If you are preparing to lead, you must also prepare to be criticized. Criticism is a part of life, but especially if leadership is the goal, we must learn how to perceive it. There is criticism that will help us if we listen. But then there are also those who are generally called “haters”. As the saying goes,
“Haters are gonna hate.”
What I have seen and experienced over the years is that many have adopted this attitude that leaders must be thick-skinned individuals who are impervious to criticism. To be thin-skinned in leadership is to sign your own death certificate, right? Not so much. We can be so thin-skinned that the slightest word against us causes us to crash to the ground. We can become so thick-skinned that we are impervious not only criticism but also to feeling period. Personally, I believe that there is a middle ground here. Sure, we can’t be overly sensitive, but we also can’t be anti-sensitive.
It takes discernment to know for sure which type of criticism you are being presented with. A kind compliment and a smiling face might mask the kind of words that could gut you and undermine your leadership. A stern word might provide the soil for your leadership to truly grow into what God intends for it to be.
Then there are the haters. The ones who will look at you with malice in their eyes and a sneer on their lips. These are the ones who will do whatever they can to undermine you outwardly, no matter how it looks to anyone else. How does a leader handle the haters?
Like Nehemiah did at the end of chapter 2.
19 But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official and Geshem the Arab heard about it, they mocked and ridiculed us. “What is this you are doing?” they asked. “Are you rebelling against the king?”
20 I answered them by saying, “The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding, but as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it.”
Sanballat and his cronies directed their hate toward Nehemiah, but Nehemiah did not respond in the way that they were hoping. Instead of addressing their attempts to punish his hope, he redirected the attention to the promises that God had made to Him and to the people of Israel. He fed them no ammunition but rather fed the people the same hope and faith that he had been feasting on since God first laid on his heart the project of rebuilding the wall.
I’ve heard so many messages about haters, and how they come so that we can become stronger. Nah! Haters come to be a nuisance. They come to distract us. They come to inject fear and dissension into the atmosphere. But when we look beyond their hate and respond to the God of the Heavens and the Earth, it gives them no room to continue in that moment. Leaders, we must be slow to respond and quick to seek God. We must accept criticism but pray for discernment.
Leaders, we must be slow to respond and quick to seek God. We must accept criticism but pray for discernment.
We must accept criticism but pray for discernment.
To rebuild the wall is to intrinsically know that every move we make will be criticized. It’s going to come from every angle. A Godly leader takes the criticism but does not internalize it unless they know that the criticism will help them. A Godly leader does not shy away from criticism, but also a Godly leader does not suffer a hater. But rather than respond to the hater, the Godly leader looks past the hate, looks to God, and responds in love.
Because God is love, so are we.
So..go rebuild the wall!