One of the best delivered speeches — ever.
Love the Biblical references.
“Serving a useful purpose; tending to build up.”
“The act of passing judgment as to the merits of anything.”
You’ve heard the term. As a leader, I hear it all the time.
If you’re a leader then you’ve certainly had people offer criticism. Some even say they are just giving “constructive criticism”. Or, they believe so at the time.
Most of my pastor friends have heard, “Pastor, let me give you a little constructive criticism” — (Sometimes just as they are about to deliver the weekly message. )
So, what does “constructive criticism” mean?
I’m thinking we often misuse that phrase.
And, it’s not just with leaders. It’s in every phase of life. I think it’s a societal issue. It’s even on social media. We think we are offering “constructive criticism” when we update our Facebook status or Tweet about our service with an airline or a restaurant or a school system — for example. Or anywhere else we feel a need to criticize for some reason. We may not label it that way, but I’m convinced it’s what we think we are doing — offering constructive criticism.
In reality, I’ve learned that phrase — constructive criticism — is sometimes just a nice way to say, “I have a personal complaint about a personal issue, but it will make me sound less self-serving and more justified if I label it (maybe just in my mind) as constructive criticism.”
I have been thinking about that term lately. Even as I might use it personally.
First, let me be clear, I’m not down on constructive criticism. I think it’s good. And, needed.
Using that definition (serving a useful purpose; tending to build up) constructive criticism serves a place within any organization — even the church. It can, by definition, help us all.
There is a place for constructive criticism.
But, how can we make sure the criticism we offer is actually constructive?
And, what is it actually? I think that’s the bigger issue.
How do we know when it is “constructive criticism”?
And, how can we give constructive criticism to others?
It builds up the body or organization for everyone. It’s helpful for the good of the entire vision. Everyone can benefit from constructive criticism.
It is not self-serving. It doesn’t seek a merely personal gain. Scripture makes humility an ideal, encourages unity among believers and commands us to consider others better than ourselves — even to pray for our enemies.
It offers suggestions for improvement. I’m not saying it does every time. Sometimes we just know something is wrong, but this would be an indicator the criticism is constructive (by definition).
It creates useful dialogue. Again, this may not happen every time, but if conversation can lead to the benefit of everyone, then it could be an indicator of being constructive — it helps build — construct.
It affirms others or the vision. Constructive criticism would never tear down the overarching goals and objectives of the body or organization. That would be counter to the definition. Criticism might, but not constructive criticism.
It can be realistically implemented or discussed. I’m just working with the term and definition here, so if the criticism is an impossibility — would never work — then it seems to me it isn’t “serving a useful purpose”. (Extreme example: I once had someone criticize my allowance of phones in the worship center. They thought I should be like a school teacher and take them up at the door. Okay…)
It is not overly divisive. Constructive criticism serves to build up — not tear down, so to meet the definition it must not divide people as much as it at least makes an attempt to bring people together around common values and vision. Of course, that’s not always possible. It’s near impossible to get everyone to agree on anything, but constructive criticism doesn’t seem to be the type criticism that would splinter the groups opinions or divide people extensively.
That’s my rambling thoughts on the issue. I’m all for offering better criticism. Constructive criticism.
There may be a need for non-constructive or destructive criticism sometime. Jesus cleared the temple that way. We may need to clear some things. If so, let’s deconstruct.
But, all I’m saying is — if I can attempt to constructively criticize the way some of us criticize — constructive criticism should live up its name.
It’s Christmas time again. Seems to come every year about this time. The most wonderful time of the year.
There’ll be parties for hosting
Marshmallows for toasting
And caroling out in the snow
There’ll be scary ghost stories
And tales of the glories
Of Christmases long, long ago
It’s the most wonderful time of the year
(That could almost be a song. Wait a minute — I think it is.)
But, if you’re like many of us, Christmas will be over before you took time to enjoy it. You might even get past Christmas, realize how fast it passed, and so you set some new year’s resolutions to slow down and — maybe — enjoy Christmas more next year.
What if you could do that this year? Why not? Sounds like a good goal to me. Enjoy the celebration of Christmas. The birth of our Savior. Relish the time with family. Savor every moment.
Set a limit on expenditures. Something happens when Christmas becomes more about the value of the gifts than the value of the season. More, more, more only produces energy in a direction that can never really be sustained. (Read Ecclesiastes 5:10) Start with a budget. Be realistic. Stop comparing. One problem for many of us is that we are trying to compete with everyone else. Obviously, if you have more money you can spend more money (and less — less). But, make it your goal to invest more in people this year than in things you can buy. And, don’t feel obligated or pressured to buy gifts you can’t afford for people. It will only be a temporary satisfaction and produce a lot of guilt in the new year when you see those credit card bills start arriving in the mail. (And, usually the guilt starts as soon as the cashier hands you the receipt or you push the purchase button online.)
Set boundaries in relationships. This is especially true for younger couples and families, but really for most of us. You can feel pressured by extended family and friends to be a dozen different places. Remember, you aren’t responsible for pleasing everyone — in fact — you can’t. It’s impossible. (Some have a harder time with that than others.) Don’t let everyone else determine your Christmas schedule. You may have to have some difficult, but direct conversations with relatives or friends. Again, be realistic. You can’t be everywhere. There are some places you can’t (or shouldn’t) avoid, but, as much as possible, control your schedule rather than having it controlled by others.
Plan and prioritize your time. This is similar, but also includes how we spend our own time at Christmas. There are usually more demands for our time than time for our demands. Just as you did in creating a money budget, create a time budget. Set aside some time for you to celebrate Christmas as an immediate family — or in a way where you best celebrate. Then build around that time. It’s okay to say no. (Do you need to read that sentence again?) If you don’t, you’ll run out of time before you feel you ever really celebrated. It’s hard, but again, you’re trying to actually celebrate Christmas — the birth of baby Jesus. That’s hard to do when you have lost all control of your time.
Lower your expectations. That you have on others and on yourself. Sometimes we set very unrealistic expectations on what others will buy or how they will respond to what we buy. We look for the “perfect” gift — to give or receive — and our enjoyment of Christmas is based on that search — rather than the real joy of the season. We also set unrealistic expectations on relationships. We watch too many Hallmark Christmas movies where everything works out in the end to the perfect holiday celebration and when it doesn’t happen at our house quite like that we get disappointed. Remember, we aren’t characters in a movie. We are characters in real life. Real life is almost never perfect. Learn to enjoy your celebration with all the quirkiness that makes your family unique from every other family. (Because every family is quirky in some way — in real life.)
Practice health disciplines. Sometimes in the name of “celebrating” we over do it only to have guilt about it later. Don’t overeat or over-indulge. You will occasionally – it’s part of the season — but, be reasonable. Keep exercising. Sample rather than eat full portions. You’ll feel better and have less regrets after the holidays have ended.
Serve others. Find and establish a Christmas tradition of service. Whether it’s serving at a food kitchen, ringing the bell for the Salvation Army, or just picking up trash along the side of the road, you’ll better appreciate Christmas when you serve. The real meaning of Christmas is based around serving others. The baby born at Christmas came to be a servant. The best way to celebrate His birth is to give back expecting nothing in return. You’ll be the bigger recipient when you do.
Remember the reason for the season. Yea, I saved the best and most important for last. On purpose. It’s also the one we push to last if we aren’t careful and the ultimate purpose of this post, so I wanted it to be the last impression on your mind. Jesus — the reason for the season. It’s simple — even cliche, but, it’s true and it’s powerful — if you do it genuinely. In the midst of the madness, rediscover the miracle of Christmas. A Savior — who is Christ the Lord — has been born to you. Establish a tradition that helps you best identify with the true meaning of Christmas. You could take time to explore a character of the Christmas story you’ve not considered previously. Research elements of the setting and culture. Read the major passages in Matthew and Luke repeatedly through the season. Listen to only Christmas music. Attend special Christmas services. Whatever works for you. Be intentional to practice celebrating the real joy of Christmas.
Not all of these will apply to everyone, but my guess is if there are a couple here you need to work on — to better celebrate Christmas — you already knew it. As we begin the rush of the Christmas season, pause right now, take a few deep breaths, and let’s make this the best Christmas ever.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year.
I’m not a huge rule-maker. I like to operate in freedom and so I try to leader others that way. I’m strict about very few things.
(Can I be completely honest? — I’d rather break a rule than keep one. Certainly I love to write better rules.)
I’m a little different on Christmas Eve.
I’m strict. I write rules. An ole’ controlling leader.
Our ministerial staff works on Christmas Eve.
Period. No excuses.
That’s harsh, isn’t it?
Christmas Eve is a big deal in this church. Always has been. Long before I became pastor.
We now have 3 services to accommodate crowds, but the church has always had one packed service that is live on television. Near 100,000 people in our region watch the show and the past couple years we’ve rebroadcast the show several times on Christmas Day. It’s somewhat of a community event.
But, there’s another reason.
Culturally speaking, Christmas has in many ways become the new Easter. Not theologically of course. You can’t trump the resurrection, but as an opportunity to reach lost people.
They’ll come at Christmas. It’s a culturally acceptable thing to do. A familiar affair. Get dressed up (or not) and gather together to sing familiar Christmas songs. It’s a great family tradition.
And, who can’t love a baby in a manger story? You can attract people at Christmas like no other time of the year.
We would never think of staff missing Easter. It’s an “all hands on deck” kind of day.
So, I make Christmas Eve a priority and require our staff to be here.
(Now, in complete transparency, if there were extenuating circumstances with a staff member we would certainly consider them.)
And, sure, it’s difficult on families to understand. I get that. My family has to sacrifice also. We live 4 hours from our family and we now miss Christmas Eve together.
But, if we had a job as a policeman or at a hospital emergency room, no one would question why we had to work. It comes with the job.
And, in church work, Christmas Eve, if it’s done well, can be a great part of the job. Lives are at stake. It’s a vital work. An “all hands on deck” kind of day.
What’s important in leadership has changed from when I entered the field of leadership.
Have you noticed?
Leadership principles and practices have had to change because organizations and people have changed.
The fact is that many leaders who are in senior positions these days developed their leadership style in another generation. This has produced a plethora of what I call antiquated leaders.
Antiquated leaders create tension in many organizations, including many churches today.
Perhaps you’ve worked for (or even been — or even are) an antiquated leader.
Here are some characteristics:
Keeps people in a box. People won’t stick around in a box these days. They demand opportunities for growth. There was once a day when you could pay a decent wage and, through policies and rules, control an employee’s actions. That’s not true anymore.
Controls information. Information is king, and these days people have information available to them in the palm of their hands — literally. Today’s leaders must be free with transparent and current information — including what’s stirring in the leader’s mind and where the organization is going.
Enforces a waiting period on young leaders. Young leaders today want an opportunity to explore, take risks, and make an impact in the world — NOW — TODAY. Successful leaders learn to tap into this energy. Keeping young leaders at a distance won’t work anymore.
Assumes a paycheck is enough motivation. That may have been enough at some point, but today’s workforce demands to know they are doing good work. They want to know that what they are doing is making a difference and is valued on the team. The annual company picnic won’t cut it anymore.
Makes the work environment strictly business. The generation entering the new organizational world mixes business with pleasure. They want to enjoy their workplace environment. Today’s leaders must learn to celebrate along the way to success.
Now, take a minute and improve this post with your thoughts.
What would you add to my list?
Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord Psalm 33:12
If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14
And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.” Jeremiah 29:7
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him,and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6
I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts. Psalm 119:45
Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. John 8:32
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 2 Corinthians 3:17
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1
Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. 1 Peter 2:16
But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. Philippians 3:20-21
I’m a Fitbit wearer.
It’s a wristband that syncs with an application on my phone to count the number of steps I take each day. It’s set with an automatic goal of 10,000 steps.
This is not an advertisement — although if Fitbit wants to endorse this page I’d be open to that — but, I’ve been using it for several months now and it’s taught me a few things. About myself. About life.
Granted, I knew these already. They are not new revelations. But certainly I’ve had some principles that have been reinforced by my use of Fitbit.
I respond better when I have a goal. Goals encourage me. Knowing I need to get at least 10,000 steps per day motivates me. Even if it’s at the end of a long day I will find a way to complete the goal. I WILL GET MY STEPS!
There’s a special joy in completing a goal. When you reach 10,000 steps the Fitbit goes crazy. (Or crazy compared to what it had been doing just sitting on my arm.) That tingle. That buzz. Those lights flashing is a pep in my day. Sometimes I use the elliptical and place the Fitbit bracelet around the bars of the machine. (It’s more accurate that way it seems.) I miss my “buzz” of reaching the goal. Okay so I’m being a bit dramatic, but if you like completing a task this does give you something else to get excited about each day.
Accountability challenges me to do my best. Cheryl has a Fitbit too. We keep track of where each other is in our daily goal. If she doesn’t feel like walking the nights we need steps, I’ll challenge her. If I’m not feeling it, she encourages me.
A little competition never hurts. I have “friends” on Fitbit. To be a friend, they have to have a Fitbit too. Granted, I don’t need another social media outlet to keep up with, but with Fitbit, my friends keep me going. I know they are “watching” — and trying to catch me — so I must stay ahead. I must.
My experience with Fitbit has been a daily reminder how valuable having goals and objectives, accountability, and even competition can be in my life. Think with me:
How can I apply these same principles to other areas of my life?
I’m an avid runner. It’s my best thinking time. If I’m out of town, I usually run longer distances because of the new surroundings. I’ve had some glorious running experiences.
Here are my favorite cities (communities) in which to run, somewhat in order:
This is actually my domestic list. I have had some international running opportunities. I may rank them someday.
Do you know of a great city in which to run?
Tell me where I am missing.
I wrote a post recently encouraging Christians to be less mean — especially online. It was called “When Did Christians Become So Mean?”
It seems to me, we’ve lost some of our civility when it comes to what we post on social media. We are quick to blast a company that we feel has wronged us. We criticize people — right on their Facebook page. We load the comments of a blog post with crushing blows.
Surely you’ve seen it. The web has made it much easier to be a critic.
But, it’s also in public. I’ve seen Christians I know act like jerks in a restaurant or grocery store. I consistently hear of bosses who serve smiling on Sunday but are mean to employees during the week.
It all has to hurt our witness as Christians.
The post got a little attention.
Actually, some people, proved the need for the post by the way they responded.
Still others asked for some suggestions of how we could improve — some even wanted examples.
I decided not to share specific examples. In my opinion, that would be mean. So, you’re meanness will remain anonymous in this post. If you are mean, most likely others already know your name. :).
I did decide to share some ways we can be “less mean” online.
Consider others better than yourself. (Philippians 2:3)
Forgive one another (Ephesians 4:32)
Love one another (John 13:34)
Be kind and compassionate to one another (Ephesians 4:32)
Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, (James 1:19)
Treat others as you would want to be treated (Luke 6:31)
Have the mind of Christ. (Philippians 2:5)
Remember kindness leads to repentance. (Romans 2:4)
Keep your tongue from evil And your lips from speaking deceit. (Psalm 34:13)
Honor everyone. (1 Peter 2:17)
Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. (Ephesians 4:29)
Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. (Romans 12:10)
Just a few of those should improve the quality of our online involvement.
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. (Colossians 3:12-14)
Those are some of my suggestions.
Got any others?
Okay, this one will get me into trouble. Especially if the shoe fits. Wait for the comments on this one.
But I have to ask…
Not all Christians. Most Christians I know are nice. Very nice.
But, I’ve met some mean ones lately.
Now, let me be clear. I am one. A Christian that is. (Hopefully not mean — too often.) In fact, I’ve centered my life around my faith and even am vocationally supported by Christians. (So I love you! I really do.)
But, when did some of you — my brothers and sisters in Christ as we are often referred to — become so mean?
It’s mostly online. You write something they don’t agree with, and instead of a healthy disagreement, they blast you. Right there on your Facebook wall or with a hurting comment on a blog post. Where everyone can read it. In fact, some people read it even before the one who wrote the post reads it. I’ve even had guest bloggers tell me they don’t want to post anymore because of the comments.
I understand that. My blogs are reposted on different websites — with more widespread readers than I have — and I don’t read the comments much, because when I do — I’m tempted to tell them I don’t want to post there anymore. Mean people commenting — calling themselves Christians. I don’t want to play that game either. Who has time for that?
It’s not that they don’t have valid points. Many times they do, but the way they make their point doesn’t come across very Christ-like. Actually rather mean.
I get that it’s cultural now. We’ve become transparent. Honest. Blunt. But — just being honest — sometimes that comes across as mean.
I can’t imagine how those outside the faith view the way we often treat each other.
I wrote a post about Christians behaving online. It wasn’t just because I didn’t have anything else to write about. It’s because some Christians have become mean. Online. For everyone to see.
The Internet has made it so much easier — and faster — to be mean if you choose to be mean. Even anonymously if you want.
But, I’ve seen it in public too.
Why just last week — I saw a Bible study group meeting at a local coffee shop. I didn’t know any of them. I was minding my own business, but it was obvious what they were doing discussing the Bible. They had Bibles.
I loved it.
Then one of them became a real jerk to the girl that messed up his order.
Mean. Right there in front of his Bible study friends, me, and all the other coffee shop patrons — many who may not have been Christians. And, probably aren’t anymore motivated to be one now.
I was embarrassed.
I’ve had some restaurant people tell me the “church hour” — after the churches finish on Sunday — is one of the hardest hours of their week. Really? That’s sad. I would hope it’d be the opposite.
How’s that for having the mind of Christ? Or being witnesses? Or considering others better than ourselves?
Whenever I’ve asked, well over three fourths of my blog readers identify themselves as believers. So, if you’re in the one fourth who don’t claim Christianity, this post isn’t for you. Sorry about that, but today I’m only addressing the “family”. We call ourselves brothers and sisters. In love, we sometimes gently rebuke one another. That’s what families do.
So, brothers and sisters. Quit being mean.
Consider what you say and the way you say it before you ever say it.
That sounds logical. Biblical. A good discipline even.
Because I can fall into a culture that thinks more about myself than others too. You can too. We all can. We can value our opinion, consider others without our opinion wrong, and talk to people who we know are wrong like they are less human because of it. Sometimes we treat members of our family — people we love — worse than we treat a stranger. I get that.
But, when we are mean it flies in the face of what Christians are taught to do — in the Bible we claim as our guide. And, it’s the kindness of God that leads to repentance. To my knowledge, no one ever comes to faith through meanness. Or watching someone be mean to others.
In fact, there is no “meanness” of God. God is love — even when He’s sharing truth.
And, we are to be like Him. At least becoming more like Him.
So this is an encouragement. A simple, striving to be nice, non-mean intended, encouragement.
Let’s clean up our act. Or, to put it in my Christian like terms — let’s let Jesus clean up our act. Let’s be more like our Savior. The One by whom we are called Christians. Christ.
Let’s set an example for others. Not be so mean. Actually be nicer. A kinder, gentler breed of Christians. Let’s learn how to disagree with one another the right way. Full of grace and truth. Let’s love one another. And, demonstrate the peace of Christ to those who are seeking peace.
If they can’t find kindness, forgiveness, love in us — where will they find it?
“A kind man benefits himself, but a cruel man brings disaster on himself.” Proverbs 11:17