Monday, February 28, 2011

Plowing Up Morale: The Impact of Unjust Criticism

My good friend and colleague Trey Morgan composed an excellent blog last week entitled: Please Don’t be Mean to Your Minister/Preacher. You can read it at: Here is my response to Trey’s thoughts.

I good friend of mine, who serves in the patrol division for a city police department, received six complaints from the good citizens of that community in a one month period several years ago. I am defining a complaint as a citizen either calling or otherwise contacting that officer’s supervisor due to alleged misconduct. All such matters are taken seriously and are followed up on diligently. Six complaints in a 30 day period sound really bad! But in reality each of those accusations were found to be completely frivolous.

An officer’s name of course is quickly cleared when such is the case, but the damage that is done to that servant’s morale cannot be eradicated so quickly. When you go out there everyday with the intent of protecting and serving, thoughtless disapproval that leads to a conference in the lieutenant’s office is deflating. It is no great surprise then that police officers are hesitant to trust even those that are supposedly law abiding citizens.

As I reflect on this reality, I am reminded once again that the role of a minister and a police officer is very similar. (The officers I serve in my chaplain role generally laugh very hard when I propose such similarity to them.) But nevertheless it is true.

Ministers are all about serving. I think the vast majority of us are willing to serve sacrificially. In some instances, we too find ourselves in a protective mode. And the good folks we serve also feel very free to file complaints both publicly and privately. Some of their grievances are legitimate. In fact, I find constructive criticism to be a painful, but needed tool to sharpen my skills. But irresponsible or trivial objections have the same effect on ministers that they do on police officers. Such complaints obliterate trust and impair morale.

Thoughtless citizens never give such matters consideration before they pick up the phone and complain on an officer. (In many cases, they are mad over a well deserved traffic violation.) Church members can be equally tactless when they are frustrated with their minister. Their source of dissatisfaction is the only thing consuming their thoughts. Impacting morale or trust most likely has not crossed their mind.

I am fully aware that both police officers and ministers have plenty of room for professional improvement. It is unfortunate that all of us are members of that flawed human race. But it seems to me there should be some guidelines for protesting against the behavior of those that comprise these two professions. I am even willing to form a very preliminary listing of ideas! Here goes:

• Make sure that you have your facts straight. Missing or inaccurate facts obviously cause a complaint against a legitimate servant to be considered in a different light.

• Stick to the facts. What happened? How did that officer or minister offend you or otherwise fail to accomplish their assigned task? Criticism that is constructive does not include personal digs, gender biases, or racial prejudices.

Family matters… A minister’s family matters to him or her. You are treading on dangerous ground by bringing family members into the discussion in an unnecessary manner.

• Be especially cautious about foolish generalizations. That police officer is just out to get young drivers! That minister always preaches sermons that ________ (fill in the blank with all kinds of subjective conclusions.) Are those generalizations really based on fact?

Consider morale and trust…Human relationships thrive in an environment of trust and mutual respect. Complaints that are not rooted in facts or that are delivered in an insensitive manner plow up trust. The morale of those that are called to protect and serve is important to everyone including the person delivering the objection.

Or you can just forget this entire list and heed Trey’s advice: Don’t be mean to your preacher! But I have to include the police in that sentence too!



Very well written, John. Everyone could use to abide by these rules in ever relationship we have. Thanks for taking the time to write it.

DrKnox said...

Good Point, Trey!!

Steve said...

Good stuff, John. Trey's blog has had me thinking (and doing a little re-living of some comments I have received). But my thinking did not lead me as far down the path as you. Excellent points. Now, can we include them in the "Church Members Handbook on Ethical Living"? (I know its in the Bible, but that handbook is obviously not being used to its fullest potential.)

DrKnox said...

Steve, I think we need such a handbook! Actually I am reminded of churches that have behavior covenants that they require new members to agree to. I wonder if it makes a difference?

I probably need to write a sequel, because everything I listed is "head stuff." When people get really nasty it is because their emotions are driving them. All reason goes out the window. I failed to address such matters in this piece.