Critics don't become heroes
November 8, 2006
Wander through Westminster Abbey and observe its many tombs and inscriptions. Then walk through a city park, by a cenotaph and note to whom the plaques and sculptures are dedicated: not to book reviewers, political pundits, art critics or detractors of any kind. They are written and erected to those who did something for humankind.
First let me say that this week's Issachar Note is not a defense against our critics. Leaders need them. Critics help to keep us facing issues. They call us to higher standards. They remind us that we can't get away with what others can. For if we do, the consequences are too severe.
Rather I want to encourage you, the leader, not to be unduly depleted by the constant and unrelenting critique you may be facing this week. When you feel like throwing in the towel because a small mistake has been blown out of proportion, reign in your feelings of self-pity and remind yourself that to lead is your calling.
Roosevelt said it well:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doers of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again because there is no effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.
Crucified One of Calvary, the God of Creation, you who were shackled by your own creation, keep me from wanting to call it quits when unfairness overtakes. Your Spirit refusing to camouflage my errors instead fills me with strength so I can keep on doing, even in my fallenness, that which is good. Forgive me. Cleanse my duplicitous heart. Strengthen my weak knees. Give surety to my unsure hands. By your grace I will not stop because either fairly or unfairly I've been criticized. I will go on in your strong name. Amen.
It is not the critic who counts.