Do you ever struggle with pleasing others? Many people don’t believe it, but I do struggle with this. Part of my conversion to Christ happened in 9th grade: I realized I was acting so differently around different people, desperate to fit in and be liked. I let it all go and decided to fully trust Jesus with my life. I chose to live for His approval alone. That is easier said than done! I still struggle with wanting to be liked, and I struggle to say no to people without being unkind.
Here is the thing – if you waited until everyone was happy with you, nothing would ever get done. Even worse, your critics would realize they could control you with disapproval. We have to live to please God alone, and we can’t pause to discuss every disappointment. God is the only safe person to trust with our self-worth and significance.
I recently got to preach through Nehemiah. He had an uncanny ability to endure the critics and keep focused on the work God called him to complete. He knew when to stop and deal with a problem, when to say little, and when to ignore them. He was always full of prayer and looked to the Lord alone for his worth, approval, and recognition.
When it is time to deal with the critics, I have found the key is to be gracious without compromising on character or the mission of God. It is not my job to convince them I am right but their job to convince me I need to change. Often, the person is dealing with their own personal crisis or struggle – and taking it out on me or my work. The key is to LISTEN deeply, ask good questions, and try to understand where they are coming from. This takes longer, but gets to the real heart of the problem. When I have done this well, we both come to a deeper understanding of each other, and the person truly feels validated (even if I don’t change my decision). If there is a mistake on my end, I definitely apologize. If there is misinformation, I respond with a BIFF response: brief, informative, friendly, and firm. This is a quick response that corrects the wrong information but invites the person to continue sharing. I have not stolen the conversation from the other person.
What about you?
How do you handle the critics in your life?
How do you know when to deal with the critics and when to ignore them?
When you listen to the critics, how have you found is the best way to respond?
I would love to hear your thoughts!