Responding to Critique

grey black elephant on green grass field
Photo by Pixabay on


Today I would like to talk about an aspect of growing that is vital and often difficult: 

How we respond to critique and mistakes.  

Part of growing is failing – making a mistake and learning from it. 

Sometimes it is a big mistake, sometimes small.  

In our scripture this morning the disciples had a very unsuccessful night at work – 

They failed to catch any fish. 

Let’s listen to what Jesus does. 


Scripture: Luke 5:1-11 

Peter had not successfully caught fish AND  

Peter did not really believe Jesus would do any good if he threw the nets into the water, 

But Jesus called him to be a key disciple anyway.  

Jesus has a habit of forgiving imperfections and using people anyway.  

The people forgot to bring food to listen to his day-long sermon – he forgave them and fed all 5,000 of them.  

The disciples had little faith in midst of the storm – he forgave them and calmed the waves anyway. 

Jesus brought healing to people who stole goods, like ancient tax collectors  

Jesus forgave and brought healing to people who sold goods they shouldn’t, like Mary Magdalene. 

All the imperfect people he helped and healed grew and became better people because of him. 


Just like the ancient disciples, we will make mistakes and need forgiveness. 

How we respond to our mistakes is key to reaping the benefits from the experience. 

None of us are fishermen, so let’s do a modern day role play.   

This role play is a made up scenario, but you can imagine a more serious example.   

In fact, the responses I will enact are based on true experiences I had just a couple weeks ago, when I attempted to address sexist remarks made in two different settings. 

Brenda, would you come forward? 

Younger ones, if you want a closer look, come on forward. 

As you watch, think about how the action makes you feel. 

Setting the scene: Brenda and I were at a meeting and I said something hurtful. Brenda wants to help me grow, so she is going to try to bring it to my attention.  

Scenario One:  

Brenda, “Pastor, in the meeting you said, ‘elephants are stupid’ and that hurt my feelings.” 

Pastor: [cut off Brenda] “it was just a joke! Don’t be offended!” Slink away.  

Brenda tries to follow up, but pastor ignores and dismisses and walks away.   


Debrief: what did you feel? Notice?  

ignored, frustrated, angry, more hurt, sad;

Body language and tension between us.


Scenario Two:  

Brenda: “Pastor, at the meeting, you said, ‘elephants are stupid’ and that hurt my feelings.” 

Pastor: “I’m sorry I hurt your feelings. Can you tell me more?” 

Brenda: “well, I’m good friends with a number of elephants and they aren’t stupid.  They so often are called dumbo and it might seem like a joke, but it breaks down their self esteem.  One little elephant refuses to even try at flying because he is so used to people saying elephants are stupid.”  

Pastor: gosh, I didn’t realize the impact these words have on elephants.  I will certainly be more aware of what I say.  

Brenda: thank you.  You know, elephants are herd animals.  They take care of one another and when one suffers, they all suffer.  They care for one another, like our faith family cares for one another.

Pastor: Wow, I didn’t know that about elephants.  Are there resources you recommend I read to learn more about elephants? 

Brenda: Yes, I would be happy to share with you.  In fact, the next time I hang out with my elephant friends, would you like to come along so you can get to know some elephants yourself?

Pastor: Yes!  That would be great. Thank you for sharing with me and once again I’m really sorry.  


Debrief: what did you feel? Notice?  

Calm, sit down, eye contact, listened, apologized, made effort to learn more;

Respectful of each other, courage of Brenda to share, growing in our relationship with each other.


How we respond to criticism not only helps us grow, but it also impacts our relationships with others.  

Peter could have refused to listen to Jesus, not tried again, and kept his nets in the boat. 

But then Peter would have missed out on growing in relationship with Jesus.  

The Girl Scout Law starts with, “I will do my best” and I really like that line – 

We are not perfect, but we can do our best.  

As we go through life, may we do our best to follow God and love one another.  

When we make mistakes, may we sit down and listen, consider it carefully, apologize sincerely, and seek to reap the benefits from the growth experience.  Amen.