Beliefnet
Truths You Can Use

“Keep giving them you, until you is what they want.”

how to survive criticism

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

GET YOUR FREE EBOOK: HOW TO FORGIVE EVEN WHEN IT HURTS.

A Happy, Healthy and Sweet New Year to all my readers and friends!

top five posts of 2012 beliefnet

Happy New Year! This list captures what readers found particularly moving over the year and can help us gain perspective on 2012. It is somewhat subjective and incomplete, since this blog did not formally start until June, and a few pieces have been moved to other parts of the Beliefnet site. Yet, it is a snapshot in time. May the coming year be one of joy, health and peace!

The Secret of Life According to Pete the Cat
Children’s books contain simple wisdom, and this book is one of my and my kids’ favorites.

How One Speech Changed 1000 Hearts
A eulogy delivered in the heat of war transformed hearts and minds

God’s Tears Are Our Own: How to Respond to the Horror of the Connecticut School Shooting
This tragedy continues to loom large in our national soul, and this piece represents part of my struggle.

Can Todd Akin be Forgiven
A Congressman’s comments on rape raised serious moral questions and dilemmas

Did David Petraeus Need to Resign?
We hold our public figures to high standards, and one of our nation’s finest stunned the country with his out-of-character behavior.

Compiled by Evan Moffic,

GET YOUR FREE EBOOK: HOW TO FORGIVE EVEN WHEN IT HURTS.

Did I miss any? If I didn’t include something you particularly found meaningful, include a link or let me know in the comments!

new years resolutions predictions

This is an excerpt from a moving essay by the Chief Rabbi of Great Britain, Lord Jonathan Sacks.

“My new year prediction is that tomorrow never knows

The beginning of a new year tends to be a time for predictions. Have you peered into the crystal ball, read the runes, consulted the astrologists and listened to the soothsayers? Good. Then you know what’s going to happen. My prediction, which I make with total confidence, is that total confidence in predictions is never warranted. They turn out, more often than not, to be wrong.

Great Failures

Here are some of my favorites. “Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible,” said Lord Kelvin, president of the Royal Society in 1895. “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home,” said Ken Olson, president and founder of Digital Equipment, a maker of mainframes, in 1977.

“Everything that can be invented has been invented,” said an official at the US patent office in 1899. And Charles Darwin wrote in the foreword to The Origin of Species, “I see no good reasons why the views given in this volume should shock the religious sensibilities of anyone.”

Politics and Predictions

Despite the many political experts, research institutes, think tanks, government and university departments, no one foresaw the bloodless end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union. Few foresaw the possibility of a terrorist attack like 9/11, that changed our world.

I was once present at a gathering where Bernard Lewis, the scholar of Islam, was asked to predict the outcome of a certain American foreign policy intervention. He gave a magnificent reply. “I am a historian, so I only make predictions about the past. What is more, I am a retired historian, so even my past is passé.”

We Know So Little

We know so much at a macro- and micro-level. We look up and see a universe of a hundred billion galaxies each of a hundred billion stars. We look down and see a human body containing a hundred trillion cells, each with a double copy of the human genome, 3.1 billion letters long, enough if transcribed to fill a library of 5,000 books.

There remains one thing we do not know and will never know: What tomorrow will bring. The past, said L. P. Hartley, is a foreign country. But the future is an undiscovered one. That is why predictions so often fail. They don’t even come close.

Why, when even the ancient Mesopotamians could make accurate predictions about the movement of planets, are we, with all our brain-scans and neuroscience, not able to predict what people will do? Why do they so often take us by surprise?

Freedom Beats Predictions

The reason is that we are free. We choose, we make mistakes, we learn. People constantly surprise us. The failure at school becomes the winner of a Nobel Prize. The leader who disappointed, suddenly shows courage and wisdom in a crisis. The driven businessman has an intimation of mortality and decides to devote the rest of his life to helping the poor.

This is something science has not yet explained and perhaps never will. There are scientists who believe freedom is an illusion. But it isn’t. It’s what makes us human.”

Compiled by Evan Moffic,

GET YOUR FREE EBOOK: HOW TO FORGIVE EVEN WHEN IT HURTS.

A HAPPY NEW YEAR TO MY READERS AND FRIENDS!

change the world and self

Most evidence suggests that New Years’ resolutions remain just that: resolutions rather than accomplishments. Part of the reason, I think, is that we aim too high. We ask ourselves to do more than is possible.

We are like the man who has never worked out, but decides he need to start running ten miles a day.

A Righteous Man’s Experience

To counter this tendency, I think we can take some inspiration from a favorite Jewish anecdote. It is attributed to a nineteenth century Rabbi named Israel Salentar, who introduced the study of modern ethics into the curriculum of Jewish schools across Eastern Europe.

“When I was young,” he said, “I wanted to change the world. I tried, but the world did not change. So I tried to change my town, but my town did not change. Then I turned to my family, but my family did not change. Then I realized: in order to change the world, first I must change myself: and I am still trying.” So are we all.

By Evan Moffic,

GET YOUR FREE EBOOK: HOW TO FORGIVE EVEN WHEN IT HURTS.

A Happy, Healthy and Sweet New Year to all my readers and friends!