Criticism is a part of life. Leadership always comes with criticism. Often we are our own worst critic, especially as leaders in the church.

“The critical voice in our head is so familiar that we don’t realize we give it power.”Emily Freeman, The Next Right Thing

We are much more readily willing and able to show others grace than we our ourselves. In many ways, we have trained ourselves in the church that we must be hard on ourselves, and we must be constantly critical of ourselves. We assume that being hard on ourselves and being very critical of ourselves is a requirement or marker of humility. As CS Lewis noted, thinking less of ourselves is not humility. Humility is seeing ourselves as God does and thinking of ourselves less.

We would never say that we can or should expect perfection of ourselves, but deep down, our posture often represents a mindset of perfection. There is a difference between excellence and perfection. Jesus calls us to excellence, but perfection is found only in Jesus and in eternity.

In the great commandment, Jesus calls us to a life (heart, soul, mind, and strength) of love of God, others, and ourselves. We forget that last part. We are called to show ourself love. Most ministry leaders struggle the most with loving self. Loving God and others is easier than loving ourself, but each is important and each of these three loves is deeply connected.

So, how do we have a healthier approach to self-criticism?

Be as honest with yourself as possible. Name the failures, mistakes, and sin. Recognize that you are human and that these things are normal.

Celebrate and learn. Our God wastes nothing. Celebrate the things that go wrong. Learn from them. Move on.

Show yourself grace. God’s grace is for you too. The Gospel is for you. The good news of the unconditional love and grace of God belongs to you as well.

Pray to not be distracted. Pray that the criticism of self would not distract you from your calling. God’s love is for you and your identity as God’s beloved and chosen child with whom he is well pleased. These words from the baptism of Jesus were not just for him; they are for you as well.

Know that you are loved. Know that your mistakes do not define you. Know that failure is a teacher and a gift. Know that you never have to earn God’s love and grace. The Gospel is for you too!

This is part 2 in a two part series on criticism. In the previous post, we looked at criticism from others.

Rev. Dr. Marcus J. Carlson, Executive Director, Preparing for Amazement Ministries

Categories: Leadership


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