for his church, but for the church, critics would leave him alone. But they don’t. When you read the comments on this CNN article about Andy, you’ll realize that anyone doing anything significant will get a boatload of criticism (often from people who have done nothing significant with their own lives). It both saddened me and made me angry to read the comments on the article.
Criticism is inevitably a companion of true leadership.
So, you have a choice.
Do nothing significant.
Prepare for some criticism.
In my next post, I’ll talk about how to handle and filter the criticism you get.
But in the meantime, I hope in some strange way, this post encourages you.
If you’re attracting criticism, it just may be a sign you’re doing something significant.
And if you’re not, maybe you should get started.