“Keep giving them you, until you is what they want.”
A mentor once advised me that a good rabbi needs a strong ego. Clergy can become the target of people’s frustration with God, life and the inevitable experiences of pain and suffering. Criticism is inevitable.
While I am fortunate to serve a loving and supportive community, I, like everyone, face occasional hostility. It could be a sermon, a decision, something said in passing.
How do we survive it? How do we deal with it? Here is what has worked for me.
1. Look for what is useful: Criticism can be destructive. But it can also be constructive. The challenge is to look for the worthwhile insights. They can help us grow, and true success often comes through the way we respond to them.
David Allen uses the metaphor of a rocket to illustrate this truth. “Much of the energy in propelling a rocket,” he writes, “is spent in course correction—it is, in a way, always veering out of control and off target.”
“It achieves its goal precisely because it has a responsive feedback mechanism that prevents it from wavering too far off its designated target.” In other words, constructive criticism can help bring us back on target. It can serve as a useful course corrective.
2. Remember that criticism is a sign of engagement: Seth Godin writes that “you will be judged, or you will be ignored.” When someone challenges you, you know they are listening. That is a sign of influence. The alternative is being ignored. Which would you prefer?
3. Keep the long-term goal in mind: Purpose-driven people try to create something that lasts. It could be a family, a business, an organization.
Building for the long-term means facing criticisms throughout the short-term. Rome was not built in a day. Neither is anything worthwhile.
4. Pause, then ask yourself, “Does it really matter?” The biggest mistakes happen when we act impulsively. Something angers us, and we send an e-mail too quickly, or we let hurtful words escape our lips.
We can’t control what people say, but we can control how respond. Pausing can help us respond in a more effective way and prevent us from giving the criticism more than its due.
5. Keep your moral and artistic center: Creative and successful people always face criticism. During his lifetime, Mozart’s work was called “too bizarre” and “overstuffed and overloaded.” Had he given up, the world would lack some of its greatest symphonies, concertos and moments of inspiration.
Remember that the world needs your gifts, even it seems certain people do not want them. It will work out. As screenwriter Dennis Palumbo put it, “Keep giving them you, until you is what they want.”
By Evan Moffic
A Happy, Healthy and Sweet New Year to all my readers and friends!