I know a retired pastor who continues to be active in his church and teach or preach whenever he is invited to do so. He recently was criticized quite severely by a member of his church for:
- Preaching without notes.
- Being able to quote passages from the Bible without reading them.
- Drawing large crowds whenever he teaches.
- Speaking the truth (because truth makes people uncomfortable).
Wow. These are all things one would usually commend someone for. Instead, someone criticized this retired pastor for these things.
Why? I don’t think we will know the answer this side of eternity, and it really is not important. What I believe this scenario illustrates is that we will always have critics.
If you do anything publicly—author a book, speak to a group, write a blog post or article, post on social media—someone is going to disagree with you. There is always someone in a crowd who is a naysayer.
What does this mean for authors? It means that you should be prepared to receive criticism and know how to handle it.
1. Expect criticism.
Don’t get upset or irritated when it comes. Know that you will receive criticism.
Every author receives criticism at some point. Famous authors are criticized. An article written about Mark Twain in 1910 said of him:
“But Mark Twain was neither a poet nor a playwright nor an historian. he was hardly a novelist, either, for his share in ‘The Gilded Age’ does not seriously count, and his work in the form of fiction is not remarkable as story-telling pure and simple.”
2. Evaluate the criticism.
Don’t just throw it out. Evaluate it. Ask yourself:
- Is it given in a spirit of love or condemnation?
- Is any part of it true?
- What can you learn from this?
If you are still struggling with what was said, then run it by a trusted friend. Ask this person to help you ferret out what is really about you and what is not. Be sure that you ask someone you trust who can be honest with you.
Whatever you do, don’t repay criticism with criticism. If an answer is expected, respond with respect and love. Remember Dale Carnegie’s advice from his book How to Win Friends and Influence People:
“Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain but it takes character and self control to be understanding and forgiving.”
3. Pray about it.
Ask God to show you what is true in the criticism and what you should pay attention to. Ask Him to guide you in knowing what to accept and what to throw away.
Whatever you do, don’t let criticism stop you. Learn from it, but keep doing that which God has called you to do. If He has called you to write and publish, keep doing that. Learn the craft, learn the ropes of the industry, and continue to put your best effort into all you do—working at it as for the Lord, not for man. For your reward is in heaven.
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Photo courtesy of geralt.