Pastors receive lots of criticism. It’s one reason why pastors need to learn how to deal with weekly barrage of complaints and comments, not only for their sakes, but for the sake of their families and for the health of the church.
That’s where a helpful new book comes in. It’s called Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well. While anyone can benefit from this book, it most certainly applies to pastors.
Some feedback triggers us. It leaves us “confused or enraged, flustered or flattened.” The effects are brutal:
When we’re in the grip of a triggered reaction we feel lousy, the world looks darker, and our usual communication skills slip just out of reach. We can’t think, we can’t learn, and so we defend, attack, or withdraw in defeat.
Sound familiar? The authors suggest that our feedback triggers are information, pointing us to the source of the problem. There are only three triggers, they state:
- Truth Triggers — Our reaction to unhelpful, unjust, or untrue criticism
- Relationship Triggers — Our reaction to the person giving the criticism, either because they lack credibility or are treating us unfairly
- Identity Triggers — Our reaction to feedback that threatens our identity, our sense of who we are
The authors give some good advice for how to respond to each of these triggers. When facing a truth trigger, for instance, try to understand, and be aware of your blind spots. For relationship triggers, separate the who from the what, and work on the relationship. For identity triggers, dismantle your distortions and embrace a growth mindset.
There’s a lot more, even in this one section. The book is helpful, and it’s definitely relevant to those in ministry.
I’ve been thinking of how the gospel applies to each of these triggers. I can face the truth about myself, because I no longer have to hide or pretend. I can love those who trigger me, because Jesus loved me when I was unworthy. I can live out of my identity in Christ, rather than in my performance. This isn’t to say that pastors will never struggle; it is to say that we have both the excellent advice in books like Thanks for the Feedback, but we can rest in what is true because of the gospel.
If you struggle with this (and I’d guess most pastors do), this book is helpful, and I recommend it. But I’m also thankful that we have an even better resource than this book.