Posted by: Brad Beaman | November 5, 2007

Responding to Criticism


Responding to the Critics

Based on Nehemiah’s model, here are eight responses when the criticism comes.

1. Pray!
Nehemiah Prayed. It is the most obvious strategy to overcome criticism. There is an element of spiritual warfare when we overcome our critics. What a privilege to carry, everything to God in prayer.

Neh 4:4a Nehemiah prayed, “Oh listen to us, dear God.

2. Get mad.
Nehemiah got ticked off. You should realize that criticism strikes an emotional chord in us. This is balanced by our prayer strategy. We take it to God, let him know how you feel, Nehemiah expressed his true feelings to God.

Neh 4:4b-5 for we are despised. Turn their insults back on their own heads. Give them over as plunder in a land of captivity. 5 Do not cover up their guilt or blot out their sins from your sight, for they have thrown insults in the face of the builders.

3. Persevere
Keep going! Don’t quit. This whole criticism thing was a repeat of what had happened. Just 22 years prior to this criticism had brought the work of the temple to a total standstill (Ezra chapter 4). It was only through the prophetic ministry of Haggaiah and Zechariah that those rebuilding the temple got restarted and finished the work. They kept at it. The people had a heart for the work and persevered. Look at the phrase, “half its height.” Right when you get to the halfway point it can become discouraging.

Neh 4:6 We kept at it, repairing and rebuilding the wall. The whole wall was soon joined together and halfway to its intended height because the people had a heart for the work.

4. Refocus on the vision.
Focus on the work not on the critics. Remember why you do what you do. This is a powerful motivation for staying on the task. Andy Stanley has written and excellent book on Nehemiah called Visioneering. In his book he has a quote on refocusing the on the vision.

“Keep vision centered not critic centered: By responding this way Nehemiah avoided a common mistake associated with criticism. He did not allow his enemies to become the focus of his attention. Our natural response to criticism is to defend ourselves. This is especially true when our vision is under attack. We are tempted to begin dialogue with our critics or with those who are parroting their criticism. Consequently, we waste energy and thought trying to answer questions for people who are often not really interested in answers. Without realizing it, our focus begins to shift. Instead of being vision centered, we slowly become critic centered.” Visioneering by Andy Stanley, page 150

Neh 4:15 our enemies learned that we knew all about their plan and that God had frustrated it. And we went back to the wall and went to work.

5. Respond strategically
Prayer was central to how Nehemiah launched his counter criticism offensive, but that does not mean he did not have a strategy. It did not mean there was not hard work to do in response to the critics.

Neh 4:9 We countered with prayer to our God and set a round-the-clock guard against them.

6. Take a nap,
Respond to criticism with an afternoon nap! Remember it is fatigue that fuels criticism. Get more rest during seasons of criticism and don’t overwork. Israel’s success led to overwork and burn out in the first place. They were physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually exhausted. They did not plan for a time of rest. We call this building in margin. Getting proper rest prevents burn out and goes a long way in keeping the critics from destroying the work.

Nehemiah 4:23 We all slept….

7. Remember WIGTAKE
WIGTAKE stands for What’s it gonna take. Strong spiritual leadership embodies a WIGTAKE attitude. If that means sleeping with your clothes on then that’s what you do. You do what you have to do. You sleep in your clothes if that is what it take?

Neh 4:23 we all slept in our clothes–I, my brothers, my workmen, and the guards backing me up. And each one kept his spear in his hand, even when getting water.

8. Keep your spiritual focus
In seasons of criticism and preparing for the criticism that will inevitably come, have good Quiet times and remember the Lord.
Neh 4:14. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome…
These eight strategies worked for Nehemiah. He successfully guided his team back on track and finished the project.

You will probably face critics. But when you do go back through Nehemiah chapter 4. See how he did not let the critics bring him down.

Are you accomplishing something significant? Are things going well for you in your work, family, in your church? Are you successful having become a leader in your field? If so, watch out, you may likely be criticized. Success invites criticism.

In the Tour de France bicycle race the race leader is marked by a leader’s jersey, the Yellow Jersey. Professional cyclists dream of wearing the yellow jersey at the Tour de France. But the race goes on for 21 days and wearing the yellow jersey too early just invites criticism. Not only do the other racers work to dethrone the yellow jersey, but outside people work to bring down the yellow jersey holder.

This year the one who wore the yellow jersey had his computer hacked into. The media was willing to pay high dollar for incriminating information to break some story that would bring down the yellow jersey. When you lead in your field you wear the yellow jersey, so to speak and you are a threat to someone who feels they are losing control.

In Nehemiah chapter 4, Nehemiah was experiencing success. He has wearing the wall builder’s yellow jersey. He was very successfully leading God’s people to rebuild the walls around Jerusalem.

Rebuilding of the wall attracted the attention of the local political leaders. Because of Nehemiah’s success they felt threatened. The success in building the wall caught the attention of outsiders. Their enemies became afraid and sought to halt their progress. Sanballet was losing control, so he criticized.

I) How the Critics Operate

It helps you to know how the critics operate. Those who are being criticized today look at what Nehemiah went through and see an amazing similarity with modern day critics. Critics today use the same tactics. The critics make a public display of their criticism. The sidekicks start to chime in with criticism of their own. The critic’s goal is to discredit and embarrass. That is part of their plan to discourage and put a stop to the work.

Nehemiah 4:1-2 When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became angry and was greatly incensed. He ridiculed the Jews, 2 and in the presence of his associates and the army of Samaria, he said, “What are those feeble Jews doing? Will they restore their wall? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they finish in a day? Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble—burned as they are?”

In this case it was a governor named Sanballat who was seeing his world rocked by Nehemiah’s success. He wanted to stop the Nehemiah’s work. Sanballet criticized Nehemiah and the Jews publicly as part of his plan to thwart God’s people.

First the opposition leader makes the first move and criticizes publicly. The next step is for the cronies step up to the plate. Sanballot had his sidekick named Tobiah who added his voice to the criticism

Nehemiah 4:3 Tobiah the Ammonite, who was at his side, said, “What they are building—even a fox climbing up on it would break down their wall of stones!”

If words don’t stop the successful work, the critics will use sticks and stones. Threats and violence follow if the critic’s words do not stop the work. From the schoolyard bully on up the ladder, threats and violence are the tools used to stop a good work.

Nehemiah 4:7-8 When … they heard that the repairs to Jerusalem’s walls had gone ahead and that the gaps were being closed, they were very angry. 8 They all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and stir up trouble against it

Once the criticism is launched it is fueled by fatigue. The number one cause for discouragement is often criticism that has been fueled by fatigue. We have been working hard so we are just plain tired and worn-out. When we operate on the edge of burn-out a little criticism can go a long way.

The next thing in the chain reaction started by the criticism is it infects the insiders. For Nehemiah is was his own team that spread the criticism. Sometimes the most damage to the work comes from those who are inside. Now the damage is moved from outside to inside. Part of Nehemiah’s own team have their minds poisoned by the critics. They have succumbed to discouragement.

Nehemiah 4:10 Meanwhile, the people in Judah said, “The strength of the laborers is giving out, and there is so much rubble that we cannot rebuild the wall.”

Death threats are the critic’s trump card. Now fear is running rampant among the workers. What might happen to us if we continue? Fear prevails as people start believing the threats of the critics.

Nehemiah 4:11-12 Also our enemies said, “Before they know it or see us, we will be right there among them and will kill them and put an end to the work.” Then the Jews who lived near them came and told us ten times over, “Wherever you turn, they will attack us.”

There are some timeless truths here. Critics seem to operate much the same way Sanballot and his sidekick Tobiah did. But we also learn some timeless truths on how to respond to critics.


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