Emotional Health

The Power of Forgiveness

forgiveness

One of the most powerful and helpful things we can do to be healthy emotionally, physically and spiritually, is to practice forgiveness.  Forgiveness enables a person to release buried anger, resentment, bitterness, shame, grief, regret, hate and other damaging emotions that live inside of us.  Forgiveness releases layers and years of hurt and begins the healing process.  Forgiveness leads to an ability to love well.

It is important to know what forgiveness is and what it is not.

  • Forgiveness is not forgetting – Forgetting is a long-term by-product of forgiveness.  Once you choose to forgive someone, then healing and forgetting the hurt can start to happen.
  • Forgiveness is a choice – Everyone can choose to forgive, but typically we don’t feel like forgiving, because we like to hold onto our anger or resentment in order to protect ourselves.  When we don’t forgive we stay chained to our past.  Nobody can fix your past, but you can be free from it, it is your choice.
  • Forgiveness is agreeing to live with the consequences of another person’s sin – We all have had someone hurt us and we can either live in the bondage of bitterness or the freedom of forgiveness.  No one gets off God’s hook, we all have to give an account for our actions and there are always consequences for our actions.
  • Forgive from the heart – Just saying the words I forgive you is not enough.  It’s important to bring back up the painful emotions and memories of the person that hurt you so that those emotions can be healed and not buried.
  • Forgiveness is choosing not to hold someone’s sin against him or her anymore – This does not mean that you put up with abuse, we all need healthy boundaries and there are consequences for sin.  This means that we won’t bring up old offenses after forgiving someone.  Remember that God freely forgives us and does not hold our sins against us.
  • Don’t wait until you feel like forgiving – Most people will never get there.  Make the hard choice to forgive, even if you don’t feel like it.  Once you choose to forgive, the hold on you is broken and God can start healing your damaged emotions.

We should never base our decision to forgive on a person’s good behavior compensating for previous hurtful behavior.  Forgiveness is something that happens inside of you, it comes from your desire to forgive for the sake of forgiving.  Waiting until a person is worthy of forgiveness will feed your damaged emotions and cause further hurt.

Always remember that it takes only one person to forgive, but it takes two people to reconcile.  You can forgive a person even if they don’t forgive you, but reconciliation always requires the wills of both parties involved.

There is so much more to forgiveness than what is covered here.  Some of the principles I covered come from Neil Anderson and his booklet called Steps to Freedom in Christ.  If your having a hard time making the choice to forgive, ask God to help you.  He can give you the strength to do it.

Surprised & Inspired

 

IMG_0832

God has a way of surprising and inspiring us in the most unexpected ways.  I am on a weekend retreat for men that run Radical Mentoring Groups.  I’ve done three of these groups and love it each time I do a group.  I’m meeting up with over 100 other men that are doing these types of groups across the country.  We are gathering in Cleveland GA, which is north of Atlanta near the mountains.

When I arrived I discovered that I had some extra time before the retreat started, so I decided to drive up into the mountains and do some sight seeing.  I found a park area and decided to do a little hiking.  The weather was sunny and near 50 degree’s.  For people in GA that’s really cold but for me it was perfect.  I was the only one at the park and had the trails to myself.

I decided to do some running and got my heart rate up as I climbed up to an amazing waterfall.  I then turned around and headed back another way and found a second waterfall.  As I was there I started talking to God and asked him why I was here and had this extra time.  Then it hit me hard – God was telling me he loved me!  As I stood in the middle of this amazing wooded area I was struck by God’s goodness and was humbled at the gift he gave me of free time to just enjoy his creation and talk with him.  The sense of how much he loved me stopped me in my tracks.

I asked him what else he wanted to tell me and I heard some simple things, here they are:

  • Love your wife and treat her well – You can do better
  • Mentor and invest more time in the young men you have influence with
  • Talk to me more often and find time to listen

So that’s the start of this retreat, I can’t wait for the rest of the weekend.  I am anticipating that God has something more for me this weekend.

The One Thing That Will Improve All Your Relationships

queue

Relationships can be messy, difficult and yet incredibly rewarding.

There are many things that go into a healthy, vibrant relationship like marriage.  But I believe there is one vital ingredient to a long-lasting, healthy relationship: Patience.

In Galatians 5:22 – as part of the fruit of the Spirit we find patience: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law”.

Then in 1 Corinthians 13:4 – “Love is patient…”  The author Paul is talking about the true meaning of loving someone well and he starts with patience.  In Galatians he is talking about evidence in our lives that we are growing spiritually, and right in the middle is patience.

So let’s take a closer look at patience:

Patience is the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble or suffering, without getting angry or upset. 

Wow, that is impossible, but incredibly powerful.  Imagine if you could do that on a consistent basis.  Your life would be less stressful, you would be healthier and your influence with other people would go up.  So how do you do that?

  • Remind yourself that things take time. People who are impatient are people who insist on getting things done now and don’t like to waste time. However, some things just can’t be rushed. You have very little control over much in life.  You can choose to be patient though.
  • Think about your happiest memories. Chances are, they were instances when your patience paid off, like when you worked steadily toward a goal that wasn’t immediately gratifying, or took a little extra time to spend leisurely with a loved one. Would you have those memories if you had been impatient? Probably not.  Good things may not always come to those who wait, but most good things that do come don’t happen right away.
  • Remember what matters. Not focusing on what matters most in this life fuels impatience. Being kind, generous in forgiveness of others, being grateful for what is, and taking full advantage of what matters most helps you to be more patient. In other words don’t sweat the small stuff.
  • Work on having a positive outlook in life – Being positive is imperative to possessing a sense of patience. Believing the best about a person helps you be more patient and loving.  Remember that relationships are not a race, but a journey to be savored each step of the way.  If your naturally negative it will take more work to be patient, but it can change your life.
  • Expect the unexpected. Yes, you have plans, but things don’t always work out as planned. Accept the twist and turns in life gracefully. Keep your expectations realistic. This applies not only to circumstances, but also the behavior of those around you.
  • Stop holding yourself and the world around you to unattainable standards. Sure, we’d all be more patient if he would always listen, she would stop complaining, traffic flowed smoothly, and people didn’t make stupid decisions – but that’s never going to happen. Expecting the world to run smoothly is like beating your head against the wall. Give yourself and others a break!

The Benefits of Developing Patience

  1. Reduces stress levels and makes you a happier, healthier person.  When you learn and practice patience you don’t get as stressed or overwhelmed. You are more in control of your emotions and in a better position to deal with difficult situations with ease and poise.
  1. Results in better decision-making  When you’re patient you take the time to assess the situation, see the big picture, and weigh any pros and cons. The chances of making a big mistake lessen because you avoid making it in haste. Taking the time to problem solve and work out our conflicts requires patience and deliberation.
  1. Helps develop understanding, empathy and compassion.  You are automatically more understanding and compassionate with others when you yourself are patient. Patient people take the time to process what they go through and are able to determine what it takes to overcome obstacles so they are more understanding of others. This results in better, more fulfilling relationships with spouses, friends, children and bosses.
  1. Helps you understand and appreciate the process of growth.  As mentioned earlier anything worthwhile takes time and effort to achieve.  Planning, growth, evaluation and measurement all take time, and taking time takes patience. Just like a gardener has to be patient for things in the garden to grow, so we need to be patient with the people around us.

 Tips on How to Develop Patience

 

  1. Take a day where you make patience your goal for the entire day.  Make a concerted effort to take your time and think about everything you do, be mindful and live in the moment.  At the end of the day, observe all the ways in which you’ve made smarter decisions, got along better with others and actually understood what took place. Learn to do it on a daily basis. Developing patience is much like physical exercise because it requires persistence and effort.
  2. Slow down.  If you have the tendency to rush around and try to hurry things up, want things done immediately and can’t wait for things to take their natural course, STOP. Take several deep breaths before you act or make a move. For example, if you’re in a long lineup at the grocery store or in heavy traffic, make the decision to pause and not get worked up. Talk to God, listen to the radio, or just enjoy the view. Getting impatient won’t make things move along any faster, so why get worked up for nothing?
  3. Practice delaying gratification.  Instead of escaping to your familiar thing like watching TV, working out, reading, shopping, drinking or eating, work on the real issues and resolve conflict first.
  4. Practice thinking before you speak.  At times we blurt out the first thought that comes into our heads without considering the consequences. If we’re patient, pause and go over what we want to say, we can avoid hurting or offending others.

None of this is possible on a consistent basis without including God.  On our own we will fall short every time, yet we can plug into the power of God.  So in those moments when you do not want to be patient, a quick prayer asking for help can change everything.

One last thing, when someone is mistreating you or abusing you, patience should only apply with how you respond.  Not responding in a way that fuels the fire.  You should never simply take abuse.  Setting boundaries and consequences is important in those situations.  If your in an abusive relationship go get help and set clear boundaries.

Refocus Your Relationships

Fear Is A Liar

Last night I taught a class called Refocus Your Marriage.  Really it could be called Refocus Your Relationships.  I thought I would share a few of the opening comments I shared with that group.

Here are three important truths to remember:

  1. You are made for relationships – We are made to need relationships.  We all have three primary types of relationships:  With others, with ourselves and with God.  Each of those areas needs our attention and development.
  2. You are made with the capacity to Choose – God gave each of us the power to choose.  Choice equals change.  Making a choice is often difficult because it requires change, and that change can be threatening.  We choose how we react to everything around us.  We choose the thoughts we have and those thoughts lead to emotions and behaviors.  So in essence we can control our emotions and behaviors by the way in which we think.
  3. You are made to take responsibility for yourself – The only thing you have control over is yourself.  You get to choose how you think, what you think, what you say and what you do.  When you start to focus on yourself and how you can grow and change you will begin to make progress in your relationships.

I want to introduce you to the emotion that destroys relationships.  This has been going on for thousands of years since the beginning with Adam & Eve.  It has been destroying relationships and people very effectively.  At the core of every person is a button called fear.  That fear takes many shapes, things like fear of failure, fear of abandonment, fear of rejection, you name it.

From where does this fear come from?  Let’s take a look at the creation story with fresh eyes Genesis 2:17 – After God created Adam & Eve, he informed them about two special trees blossoming in the middle of the garden:  The tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  Regarding the first he gave no commandment.  But the second he said “you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”

Why did God create a perfect garden and then put these two trees right in the middle?  Why not outside the garden?  I think it was because he created us to depend on him, not living an autonomous life apart from him.  He gave that command to not eat of the tree so that we wouldn’t become self-sustaining and insist on stubborn control of our own lives.  He wanted us to daily choose to trust Him for everything we need.

I believe that command created a healthy fear in Adam & Eve, the fear of being separated from God.  It also created a fear of losing each other as well.  Well along comes Satan, or the Serpent and he plays on this fear.  “Did God really say, You must not eat from any tree in the garden?”  Eve replies exactly what God told them, we can eat from any tree in the garden  except the tree in the middle of the garden, you must not touch it or you will die.

“You will not surely die, serpent said to the woman.  For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.  My guess is that Eve thought that her fear of being separated from God was not true and therefore took the fruit.  This caused a whole new fear to take root.  This fear was unhealthy and destructive.  When Adam & Eve heard God walking in the garden they hid, because they were afraid.  There fear caused them to respond in a certain way.  After eating the fruit their response became unhealthy, defensiveness, blaming others.

Our relationships are much the same way.  We all have hurts from our past or guilt from us hurting someone else.  Those hurts and guilt drive the fear that drives our unhealthy behaviors.  That causes us to struggle to have healthy, happy relationships.  To learn more about this idea of fear and relationships read the book by Gary Smalley called “The DNA of Relationships”.

 

The Game Changing Relational Skill

Empathy is critical to emotional health. This is the ability to discern emotions in others and then experience, within ourselves, the same emotion. This is much different than sympathy, which is the mental awareness of what another person is going through.

Developing the ability to empathize is important if you want to improve your relationships and get healthy emotionally. Why is it important to be healthy emotionally. Well, I believe that our emotions play a big part in our physical and spiritual health as well. Emotions live inside us and if painful emotions are living inside you they eventually come out in behavior, thoughts and attitude. Unresolved emotions can lead to physical illness and mental damage as well. It also affects your relationship with God.

Emotions should not control us, we should understand and control our emotions. We should not try to shut off our emotions or hide them, that is why empathy is so important. It helps us to connect with and understand other people much better.

To develop empathy we must learn to listen and observe words, sounds and body language. Jesus was amazingly empathetic. He was moved with compassion as he discerned the needs and pain of others. Read Mathew 9:36 and 20:34.

When we can empathize with someone three things will happen:

1. The other person will feel that someone cares for them and is willing to enter into their emotional world.
2. They feel like someone understands them.
3. They feel that it’s ok to be emotional and express emotions, in other words, my emotions are legitimate.

All emotions can be grouped into two categories: Potentially painful and potentially positive. The Bible teaches us how to attune or empathize to these two groups of emotions. In Romans 12:15 it says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.”

When someone is sad, we often think it is important to try to cheer them up. That is our natural response, but what is actually most helpful is to be sad with that person. Seems odd, but that is what empathy is. The people around us will feel blessed when we allow and encourage them to express their positive or painful emotions and we either rejoice or mourn with them.

This life skill of empathy is a game-changer for relating to other people. This skill allows you to connect with people in a way that helps them feel safe and valued. They will actually feel better after talking with you than before. It also helps you to better understand why people do what they do.

As a mentor and a pastor this skill has helped me to help other people. When people cannot process their emotions with someone they end up in a downward spiral that leads to destruction of relationships, and their physical well being. It often causes them to feel distant from God as well. To stay healthy emotionally a person must be able to process and express their emotions to God and other people.

As a leader, spouse, parent, boss, employee, sibling or friend, the ability to empathize will improve your relationships and deepen them as well. Learning this skill takes time, effort and patience. Paying attention to the details, asking the right questions and sometimes just being silent and feeling the emotion the other person is feeling. This can be hard work and frustrating at times, but in the long run empathy leads to better emotional health for you and those around you.

Cows vs. Buffalo

I was listening to a podcast interview with author and speaker Rory Vanden, talking about his new book Take the Stairs: 7 Steps to Achieving True Success. I bought the book today and plan on reading it right away.

One of the stories he talked about was about the difference between cows and buffalo.

In Colorado they have both cows and buffalo. One of the unique differences is how they react when a storm is heading their way. Cows will see a storm coming and will turn and try to run away from the storm. The storm usually catches them and they actually run with the storm and suffer along the way. The Buffalo will see a storm coming and will run right at the storm. They end up running right through the storm and only encounter a short time of suffering and discomfort.

Most of us act more like cows than buffalo. We try to avoid the storms of life by running away from them. Our natural response is to escape and run in the opposite direction, when we really should run right at the storm.

When we run at the storm we are facing reality and are doing the hard thing. But by doing the hard thing we minimize the pain long-term by making the difficult decision now.

So if your in the midst of a storm, turn and face it. Don’t allow the fear of the storm to make you turn tail and run. Have the hard conversation, ask the tough questions, set the firm boundaries, say no and run right through the storm.

The only way we can do this is with the help of God. If you are running from a storm, ask God to give you the courage to face that storm head on and the wisdom to know how to run through it.

What Ticks You Off?

We all have things that set us off. I like to refer to them as our buttons, and when pushed we respond. Our response tends to be some sort of a defense mechanism. Think about the last time you really got tee’d off. You could feel the blood rushing to your head and that weird feeling in your stomach. Then you either said something sarcastic, funny or hurtful, or maybe you raised your voice. Others may have calmly explained how wrong the other person was or defend our actions and some go silent.

All of those behaviors are unhealthy and lead to increased conflict. As we grow up, we learn how to handle things that hurt us or make us mad. Nearly all of us have learned the wrong way of doing this. Unfortunately we all had bad examples growing up and of course we have a sinful nature.

So where do these button come from? Why do I get so mad at some things and other things don’t seem to bother me? Again we have to look back in order to understand. We all have core fears that have been ingrained in us from past life experience. Things like rejection, failure, being ignored, being misunderstood, being abused, being humiliated or neglected. All of those things shape the fears inside us.

When we experience a situation that brings up a similar emotion or feeling that fear button gets tapped and we are off to the races. By the time we realize it, it is often too late, we have turned around and pushed the other persons button as well and we are in the midst of full blown conflict.

So how do we overcome this all too familiar pattern? Here are a few ideas:
* First you need to find out what your core fear is. I highly recommend the book called the DNA of Relationships by Gary Smalley. He has a test in the back of the book to help you discover your core fears.
* Once you have identified what sets you off, start praying for God to help you in that area. Ask for courage to see it coming and to respond in a better way. Also talk to a trusted friend or mentor about it and ask them to pray as well, and ask you how you are progressing in changing.
* Start asking yourself why am I so mad about this? A simple question like that can help to think more rationally and not emotionally.
* Awareness and accountability are important, yet without some action not much will change. Learning new behaviors takes hard work and practice. having the humility to go get help is very important when making big shifts in behavior. Go see a counselor, life coach or pastor to help work through these changes.

So here is the bottom line. If you want to have healthy, thriving relationships in your life you will need to understand your buttons and learn how to respond in a healthy way when they are pushed.

7 Distractions That Keep Us From Growing

Most of us would agree that there are areas of our lives that are not where we want them to be.  It might be a marriage relationship that has deteriorated or maybe a relationship with a son or daughter or parent that is unhealthy.  Maybe we are not where we want to be in our professional lives.  For some it could be emotional health, hurts from our past that are causing problems in our present lives.  Many of us struggle to be where we want to be spiritually as well.  So what holds us back from growing in these important areas of our lives?  Why do so many people simple remain the same and maintain the status quo instead of growing and changing?

Here are some of the distractions that keep us from growing:

  1. Busyness – Being consumed in a rat-race to keep up and get things done does not allow us the margin to think deeply and focus on the important things. We keep adding things to our lives without stopping other things, so the list just gets bigger and longer.
  2. Comforts – Most people look for and desire comfort and when they find it they become trapped by it.  Getting out of our comfort zone becomes more difficult the longer we stay there.
  3. Too Many Options – Today there are so many opportunities to learn and grow and change that we can sometime be confused by the wide range of options and opportunities.  When we have too many options, we often choose nothing.  This can also lead us to simply be busy because we choose to do too much.
  4. Insecurity – If we don’t really know who we are, how can we know what we are suited to do or where we should go.
  5. The Past – Issues not dealt with will hold us back, and this is often expressed through fear.  Fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of being misunderstood, fear of being inadequate and hundreds of other fears.  These fears pop up every time we experience something that connects us to our past hurts.
  6. Laziness – This is often what keeps us in our comfort zone.
  7. Secret Sin – This dulls our senses and blocks our ability to enjoy healthy emotions and relationships.  It keeps us from the vision that God has for our lives and keeps us stuck in darkness and slaves to sin.

One or more of these may be keeping you from growing and making progress in certain areas of your life.  In order to move forward it takes a decision to face these things head on by first acknowledging the problem and then developing a plan to make a change.

I love to spend time planning this time of year.  It is a great time to evaluate where we are at in all the important areas of our lives.  If there is an area we are not happy with, we can begin to focus on how to make a change in that area.  It might mean getting help from someone that has been through what you are dealing with or taking a risk to try something new or different.  The important thing is to acknowledge that you do not want to remain the same and that you desire to grow.  Then start praying and asking God to help make this happen.  A year from now will you be the same person you are today or will you be in a new place spiritually, emotionally, physically, relationally and financially?

How Healthy Are You?

 

When we talk about health most of us think about our physical health.  That is an important thing and I try to take that seriously by eating healthy and exercising.  Emotional and spiritual health is something we don’t think about or talk about as much.  I believe that they are even more important than physical health because they contribute to physical health.  When we are unhealthy emotionally or spiritually it can actually contribute to physical problems because of the unhealthy beliefs and thinking that contribute to the emotional state we are in.  So how do we get a handle on how healthy we are emotionally.

One of the biggest indicators of emotional health is the level of trust a person has.  The dysfunction of mistrust hurts relationships, marriages, work environments, churches, families and even entire countries.  Mistrust and control often go hand in hand.  At its core control comes from not trusting others to make healthy and wise choices.  Mistrust is often present when there is not proper clarity and when boundaries are not defined.  When their is a lack of communication people begin to mistrust.  Here are some things that create a culture of mistrust, either at home or at work:

  1. Approaching people from the beginning with an attitude of mistrust. Many people have a built-in attitude of mistrust.  This attitude says, “I will not trust you until you prove that I can trust you.”  That is the reverse of what a healthy person would think.  This attitude often is the result of being hurt in the past and therefore guarding against that ever happening again.
  2. Believing something to be true when you don’t have all the facts.  In other words assuming things that turn out to be false or untrue.  This happens when you don’t ask questions and dig for the truth.  It also happens when you automatically think the worst instead of believe the best.
  3. Believing what someone says without hearing the other side of the story or knowing all the facts.
    Healthy people don’t draw conclusions without doing due diligence.

So how do you build trust?  How do you change a culture in a home, church or workplace that has mistrust?

  1. Choose to trust unless you are given a reason not to.
  2. Assume that motives are right even when you disagree.
  3. Be proactive in clarifying issues rather than assuming something to be true.

Finally here are some trust building principles that will help transform your relationships at home and at work.

  • Choose to Trust – Choose to trust people unless they give you a reason not to.  When trust is broken make the effort to let that person know how trust can be re-established.
  • Be up-front and candid – Tell people what you are thinking and don’t hope they pick up on your hints.  Tell people what your expectations are and be clear about what you are thinking and why.
  • Keep your Promises – Do what you say you will do and be honest when you know you can’t.
  • Act Consistently – Your life needs to match your words.  You need to be consistent in how you treat people, how you express love to people and how you handle conflict.
  • Listen Carefully – This will transform your relationships because it will help to cut down on misunderstandings.  To listen well you need to ask clarifying questions, repeat back what the person said, honestly consider peoples opinions and suggestions and even change your mind if they have a better idea.  Seek first to understand and then to be understood.
  • Caring for People – Be genuine and treat people the way you would want to be treated.  Care about them as a whole person not just for how they can help you.  No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.
  • Be Self-Disclosing -Be quick to admit your own weaknesses and when you have made a mistake.  Share your story with people in appropriate ways.  For people you are close with open up and share the good the bad and the ugly.  If you are hiding something, it eventually comes out in your behavior.
  • Empower people don’t control – Give people the freedom to do what they are responsible to do.  Allow them to make mistakes and coach when necessary.  In a marriage relationship this means allowing your spouse to have other friends and activities they enjoy.  Clarify your desires and vision for your marriage.  Speak their love language without expecting them to speak yours.  Don’t give in order to get.
  • Clarify, don’t Assume – Always believe the best instead of assuming the worst.  When he is late again, believe that he had a busy day and something unexpected came up instead of assuming he intentionally worked late to make you mad.

Healthy people trust, unhealthy people mistrust.  It is the same way spiritually.  Healthy people trust God completely and believe He will do what he says He will do.  I encourage you to get healthy, take a risk and start trusting more.

7 Ways Leaders Should Handle Criticism

If you have been in leadership for any length of time you know that you will always get criticized and that criticism always changes you as a leader, whether in a good way or a bad way.  Unhappy people tend to attack the point person.  We see this throughout the Bible, when Moses was leading his people through the desert they were constantly complaining and criticizing.  His own family criticized him, yet he persevered through it and grew as a leader.  Here are some guidelines we can learn from Moses and other leaders in the Bible on how to handle criticism:

  1. Maintain Your Humility – Humility is one of the most powerful traits of a great leader.  Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking about yourself less.  Humility allows you to look past the criticism and look for the nuggets of truth that can help you grow or make changes that truly help move you forward in your vision.  Humility helps a leader be less defensive.
  2. Face the Criticism Squarely – Great leader’s go directly to the person criticizing and listens to them.  This allows the leader to correct misunderstandings, redirect people that are off-base and cast vision for why we do what we do.  This is hard work, but necessary if you want to lead well.
  3. Be Specific About The Issues – Great leader’s are very clear.  Don’t dance around the topic of criticism, be specific.  Push the person criticizing to be specific and give examples.  Ask them what they think would be a better way or what other options might be available.  Also be willing to apologize if you were not clear in something you communicated.
  4. Understand the Difference Between Constructive and Destructive Criticism – Who benefits? Challenge the person if the criticism is destructive and meant to hurt instead of help.  If you are asking for feedback on a regular basis and seeking criticism it will often turn destructive criticism into constructive.  This takes intentional vision casting and expressing an openness to listen.  If people feel safe to tell you something they don’t like, they are more likely to come to you.  If you bite their head off when they criticize they won’t come to you, but will tell everyone else.
  5. Guard Your Own Attitude Toward the Critic – Don’t get defensive, but stay objective.  Your attitude will go a long way in determining the outcome.  If you go in with both guns blazing, attacking the critic, they will fire right back or shut down and then go tell everyone they know how you handled the situation.  Every encounter with a critic is an opportunity.
  6. Don’t See Only the Critic; See the Crowd – Is this an isolated piece of criticism or is it widespread.  If a lot of people have the same criticism the approach must be different than if only one person is complaining.  This takes work to know your followers and to get the feedback to know if this is a bigger issue.  As a leader it is vital that you are in touch with your followers.  They need to have clear open ways of communicating with you.  You need to be intentional about meeting with people one-on-one in order to hear their heart.
  7. Make Sure You Are Emotionally Healthy – This is huge for leaders.  If you are not healthy emotionally, criticism will eat you up.  All the hurts you have inside will leak out in unhealthy ways.  Your perspective will be off and your focus will be on yourself, not the bigger picture.  Emotional health will determine the level of your leadership.

I lead at a Multi-site church and I must say that criticism has helped me to grow as a leader.  I work hard at being open to push back and criticism.  I pay attention to comments that come in.  It takes courage for someone to make a critical comment and it deserves to be followed up with.  I recently had a new person to our church share something that was critical of something we did.  I sent her an email explaining our motive behind what we did.  I cast vision for who we are trying to reach as a church.  It helped her to better understand the why behind what we are doing.  I had opportunity later to talk with her and her husband on the phone and even pray with them.  I also have around 10 people that I often ask for criticism and feedback on what is not working, what is working, what is missing and what is confused.  These conversations help me to get a better understanding of what the perception of the people really is.  It also helps me to communicate more clearly and cast vision more effectively.

Lead On