1Sa 30:6 And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the LORD his God.
How to handle the critics
There is not one single Christian who has served the Lord for any length of time without their fair share of criticism. In fact, all CEOs, entrepreneurs, successful athletes, pastors, preachers, church leaders, politicians (good or bad) have dealt with their fair share of criticism. Throughout the scriptures you will find many occasions where God greatly used a leader but it came with much back biting and criticism.
1. Don’t respond directly
In our text above we find a story of David who was “greatly distressed” because of what the people had been saying they wanted to do to him as a result of a decision he had made. David had led his men into battle and while he was away the city was burned and the women and children were taken captive. It is important to note that one of the key methods David used to handle his critics was actually not responding to them directly. It is very wise when dealing with critics to always pray before responding. It should be noted that not all criticism is bad, therefore we should always consider the critic and their intent. I receive, invite and welcome constructive criticism (which I personally interpret as instruction) from wise and godly sources.
Pr 9:9 Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning.
2. Seek the Lord first
David, even during a difficult time sought the Lord before deciding his next move. The men may have forgotten during this stressful event that David was suffering personally as well. This is part of leadership. People don’t realize that we may already be hurting on the inside. Nevertheless, David drew closer to the Lord and encouraged himself in the Lord. David got his strength, his confidence and direction from God. After David received the help from God he needed then he had the wisdom on how to respond. In this case God told him to pursue after the enemy and rescue his family and claim the victory.
3. Control your emotions
It is easy in the heat of the moment to lash back out. People often pride themselves on speaking their mind, yet the scriptures state that this is not necessarily good.
Pr 29:11 ¶ A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards.
Even though all the fingers were pointed at David it did not seem he was interested in pointing the fingers back. One thing I have learned in leadership is that when things go right, you share the praise; when things go wrong, you take responsibility. David could have played the blame game but he didn’t. David, regardless of his emotions pondered within himself and took the matter to the Lord. We need to remember this important step when dealing with critics. Its easy to speak our minds, it shows character to control our emotions and do the right thing. Even as a pastor I have had people sit across the table or desk on multiple occasions with attack after attack or criticism after criticism. My pride wanted to respond and lash back out but it would only make matters worse. I wish I could tell you I always responded properly but I am still a work in progress. “Character Under Construction”
Pr 15:1 ¶ A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.
Another important aspect to remember is that all of this was just rhetoric. The bible says the people “spake” of stoning him but they never actually did. It is so interesting that we always allow ourselves to get into an uproar over what people are saying but not actually doing. Many times people try to put teeth to their bite by saying “people are saying” but most often I have learned its actually just one or two. People are going to talk and we can’t help that but don’t let it distract you from the task at hand.
4. Remember whats important
David despite the pressure, distress, and the critics, was able to keep his focus. He didn’t respond directly, he sought the Lord. He didn’t act irrationally, he remembered what was important. What was important was to rescue his family and the rest of those taken captive. What is important to me as a pastor is to “rescue the perishing and care for the dying.” It is so easy to be distracted by critics that we forget what is most important. I have often received lots of criticism for my evangelistic efforts but it has always been by those who are not evangelizing. It reminds me of the story of D.L. Moody who was criticized by a lady for his evangelistic efforts to which he responded with something like this; “I’m sorry, I don’t like the way I do it either, how do you do it?” to which she replied, “Well I don’t do it.” Moody replied, “Well I like the way I’m doing it better than the way your are not doing it.” What’s most important is to please the Lord. Focus on God’s will for your life. Personally I have learned one of the best ways to respond to critics is to simply accomplish the task they said you could not do. Let the critics talk, seek the Lord, and finish the task God gave you to do.