When Criticism Comes… Part 2
Every leader deals with criticism. It often comes at the wrong time, in the wrong way, from the wrong person, for the wrong reason (see Part 1). David gives us a Biblical pattern for handling criticism in the ancient story of his feud with his son Absalom. A man named Shimei took the opportunity of David’s misfortune to heap abuse upon him in a public way. What David did, I pray that I can do as well, WHEN, not if, criticism comes my way.
When Criticism comes, exercise SELF CONTROL (2 Samuel 16:9-10).
When Shimei criticized David, his friend Abishai was ready with a solution, “Let me go over and remove his head!” 2 Samuel 16:9. Don’t we all want a friend like Abishai! David dismissed this rash reaction and demonstrated self-control instead. Abishai’s solution may have been within his power and maybe even his right, but it would have been sinful before God and would have added more guilt and emotional baggage to his already heavy burden. That’s always what rash reactions that lack self-control will produce. Self-control always trumps retaliation and hostility. Proverbs 16:32 says, “Better to be patient than powerful; better to have self-control than to conquer a city.”
When Criticism comes, think deeply about the SOURCE and SUBSTANCE (2 Samuel 16:10).
David did not automatically demonize Shimei, but considered that God might be using him in some way. He ask in a sense, “Was God trying to tell me something through this hostile Benjamite?” In listening to critics, we must take time and in wisdom consider any truth in the message so that we can learn and grow and adjust in our leadership. Doing this toward a harsh critic will demonstrate our patience and desire for growth to everyone around us. Proverbs 15:31 says, “If you listen to constructive criticism, you will be at home among the wise.”
When Criticism comes, do not get DISTRACTED from your purpose (2 Samuel 16:11).
David’s primary concern was not Shimei, but Absalom. In verse 11, he reminds his men of the real danger, “My son… is trying to take my life…!” David’s main objective was to get himself and his company to safety. He did not allow this criticism to distract him in this moment.
Criticism has the power to knock us off course. The best defense system against criticisms distracting power is a sure sense of God’s calling and confidence of your place in His mission.
When Criticism comes, TRUST GOD to bring good out of the situation (2 Samuel 16:12).
David demonstrated that his trust was in God to hear and respond by bringing good out of the hostility of Shimei and Absalom. He did not assume it to be so, but he put his hope in God’s goodness. This hope gave him the strength and desire to absorb the criticism and carry on with his mission.
Whether it be a hostile critic, the darkness of a sick loved one, the death of a family member, or an unfulfilled dream; we can know that God is always there and that he will at some point, in this life or the next, bring good out of the cursing (Romans 8:28).
Jesus himself exemplified this kind of self-control and trust in God as he faced a hostile crowd that hurled more than just words at him. 1 Peter 2:23 – “when he was insulted, he did not insult in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten but entrusted himself to the one who judges justly.”
Criticism is part of leadership. Our response can make it a foe that creates greater conflict, distracts us, keeps us discouraged; or a friend that makes us stronger, more dependent on God, and an example of Christ-likeness to the world.