For all there is pain in having lovingly crafted prose torn up, there is purpose to it. We can rarely see our own faults, and since churches tend to work well for their leaders, we can rarely see our church’s faults either. Work with “editors,” be they trusted outsiders or those within the church. Trust their intentions even if their words make it hard, and edit like their lives depend on it. They might.
A much more experienced writer than me recently gave me some writing advice about editors:
He suggested that you don’t always need to make the changes editors suggest—and every writer breathes a sigh of dramatic relief. But you do need to assume that they have spotted something that’s wrong and that section or idea needs attention.
To put it another way, they aren’t necessarily right about the solution but they are right about the problem—or at the very least that there is a problem right there.
I thought that was helpful advice for a wider setting than the one I was being given it in. Let me show you what I mean.
If you receive criticism, and it doesn’t seem to jibe well with your own self-understanding and the other feedback you receive, it is possible to disregard it. After all, that person could be wrong.
Of course, the problem is, so could you. A Christian understanding of sin and the deceitful nature of our hearts should give us pause when we assume that the problem is outside of ourselves. We might be right. Before we decide we are, we should examine ourselves carefully. I found it helpful to think that, like an editor, perhaps my critic has put their finger on something even if they are completely wrong about what that is.
It’s certainly worth consideration and prayer before we decide that they are just flat wrong.
I think we should apply the same principle in Church leadership. All Church leaders have plenty of critics. Everyone has an opinion about how things should be done in the church. Some people have been hurt badly, and some of those by the church, meaning that their complaints and criticisms come laced with pain and can be difficult for church leaders to receive.
As pastors we’re supposed to understand people, so you don’t take the way the feedback is delivered into account and instead listen to the marrow of it.