Too bad the only people who know how to run this country are busy driving cabs and
How to Bury a Good Idea
It will never work,
We've never done it that way before.
We're doing fine without it.
We can't afford it.
We're not ready for it.
It's not our responsibility.
Bits & Pieces, June 23, 1994, p. 10.
Lord, deliver me from the lust of vindicating myself.
Let the man who says it cannot be done not disturb the man doing it.
Being criticized is not a problem if you develop a positive way of dealing with it.
Winston Churchill had the following words of Abe Lincoln framed on the wall of his office:
"I do the very best I can, I mean to keep going. If the end brings me out all right,
then what is said against me won't matter. If I'm wrong, ten angels swearing I was right
won't make a difference."
Bits & Pieces, April 29, 1993, pp. 15-16 .
Advice from Dr. Mitchell's life: Someone in his congregation pointed out several faults
in him and his preaching. Instead of retaliating, or trying to defend himself, he looked
at the woman and said, "If what you say is true, would you mind praying for me?"
Before we are too harsh in judging those scribes and Pharisees of Jesus' day, let's
stop and look at ourselves. All too many Christians today go to church to find fault, to
gossip, and to criticize. Warren Wiersbe, in his book Angry People, wrote, "An
incident in the life of Joseph Parker, the great British preacher, illustrates this tragic
truth. He was preaching at the City Temple in London. After the service one of the
listeners came up to him and said, 'Dr. Parker, you made a grammatical error in your
sermon.' He then proceeded to point out the error to the pastor. Joseph Parker looked at
the man and said, 'And what else did you get out of the message?' What a fitting
Don't write or say anything that you won't sign your name to. If you receive a
negative, anonymous note, ignore it! If they're not willing to sign their name, it's not
worth reading don't take heed to it. Like the pastor who received an anonymous note with
nothing but the word "FOOL!" written on it. The next morning he got in church
and said, "I've gotten many notes without signatures before but this is the first
time I got one where someone forgot to write the note and just signed his name!"
It is said that when the British and French were fighting in Canada in the 1750s,
Admiral Phipps, commander of the British fleet, was told to anchor outside Quebec. He was
given orders to wait for the British land forces to arrive, then support them when they
attacked the city. Phipps' navy arrived early. As the admiral waited, he became annoyed by
the statues of the saints that adorned the towers of a nearby cathedral, so he commanded
his men to shoot at them with the ships' cannons. No one knows how many rounds were fired
or how many statues were knocked out, but when the land forces arrived and the signal was
given to attack, the admiral was of no help. He had used up all his ammunition shooting at
English evangelist George Whitefield (1714-1770) learned that it was more important to
please God than to please men. Knowing that he was doing what was honoring to the Lord
kept him from discouragement when he was falsely accused by his enemies. At one point in
his ministry, Whitefield received a vicious letter accusing him of wrongdoing. His reply
was brief and courteous: "I thank you heartily for your letter. As for what you and
my other enemies are saying against me, I know worse things about myself than you will
ever say about me. With love in Christ, George Whitefield." He didn't try to defend
himself. He was much more concerned about pleasing the Lord.
Daily Bread, August 18, 1992.
One of the rarest management skills -- and one of the most difficult to learn -- is how
to criticize constructively. Constructive criticism shows consideration for other people's
feelings and invites their suggestions and cooperation. When you can't figure out how to
criticize something constructively, the wisest course is to keep your mouth shut until you
do. Criticism that starts out by attacking people and putting them in the position of
having to defend themselves often turns small problems into big ones. Usually the best way
to start is with simple, friendly questions, queries that will give people a chance to
explain their position without being offended and without getting excited. Then, after
you've listened carefully, suggest the changes you'd like them to make -- whatever they
are -- and see what they think of them.
Don't push for an immediate decision if it isn't necessary, or if there is still
substantial disagreement. Ask them to think it over. Tell them you will too. Later, if you
still believe in the changes you want to make, get together with them again. Explain that
you've thought it over carefully and still believe the idea is worth a try. Tell them you
feel an obligation to give it a fair chance, and you're counting on them to do the same.
One other important point; when you have to criticize or question someone's actions or
ideas, always to it to his or her face. Discuss it with the person involved. Don't let him
or her hear your criticism secondhand.
Bits & Pieces, August 22, 1991.
Grace Coolidge, the wife of President Calvin Coolidge, tried to surprise her husband by
having his portrait painted. When it was finished, she hung it in the library of the White
House. Later the same morning the President happened to walk into the library accompanied
by a senator. They stared at the picture together in silence. Finally Coolidge commented
quietly: "I think so, too."
Bits & Pieces, January 9, 1992, p. 23.
One day a man met Spurgeon on the street, took off his hat and bowed, and said,
"The Rev. Mr. Spurgeon--a great humbug!" Spurgeon took off his hat and replied,
"Thank you for the compliment. I am glad to hear that I am a great anything!"
Wycliffe Handbook of Preaching & Preachers, p. 221.
Criticism is always difficult to accept, but if we receive it with humility and a
desire to improve our character it can be very helpful. Only a fool does not profit when
he is rebuked for his mistakes.
Several years ago I read a helpful article on this subject. It stated that when we are
criticized we ought to ask ourselves whether the criticism contains any truth. If it does,
we should learn form it, even when it is not given with the right motivation and in the
right spirit. The article then offered these four suggestions: (1) Commit the matter
instantly to God, asking Him to remove all resentment or countercriticism on your part and
teach you the needed lessons. (2) Remember that we are all great sinners and that the one
who has criticized us does not begin to know the worst about us. (3) If you have made a
mistake or committed a sin, humbly and frankly confess it to God and to anyone you may
have injured. (4) Be willing to learn afresh that you are not infallible and that you need
God's grace and wisdom every moment of the day to keep on the straight path.
When we are criticized, let's accept what is true and act upon it, thereby becoming a
stronger person. He who profits from rebuke is wise. H.G.B.
In his men's seminar, David Simmons, a former cornerback for the Dallas Cowboys, tells
about his childhood home. His father, a military man, was extremely demanding, rarely
saying a kind word, always pushing him with harsh criticism to do better. The father had
decided that he would never permit his son to feel any satisfaction from his
accomplishments, reminding him there were always new goals ahead. When Dave was a little
boy, his dad gave him a bicycle, unassembled, with the command that he put it together.
After Dave struggled to the point of tears with the difficult instructions and many parts,
his father said, "I knew you couldn't do it." Then he assembled it for him. When
Dave played football in high school, his father was unrelenting in his criticisms. In the
backyard of his home, after every game, his dad would go over every play and point out
Dave's errors. "Most boys got butterflies in the stomach before the game; I got them
afterwards. Facing my father was more stressful than facing any opposing team." By
the time he entered college, Dave hated his father and his harsh discipline. He chose to
play football at the University of Georgia because its campus was further from home than
any school that offered him a scholarship. After college, he became the second round draft
pick of the St. Louis cardinal's professional football club. Joe Namath (who later signed
with the New York Jets), was the club's first round pick that year. "Excited, "I
telephoned my father to tell him the good news. He said, 'How does it feel to be
second?'" Despite the hateful feelings he had for his father, Dave began to build a
bridge to his dad. Christ had come into his life during college years, and it was God's
love that made him turn to his father.
During visits home he stimulated conversation with him and listened with interest to
what his father had to say. He learned for the first time what his grandfather had been
like--a tough lumberjack known for his quick temper. Once he destroyed a pickup truck with
a sledgehammer because it wouldn't start, and he often beat his son. This new awareness
affected Dave dramatically. "Knowing about my father's upbringing not only made me
more sympathetic for him, but it helped me see that, under the circumstances, he might
have done much worse. By the time he died, I can honestly say we were friends."
Charles Sell, Unfinished Business,
Multnomah, 1989, p. 171ff.
To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.
Winston Churchill exemplified integrity and respect in the face of opposition. During
his last year in office, he attended an official ceremony. Several rows behind him two
gentlemen began whispering. "That's Winston Churchill." "They say he is
getting senile." "They say he should step aside and leave the running of the
nation to more dynamic and capable men." When the ceremony was over, Churchill turned
to the men and said, "Gentlemen, they also say he is deaf!"
Vital Speeches, March 1, 1987.
For every action, there is an equal and opposite criticism.
It is much easier to be critical than to be correct.
A young musician's concert was poorly received by the critics. The famous Finnish
composer Jean Sibelius consoled him by patting him on the shoulder and saying, 'Remember,
son, there is no city in the world where they have a statue to a critic.'
Grant me prudently to avoid him that flatters me, and to endure patiently him that
Thomas `a Kempis.
As much as 77% of everything we think is negative and counterproductive and works
against us. People who grow up in an average household hear "No" or are told
what they can't do more than 148,000 times by the time they reach age 18. Result:
Unintentional negative programming.
Shad Helmstetter in Homemade, January 1987.
The story is told of a judge who had been frequently ridiculed by a conceited lawyer.
When asked by a friend why he didn't rebuke his assailant, he replied, "In our town
lives a widow who has a dog. And whenever the moon shines, it goes outside and barks all
night." Having said that, the magistrate shifted the conversation to another subject.
Finally someone asked, "But Judge, what about the dog and the moon?"
"Oh," he replied, "the moon went on shining--that's all."
The warning of Leviticus 19:17, "...thou shalt surely rebuke thy neighbor, and not
allow sin upon him," is preceded by warnings against spreading slander and nursing
inner hatred You can easily determine, therefore, when you should criticize and when you
shouldn't by asking yourself these three questions: (1) Am I motivated by an earnest
desire for the welfare of the person I think needs correcting? (2) Am I going to face him
honestly, but gently? (3) Do I find the task thoroughly disagreeable, or am I secretly
getting some pleasure out of it?
He has the right to criticize who has the heart to help.
Most of us would rather be ruined by praise than helped by criticism. Nobody wants
constructive criticism. It's all we can do to put up with constructive praise.
You can't hold a man down without staying down with him.
Booker T. Washington.
When Ronald Reagan succeeded Edmund G. Brown as governor of California in 1967, Brown
told him: "There is a passage in War and Peace that every new governor with a big
majority should tack on his office wall. In it Count Rostov, after weeks as the toast of
elegant farewell parties, gallops off on his first cavalry charge and finds real bullets
snapping at his ears. 'Why, they're shooting at me,' he says. 'Me, whom everyone
Detroit Free Press.
Monuments are often built with the stones thrown at people during their lifetimes. An
example: Charles Spurgeon published several articles about heresy in the Baptist churches
(the 'Downgrade' controversy). The Baptist Union had to deal with him, and did so. Yet
upon his death an imposing statue of Spurgeon was placed at the entrance to the
headquarters building of the Baptist Union.
Fault finding is not difficult. Isaac Murray illustrates this in his story on how a dog
hitched to a lawn mower stopped pulling to bark at a passerby. The boy who was guiding the
mower said, "Don't mind the dog, he is just barking for an excuse to rest. It is
easier to bark than to pull the mower."
Two taxidermists stopped before a window in which an owl was on display. They
immediately began to criticize the way it was mounted. Its eyes were not natural; its
wings were not in proportion with its head; its feathers were not neatly arranged; and its
feet could be improved. When they had finished with their criticism, the old owl turned
his head...and winked at them.
A survey asked mothers to keep track of how many times they made negative, compared
with positive, comments to their children. They admitted that they criticized ten times
for every time they said something favorable. A three-year survey in one city's schools
found that the teachers were 75% negative. The study indicated that it takes four positive
statements from a teacher to offset the effects of one negative statement to a child.
Institute of Family Relations, in Homemade, Vol. 10, No. 12, December. 1986.
Joseph Parker stepped into the pulpit of the City Temple in London for his Thursday
sermon and announced that he was under some trepidation that day because of a letter he
had received. It seemed that a gentleman wrote to tell Parker that he would be in the
congregation that day for the express purpose of making a philosophical analysis of the
sermon. After a long pause, Parker said, "I may add that my trepidation is somewhat
mitigated by the fact that the gentleman spells philosophical with an 'f.'"
Handbook of Preaching & Preachers, Moody, 1984, p. 214.
Constructive criticism is an invaluable source of information for those who accept it.
Quite often we spend more time justifying, excusing or rationalizing an error, than in
trying to understand and benefit from criticism. When we are non-defensive we become aware
that constructive criticism is a real compliment to us. The person offering it is usually
uncomfortable in doing so, but if he is willing to endure the discomfort in order to help
us, we should listen and appreciate his suggestions. He runs the risk of arousing our
enmity, but he cares enough for our welfare to take this chance.
Rohrer, Hibler and Replogle, in Homemade,
The National Association of Suggestion Systems, a 900-member trade organization based
in Chicago, says a quarter of the 1.3 million suggestions received last year by its member
companies were used. The result? Companies were able to save over $1.25 billion and
awarded employees $128 million for their bright ideas.
Management Digest, September 1989.
PPM is a technique for discussing or criticizing ideas. The basic rule: You must state
two plus points before you can state a minus. This counteracts negativism by forcing you
to focus on the positive side on an idea first. In group situations, PPM encourages shy
people to offer their ideas without being afraid of a barrage of criticism.
Bienstock in Homemade, November 1985.
If you are a Christian, you can expect folks to criticize, but you ought to live so
nobody will believe them.
A young boy complained to his father that most of the church hymns were boring to
him--too far behind the times, tiresome tunes and meaningless words. His father put an end
to his son's complaints by saying, "If you think you can write better hymns, then why
don't you?" The boy went to his room and wrote his first hymn, "When I Survey
the Wondrous Cross." The year was 1690, the teenager was Isaac Watts. "Joy to
the World" is also among the almost 350 hymns written by him.
Whatever you do, you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon, there is always
someone to tell you you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising which tempt you
to believe that your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an
end requires some of the same courage which a soldier needs. Peace has its victories, but
it takes brave people to win them.
Ralph W. Emerson.