By Tommy Rush

I’ve been a sports nut my entire life. And most sport’s fans can get super nutty at times. It was sad just a few weeks ago to see a young quarterback for a major university get booed by fans before the game even started. Even though the team was undefeated, the fans were upset with the lack of offensive productivity and wanted to see greater margins of victory than they were seeing.

It was even more troubling to see the Ole Miss/Tennessee game stopped for almost 30 minutes last Saturday by angry fans throwing bottles and trash on the field. The Head Coach of Ole Miss was actually hit with a golf ball throw from the stands by an angry fan. It’s never easy to encounter loud critics, but when the angry criticism comes from a crowd of 100,000 or more it rises to an entirely new level. Criticism can sometimes turn ugly and destructive but sometimes it can be constructive and given in a way that helps us. One thing is for certain and that’s the reality that criticism is a fact of life. It definitely comes to everyone who gets involved and finds themselves in any role of leadership.

Aristotle once wrote, “Criticism is something you can avoid easily—by saying nothing, doing nothing and being nothing.” John Maxwell likes to say, “If you’re getting kicked in the rear, it means you’re in the front.” What he was saying was if you’re going to be a leader, you’re going to be criticized. So get used to it. He was not saying that our critics are always right. Sometimes the criticism is wrong and unfair, but even when unfair criticism comes our way we can learn and grow from it. Let’s be honest, sometimes our worst critics are right and we need to hear what they have to say. Some of the best advice I’ve received related to criticism has been,“Listen to your critics, but don’t let the criticism dominate your thinking. Learn from it but don’t be controlled by it”

The truth is that all criticism has at least a grain of truth in it. And it’s always good to ask a few questions when criticism comes your way: Who is giving the criticism? In what spirit was the criticism given? Was it given in a spirit of concern and love or a spirit of anger? And why was the criticism given? Was it given to help me or inflict pain on me? I love how the Bible reminds me that the people who love us will be honest with us. Proverbs says, “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses” (Proverbs 27:6). In other words, the people who really care about you will love you enough to tell you the truth even if it feels like they are being critical. And then God tells us, “He who listens to a life-giving rebuke will be at home among the wise” (Proverbs 15:31). Notice, a rebuke can actually be “life-giving.” It doesn’t usually feel life-giving. When someone points out something they don’t like about us, it hurts. It stings. But God says if we heed that criticism or rebuke, we’re showing how wise we are.