Die-hard college football fans are probably aware of an ongoing feud between sports personality Paul Finebaum and Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney. I just read about it the other day.
Apparently, after Clemson beat in-state rival South Carolina 38-3, Finebaum objected to Swinney’s post-game remarks and called him “the most annoying winner in all of sports on ESPN’s “Get Up” program.
Finebaum said of Swinney, “Somebody just give the man a pacifier, send him to timeout and we’ll check in with him on Dec. 28 when he finally plays a legitimate team during this entire college football season.”
When asked about Finebaum’s comments, Swinney, joking replied: “I hate I missed it – I’m sure it was riveting.”
Later he added, “I like Paul…Finebaum is great at what he does. He creates great conversation and great drama.”
Then Swinney made this practical and pointed observation, “One of the best lessons I’ve learned is that you don’t worry about criticism from people you wouldn’t seek advice from.”
Anyone who’s ever been successful in life or achieved anything noteworthy has received criticism. This is true in sports, business, education, and unfortunately even in the Lord’s church.
Preachers, pastors, teachers and religious leaders are sometimes subject to criticism by people in the pews. Preachers are critiqued by folks who have no idea how and where to begin preparing a Sunday sermon. Shepherds are sometimes criticized for their decisions when those complaining don’t know all the facts. Bible classes teachers are chided by students who’ve never taught a class in their life.
While criticism can sting, it’s good to consider the source. Is the person genuinely trying to help or just a carping complainer? Does the criticism come from someone whose advice you value? The wise man reminds us that “faithful are the wounds of a friend.” Also “iron sharpens iron and one man sharpens another (Prov. Prov 27:6,18). And this wise counsel “The ear that listens to life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise” (Prov 15:31).
Some questions regarding the criticism also help us. Is the criticism valid? Is there some element of truth in the criticism? Is there something in the criticism that can help me improve?
When the criticism is unkind and unwarranted, deflecting it with some humor, as Swinney did, may be the best course of action. Reacting with harsh words, ugly epitaphs, and angry retorts is not only unwise but unbiblical (Eph 4:31-32).
Furthermore, I’m reminded that Jesus was often criticized by the religious leaders of his day. He healed on the Sabbath. Ate with sinners. And was a threat to their positions of power. So they demeaned his ministry. Hurled unflattering insinuations regarding his parentage. Questioned his authority. Criticized his disciples. And denounced his teaching.
What did Jesus do? For the most part, He largely ignored his critics, and persistently pursued the Father’s business. Occasionally he delivered a sharp rebuke to their degrading denunciations. But mainly remained focused on his mission and ministry.
Teddy Roosevelt’s famous quote regarding critics will serve you well when you receive unwarranted criticism.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Finally, the advice of Zig Ziglar is well worth remembering: “Don’t be distracted by criticism. Remember, the only taste of success some people have is when they take a bite out of you.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman