I’m a big Thom Rainer fan. Thom has written numerous books on church leadership as well as regularly posting thoughtful articles at his blog.
Several days ago, he posted a list of five ways to respond to criticism —
Overall we heard five common themes on how the leaders respond to anonymous letters. They are listed in order of frequency of response:
They quickly dispose of the letters. By far the most common response was to get the letter out of sight as quickly as possible. Many leaders simply do not believe an anonymous critic warrants any attention.
They never see them. A significant number of leaders have assistants who read their mail. They have been instructed to dispose of anonymous letters before the leader sees them. Some give the assistants the latitude to make exceptions if they deem the content really warrants it.
They ask confidants if any of the criticisms have merit. Only about one-fourth of leaders responding take this path. Some say they will go to their spouses first for insight and perspective.
They pray for the critic. Though the number was relatively small, some leaders did take this action. “The critic is obviously angry or hurting,” one leader responded. “The least I can do is to pray for that person.”
They make the criticism public. A relatively small number of leaders will actually send copies of the criticism to a larger body. They then ask the group for any perspective they can offer.
What do you think (the comments at Thom’s blog are well worth your time as well)? How do you preachers and elders handle anonymous criticisms?
As I was finishing this post, I stumbled across a blog post from Jeremy Carr that offers this wisdom —
It’s been said that “hurting people hurt people.” When facing criticism, answer the person behind the issue, not just the issue itself. Your critic may have some previous hurt or current struggle prompting the criticism targeted at you. The criticism is sometimes a manifestation of experienced brokenness.
If we accept the premise that hateful, anonymous letters are in fact a cry of pain arising from brokenness, what should our response to such letters be?