No one like to be told they’re wrong or they suck. When most people think of critique and criticism, they think that they are being reprimanded or slammed. It is, however, something MUCH different.
Anything that has to do with art, including music, literature, dance, anything really, is subject to both critique and criticism. This includes leading worship. I believe that most Worship Leaders haven’t been coached on how to identify, handle, or even process critiques and criticism.
I want to take a few minutes to provide a framework for understanding critiques and criticism as well as some helpful tips for how to handle them as a worship leader.
First, I think its important to make the distinction between critique and criticism. A critique is an evaluation that is mean to analyze and improve what is already there. Criticism is a similar analysis, but is meant to communicate disapproval. One is meant to help, the other is meant to harm.
Once we can identify whether something is a critique or criticism, we must be able to confirm the validity of the source. Who is communicating the critique or criticism and what kind of authority do they carry?
If you’re a golfer and you’re wanting to improve your swing, you don’t go and ask the guy working at the concession stand for advice. He can tell you what he thinks about it, but he isn’t qualified or in a position to really help you. Being able to identify and confirm the validity of the source of a critique or criticism can save you a lot of time and emotional energy.
Finally, you need to learn how to process critiques and criticisms. Even the most negative and blatant attack can have a small kernel of truth in it. Your job is to learn how to dig that nugget out so that you can benefit from it, and cast away all the unhelpful, even harmful stuff.
This takes time and experience, and isn’t fun to work though. However, if you can learn how to pull even the tiniest nugget out of the harshest criticism, you will learn that you can use anything to help you grow.
Now that we have a framework for understanding and dealing with critique and criticism, here’s a few tips on how to do this practically as a Worship Leader:
Throw Away the Anonymous Comment Card
I used to get these anonymous comment cards that would have some really harsh criticism on them and they would TEAR ME UP! I used to boil over them and get really frustrated. A friend gave me some really great advice: Throw them away.
I started calling these cards “Sniper Attacks” because they could be as harsh as they wanted from a distance, with no repercussions because I didn’t know who to talk to about it. By their nature, you can’t confirm the validity of the source, so how could they be helpful? Save yourself the pain and straight up throw them away.
Take Note When You Get Mad
When you feel your ears turn red and your blood pressure rise, there’s a good chance that the critique or criticism has hit on something with some truth to it. I know that when I’m confronted with something I know I need to work on or something I’m not proud of, I can definitely have this kind of response.
When you’re talking with someone and you notice this response from yourself, you need to ask yourself a very important question: Why?
Why are you feeling this way? Are you angry? Are you embarrassed? Are you upset they’re right? Understanding why you’re responding a certain way will help you to better receive critique and criticism.
Learn How Listen Rather Than Justify Yourself
I don’t know about you, but I have a nasty habit of trying to justify myself when I’m criticized rather than really listening to what they’re trying to say. I don’t think I’m alone either.
When we are receiving a critique or a criticism, we should seek to first hear before we try to speak. Not only is it a mark of humility, but listening for understanding is the only way to truly learn from any critique or criticism.
Also, when you do speak, try not to justify what you’ve done or why you’re doing things. Rather, use your words to clarify what is being spoken to you. Ask questions. Take the time to use your words to make the most sense of the critique rather than trying to defend yourself.