The dangerous thing about a smart phone is that people can hurt you when you least expect it. It was a Saturday morning and I had just settled in the bleachers with my coffee to watch my daughter’s volleyball game. While the girls were warming up, I made the critical mistake of glancing at my email. There it was. A bad review. Somebody had linked to my website with a comment that questioned the depth of my theological knowledge (which, by the way, is an area in which I claim no expertise). Nonetheless, the remark pierced my soul, burst my ego and nearly prevented me from enjoying my daughter’s game. 

This wasn’t the first time I received a critical comment, but it was the first time I felt under attack. If you’re running a business, leading a ministry, sharing your personal story or writing a blog, you’ve probably experienced criticism at some point and felt the same way. It’s part of the territory when you accept the calling to share your gifts, spread God’s word or step into your purpose.  But just like any painful experience, criticism presents an opportunity for growth. 

The next time you are faced with a hurtful remark about your work, take heart – the following tips will help you discover the sunny side of criticism. In fact, if you view criticism as a gift you may realize that an unexpected attack from a stranger is just what you needed to refine your message, hone your skills, expand your knowledge and blossom as a business owner.

Five True Gifts Found in Criticism:

1. Criticism presents an opportunity for learning. The first step in receiving criticism (constructive or otherwise) is to accept the possibility that it is laced in truth. This isn’t easy, but it’s a necessary part of the process. Humble yourself and be as objective as possible in answering this question: “Is there any truth to the criticism?” The answer may lead you on a journey for invaluable knowledge that helps you and your business grow.

2. Even a hateful critic is a testimony to the fact that you are being heard. Throughout history, most great leaders (including Jesus Christ) were not loved by everyone during their lifetime. In fact, most of them stirred up emotions and turmoil as they led their followers through a meaningful transformation. As a business owner or ministry leader, if you are doing your job well, you are bound to attract opponents. That only means that your voice is loud enough to be heard over the clutter and chaos of everyday life. Congratulations. That’s a huge step forward!

3. Conflict presents an exercise in respecting others’ opinions even when you disagree. One of the reasons we join groups – in business or through church or other activities – is that we like to surround ourselves with people who share the same values and interests. We don’t intentionally seek out people who have conflicting opinions. But they inevitably find us. There is a skill to be polished when it comes to dealing with conflict in a respectful and professional manner. And each time you offer love and compassion to someone who is filled with hate and destruction, you honor God and refine your own character.

4. Criticism teaches you to receive support. I think I’m a pretty tough cookie. That I can handle just about anything. I don’t spend much time feeling sorry for myself or second-guessing my every move. I can usually accept criticism for what it is and not internalize it. But every once in a while, something hits me and it really hurts. That’s when God blesses me with the opportunity to seek out and receive support from those who love and know me. That’s when I get to humble myself, ask a friend or colleague for a hug and bask in the light of confidence and encouragement they shine on me. I invite you to do the same the next time you are faced with criticism. You’ll feel so much better after a good pep talk or a long cry on the shoulder of a friend. And isn’t that what we are here to do – love and support one another? 

5. Hurtful remarks are a reminder to establish boundaries. As mothers we try to protect our children from every imaginable danger. One of the first things we do is remove our babies from an inherently hurtful situation – by buckling them in a highchair, putting safety plugs in the outlets and removing soft pillows from the crib. We know exactly how to establish safe boundaries for our little ones. And we have to do that for ourselves as well. We have to filter potentially hurtful comments to minimize our exposure. We have to set up systems to ensure that negative, hateful remarks are either vetted by an assistant first, or directed to a specific place that we can monitor later. I’m not saying we should ignore or avoid criticism. But it’s important to identify the time and place in which WE want to hear these remarks, rather than letting them invade our happiness at inopportune moments (like at my daughter’s volleyball game!).

Were these tips helpful to you? How do you deal with criticism? Share your experiences here with us!

Theresa Ceniccola is The Christian Mompreneur—a mentor to moms who are running a business that supports their values of faith and family. As president and founder of the International Christian Mompreneur Network, she empowers entrepreneurial moms to build profitable businesses with wisdom and grace. Join the International Christian Mompreneur Network for free and receive the Ten Commandments of a Mompreneur toolkit! 

Publication date: December 6, 2012