What Do You Do with Praise or Harsh Criticism?

I don’t know about you, but I love being praised…and I hate having things pointed out in my life in a condemning manner.

My pride loves the ego stroking but does not like it when the fur gets stroked in the wrong direction.

And as a leader, I admit it – I can view my influence or how I am perceived like a chess board where I carefully manipulate the pieces to ensure I am viewed as favorably as possible.

But the truth is, both praise and criticism can be harmful for me as a leader.

Photo courtesy of pod pad | FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Photo courtesy of pod pad | FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I was recently listening to a Q&A leadership podcast by Michael Hyatt and he made a statement that really arrested my attention as I thought about its implications. He was quoting a friend, who said…

You have to treat praise and harsh criticism in the same way. You basically plow it under as fertilizer, but you don’t focus on it.

Do you get this? Read it over again and let it do a “slow roast” in your mind. The first sentence is good; the second sentence is a paradigm shift.

What does it mean to treat praise and criticism in the same way? Allow me to illustrate by giving you an example of what it means to treat praise and criticism in different ways.

If left unfiltered, praise sends me to high heights. People think well of me and so I come away with people are pleased with my work and with me as a person. I then note what got me the praise and seek to maintain that status quo. My doing is in response to how I want others to view me. Mountain top experiences feel great and I want to stay there.

If left unfiltered, harsh criticism sends me over the edge. I question who I am and what I do. I replay conversations and actions in my mind, hoping for a little justification. Unrelated comments now all become related to the criticism I faced. My wounds are carried at the surface of who I am. My doing is in response to how I have been perceived and I sink into despair. Confidence wanes. I become a victim. Valley experiences feel cruel and I look for any way possible to escape.

Every been in one or both of those places? I have.

But I like the second sentence of the quote above – “You basically plow it under as fertilizer, but you don’t focus on it.”

Brilliant.

The need for fertilizer

Why? Because fertilizer comes in various forms – some smells good and some…doesn’t. But it is valuable because once in the ground it jump starts the growing process and makes for a healthy and vibrant crop. To plow something under as fertilizer speaks of looking ahead and stop staring at the ground and looking back.

In other words, it goes into the ground and is only used for growth. Did you read that? Only used for growth.

The implications for this are noteworthy.

The dangerous thorns of praise

For praise? Take praise in stride. Give thanks to God that you were able to represent Him well and give thanks for the gift of work and the ability to lead. Beyond that? You might be getting into dangerous territory because too much musing leads off into the woods getting stung by the prideful thorns of trusting in your own strength and thinking too high of yourself.

Receive praise with thanksgiving, and then like fertilizer, plow it under and use it for growth for how to continue to serve your people into the future.

The dangerous thorns of criticism

For harsh criticism? Tougher, but the same principle. People, we, me, are flawed and we do not always come to correct conclusions or interpretations. Or things are not said in the right spirit. Or, it is…true. My advice? Study how much God values humility and grace in a life.

He values it…a lot.

Give thanks to God that He works all things to your good. Find even the hint of truth, receive it with grace, and like chaff, throw the rest away. Beyond that? You might be getting into dangerous territory again because too much musing leads off into the same woods getting stung by the prideful thorns of self-affirmation, self-defense, and self-pity.

Receive harsh criticism with grace. I know, I don’t understand your situation and it is hard. I know. I have been there too. But then, like fertilizer, plow it under and use it for growth for how to continue to serve your people into the future.

The rear-view mirror of life

Paul says it this way in Philippians 3:13-14:

No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race…

“Forgetting” the praise and “forgetting” the harsh criticism because there is a race ahead to win.

And so consider this quote on “plowing under” again and revel in its wisdom. It will make your highs not so high and your lows not so low. It will create a balanced mindset that allows you, with grace, to move forward properly whether it be praise or harsh criticism.

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “What Do You Do with Praise or Harsh Criticism?

  1. Very good article. Enjoy reading these that you send out. Talked with your mom for a while yesterday and was so good to chat with her. She seems to be doing okay. Have a good day and love you Mom

  2. Once again, thank you! Timely, wise counsel.
    Would appreciate prayers for Bobby and I… we’re in the midst of a loving/confronting process with our pastor and his wife… Desperately in need of Grace all around.
    Thank you!
    -Robin

Please Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s