CHAPTER 13: A LEADER IS OPEN TO CORRECTION
George Whitefield was one of the most famous preachers of the 1700s. He was, in fact, the mega-preacher of his time. Whitefield was instrumental in fanning the Great Awakening throughout the American colonies. As might be expected, he received his fair share of criticisms, some virulent. According to one account, “After receiving a letter of personal attack he wrote one simple reply to its sender: “I thank you heartily for your letter. As for what you and my other enemies are saying against me, I know worse things about myself than you will ever say about me.” With Love in Christ, George Whitefield”.
As we have seen earlier, a Christian is aware of his imperfections as a sinner. Being a fallen sinner is a core message of his logos. As a consequence, he knows that he is prone to make mistakes and even outright sins. He knows that as a sinner, he has blind spots that only others can see. Thus, a Christian leader is open to the correction of others around him.
In theory, it seems a no-brainer that a leader should welcome any correction from others. But the reality is usually far from this. We all have experienced the feeling of irritation that comes from being corrected. The typical reaction is defensiveness and even anger. Such a knee-jerk reaction is one reason that keeps leaders from blossoming to their full potential. By eschewing the correction of others, they forego the chance to grow as a person and as a leader.
The book of Proverbs contains many warnings against those who do not want to be corrected. For instance, it says that “whoever hates reproof will die” (Proverbs 15:10b), and thus, “Better is open rebuke than hidden love” (Proverbs 27:5).
Corrections often come in the guise of criticisms, as Whitefield found out. Therefore, how a leader handles criticism will determine how far she will grow. First, remember that God is the ultimate source of criticisms. Yes, the motive of the human critic may not be lily-white, However, God is sovereign, and by allowing such a message to reach you, there is undoubtedly a vital lesson for you.
Second, and because of the preceding, analyze whether the criticism has a factual basis or not. This step will require tremendous grace and discernment, especially if the comment comes from a known “enemy”. You, therefore, need to seek God’s grace through prayer that your eyes may not be blinded by prejudice against the source of the criticism.
Third, If the criticism hits the mark, then seek to address it prayerfully and in a godly way. Consult trusted individuals if you want a second opinion. Once you are convinced that the comment against you has merit, then promptly seek to change your ways.
However, if there is no basis for the criticism, then you may safely set it aside. Sometimes, people who criticize you mean well, but they just don’t have all the essential facts. So do not always assume that such persons have ill will against you. There was a time that I thought I had preached a fairly good sermon. Then one of my relatives who attended the worship service for the first time commended my preaching afterward (music to my ears!). However, he added that I lacked one thing—more jokes! I am not against occasional humor in a sermon, but I do not want to use jokes liberally because I believe that they will dilute the sacredness of the Word of God. I knew he meant well, but I did not follow his advice.
Our logos proclaims that all people are sinners. We should apply that message in our lives by welcoming legitimate criticisms.
1. Recall the last time you heard someone criticize you. How did you react?
2. Reflect on your common reaction to criticisms
3. Think of ways you can handle criticisms better and more Biblically.