I remember standing in exhausted shock in the midst of my now-empty church after the first women’s ministry event I coordinated. I was the hero of the day, and I couldn’t quite take it all in. After waving good-bye to attendee after gushing attendee, I looked at my friend Peggy and said, “I have no idea what to do with all of that praise.”
She smiled wickedly and said, “Don’t worry. All the criticism is coming.”
She was right.
When you put yourself into a position of leadership of ANY kind–pastor, speaker, women’s ministry director, Sunday school teacher, etc–you will be introduced into the world of flying opinions. They’ll swirl around you (the good, the bad, and the ugly), and if you’re not careful, they’ll totally engulf and consume you.
Mark Driscoll has been quoted as saying, “Pastors (insert your leadership position here) have lots of foes and lots of fans but very few friends.” So true.
So what do we do with criticism? Perry Noble gives this wise advise, “If you listen to the criticism, you’ll think you’re worse than you are. If you listen to the praise, you’ll think you’re better than you are. If you listen to your friends, you’ll stay on the tight rope of balance.”
I absolutely LOVE that advise, because I’ve struggled with wild swings of thinking that I must be the pits to thinking I’ve finally got it all together. Both extremes are dangerous places to live. I so love to live “on the tight rope of balance”.
To stay firmly on the tightrope, I think it’s important to define the term “friend”. There have been times that I’ve mistaken both foes and fans as friends. My true friends are the ones who love me deeply despite my flaws but also have a clear view of those flaws. They’re the ones who don’t shrink back from telling the truth but who stir love, kindness and gentleness into those hard words. They’re the ones who will give me grace and the benefit of the doubt on my bad days but shut the lights and close the doors on extended pity parties. They’re the ones committed to do life with me even when it’s messy, but they bring Fantastic along for the ride. They’re the ones who will celebrate my successes and mourn my defeats right by my side. And I do the same for them.
These are the people that will keep me in balance as I strive to minister to others in a spirit of service and humility.
And what do we do with the praise? My friend Jane, a gifted worship leader and singer, paraphrased a quote from Corrie Ten Boom when she passed on her secret to receiving praise. Jane told me, “I take each compliment as a flower, and at the end of the day, I give the bouquet to Jesus.” That advise has helped me so much. My personality didn’t feel comfortable saying “Give Jesus all the glory” every time someone said something nice. I WANT Jesus to get all the glory, though. I just didn’t want the compliment-giver to feel rebuffed, so simply saying “thank you” while I receive the “flower” gratefully feels just right to me.
If you’re in leadership, I want to encourage you today. You are not as bad as your foes say. You’re also not as wonderful as your fans say. 🙂 But you are loved servant of God on a journey to being like Jesus with others in your wake. And that’s not only enough…it’s wonderful.