Compliments and Criticisms
By DANNY MINTON
Through all my years of ministry, many criticisms and compliments have come my way. Like most of us, we hate to hear the criticisms. Sometimes we deserve them, while at other times, they only represent the opinion of the giver. Criticisms can be hard to handle, especially if we feel them to be unfounded. No one likes for others to look negatively at what we say or do. Our first response is usually a push-back taking the opportunity to defend ourselves. It’s just not easy being on the receiving end of someone’s critical remarks. Criticism often lives with us for years to come and remains hard to push away. Some still raise their ugly head in our life momentarily. Fortunately, we’re able to move most of them back until something stirs them up again.
Often we feel we give “constructive criticism.” However, it many times turns into just plain criticism about something we don’t like or agree with instead of meant to be of help. If it’s not done with love and in a friendly manner, it’s not constructive. Our goal should always be to build up, not tear down, people we meet in life.
Along the way, I’ve also been the recipient of many compliments. Most of them compliment a sermon or class that I presented. Sometimes it’s what I write. Other times it’s what I say to a family as I officiate over a family member’s funeral service. It’s always nice to receive these “good job” and “thank you” compliments. Many of these become filed away back in my mind reminding me many people care about what I say or do.
However, one stands out in my memory of all the compliments I have received in the past fifty years. I remember it vividly; a compliment around forty years ago from a small child. I believe his name was Ben. Actually, he didn’t tell me; it came through his parents. The compliment reminded me that what I was doing was important and made a difference. The times were busy in my ministry with a new congregation we had just begun. My position included middle school, high school, and children’s ministry. On Sundays, I taught a youth class and children’s worship in the morning, and what we called Children’s Bible Hour on Sunday evenings. Wednesday evenings I spent visiting the different children’s classes.
It was on Sunday when Ben’s parents told me what he had said to them. “Mr. Minton must really love kids.” His parents asked him, “How do you mean?” Ben responded, “Well, he’s with us all the time.” The compliment didn’t revolve around what I taught or did. It didn’t find its words from any specific comment I made. It came because someone as small as a child recognized just being there for them showed the importance of their life.
How we handle both compliments and criticisms determines how we get along in life. If we take every criticism to heart and let it affect our lives, it can often lead us to a depressed, self-conscious life. Of course, if we take every compliment and let it “go to our head,” we can become arrogant and self-centered.
Keeping in mind how they both affect us, we should stop to think about how what we say affects others. What we say to and about them can determine how they view themselves and the worth of who they might be, and the importance of what they do. Instilling in people their worth in life gives them something to hold in their hearts when times get tough.
Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV2011) He warned the Ephesian church, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” Ephesians 4:29 (NIV2011) He admonished the Philippians, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:8 (NIV2011)
Imagine how much better life would be for people if everything we told them were helpful and encouraging. Opinions that could destroy should remain within ourselves. Words that build up and inspire people should run freely. We never know how those words will affect someone’s life forty years down the road.
One compliment remains in my heart from a small child years ago, reminding me why I am in ministry. My prayer is that I have left on someone’s heart the same impact he left on mine.
Danny Minton is Pastoral Minister and Elder at Southern Hills Church of Christ