I caught up on my stack of Christian Century issues on a recent plane trip, and was particularly struck by an article by Martin Copenhaver, pastor at Wellesley Congregational Church called “Slings and Arrows.” It’s an honest look at how he himself, and so many other pastors, struggle with criticism. He says, “Because of its uncanny ability to expose one’s weaknesses, the ministry is not an easy fit for those who are particularly sensitive to criticism. But in my experience, people who are particularly well tuned in to what those around them are thinking and feeling are the ones most likely to be told, ‘You ought to think about going into the ministry.'”
Copenhaver also astutely points out that praise is an equal challenge for pastors. “Everyone likes to be praised at least once in a while. But beware the pastor who needs too much praise.” He suggests, “for the pastor, criticism and praise are twin imposters. Both are to be approached warily, because both can deceive and both can mislead.”
The balance is tricky to find. We do need to pay attention to feedback, but when we are dependent on it for our sense of ourselves, we’re in trouble.