The first time I preached at New Hope, one of my friends – who I actually met for the first time that day – came up and told me that I should be New Hope’s new lead pastor. She even filled out a card and put it in the offering box saying so. I thought that was pretty cool, so I told Charles, the recently announced resigning lead pastor of NH. He probably said the smartest thing he’s ever said (not counting the times he’s complimented me, because you know, that’s just plain smart, too). He said, “That’s cool, but she sounds like a fan. You should never listen to your fans or your critics, because they will always view what you do based on how they view you.” I was a little let down, because I was hoping he’d say, “Yeah, she’s right,” but just saying what I wanted to hear has never been a part of our friendship. I never wanted to be the lead pastor there, either. I was just proud of the compliment I had received. He was right, though, and I’ve tried to be mindful of that ever since.
**You’re probably dismayed at the thought of a pastor having fans. The truth is that everyone has fans and critics (definition 2, obviously). It doesn’t speak to the value of the object of one’s affection or hatred. It’s more a reflection on the person doing the loving or hating.**
I’m always quicker to recognize, or at least acknowledge, when someone is just a constant critic than when someone is a “fan.” I think most people are, because we want to believe that the people who compliment us know what they’re talking about, and it’s quite satisfying to realize that the person that’s always insulting you isn’t worth listening to. But it’s important, especially for me, to realize both right away and put their comments in proper perspective. Here’s why:
- Fans will love everything you do without question. Critics will hate everything you do before you even do it. Neither properly weigh the pros and cons of anything you do.
- Listening to fans can lead to arrogance or complacency. Listening to critics can lead to deflation. Both lead to below average performance.
- Fans can just be really good, nice people who don’t like to see the negative in anyone. Critics are usually just bitter, unhappy people, and they take those emotions out on others. Neither will be very constructive, and if you want to be always improving, you need constructive comments.
- If one believes everything a fan tells him, he will likely be so happy with his performance that he won’t take time to critique it. On the other hand, critics will just make him angry, and his focus can be too much on disliking the critic. Both could cause him to miss out on valuable opportunities to improve himself.
I could go on, but you get the point, and you’d probably stop reading if I beat a dead horse. By the way, where did that saying come from? Who in history beat a dead horse, giving us this odd idiom?
If I try to please fans, I will succeed every time. If I try to please critics, I will fail every time. So who do I listen to? Well, I believe that true success is found in moving the people in the middle. They aren’t totally vested in one side or the other. They won’t see victory in a loss, and they won’t insist on a loss when there was a victory. Those are the people who can help me succeed, because their opinions are more likely to be weighed before delivered. Those are the people who can graciously offer me constructive criticism, as opposed to loaded insults. They are also the people who can give a well reasoned compliment, as opposed to stroking my ego. They are who I want to listen to.
Okay, I kind of like listening to fans, too, but I try to shy away from it.