Engaging Culture

How To Turn The Tables On Your Critics

If you’re a leader in politics, ministry, business, or in the media here’s something important you need to know: In today’s digital culture, you can’t hide anymore. In the old days, politicians could hide a mistress, TV evangelists could hide their jets or mansions, and anyone could hide a DUI conviction, an old arrest, and more. But today, the river of information that flows into Google is just too vast. That’s why I strongly recommend that if you’re in the public eye, you need to get mistakes and criticisms out there from the start.

For instance, in the last presidential election, if there was any truth to the media’s adultery allegations, I believe candidate Herman Cain could have overcome them had he been the first to bring it up. Once you “expose” yourself, you take away the ammo from attackers.

I recommend the same with criticism and Texas governor Rick Perry is doing this very well. After his indictment based on the allegations that he abused power with a veto last summer, he’s turning that situation in his favor. He’s created t-shirts with his mug shot as well as the democratic district attorney who was convicted of drunken driving – and he’s using it for fundraising.

Whether you like Rick Perry or not isn’t the issue.  But it’s important to note that he’s taken his “negative” and turned it into something “positive.”


The lesson here?

1) Be transparent.  Stop thinking about Google as just “search,” and start thinking about Google as “reputation management.”  You can’t hide anymore and you can’t avoid critics.
2) Stop trying to hide your past, your mistakes, your failures – or even criticism.  By getting them out there first, you effectively eliminate that ammunition from your critics. Even if the criticism is off base, if it’s gaining momentum, stop running from it and start using it.

If you tell the truth upfront, it becomes a part of your past.  If you try to hide it, it becomes a part of your future.


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  1. Being transparent can be tricky business. It does mean you have to admit you have some flaws. Apparently, that is hard for us sometimes, and I think people in leadership might have the notion that admitting to a flaw is a sign of weakness.

    Also, back in the 70’s when I attended Bible School it was taught that if a pastor messed-up that he could pretty much kiss his calling or career good-bye. If he had a flaw it would pretty much label or brand that person for life, so they could very rarely ever seek a position of leadership in any church ever again. That is a high cost for a person to bear, so there was no incentive to admit they had a problem much less go to counseling. Back then even if they wanted to go to counseling, where could they find a Christian counselor near them?

    We look to our leadership to set the example. If that leader has sexual urging that are not within the confines of a marriage, or any other problem in the past, he pretty much had no where to go to get help without risking negative rumors. No help at an early stage of a problem means that this flaw is able to grow. You can bet that it eventually will come out in a big mess, really hurting a lot of people. Today there are Christian counselors to help people without the stigma that going to counseling has had in the past.

    It is a growing trend for Christians to seek help and that is a positive turn of events we should be proud of and aggressively advertising this relatively new merciful understanding in our local churches. Hopefully, talking about this positive trend will mitigate some of the judgement within our local churches that has scattered the flock in the past.

    One other benefit to shining the light on past problems is it can give hope to people that are struggling with the issues we have overcome in our lives. Anyone that has had a problem and has seen it mitigated from their life can have a much deeper appreciation for what a person is going through as they begin their journey to overcome that issue. They are able to give much more detailed advise and encouragement, without judgement, to a person struggling from the affects of the issue or problem.

    Turning the tables on our thinking is a great way to not only turn the table on our critics, but it also helps us to stop grieving the Holy Spirit, and allows our ministry to the world to be more effective.

      1. I hope we can really push this subject out into the open more in local churches. I think the biggest problem I have seen in local churches is the polished image portrayed by the outstanding members, never talking about any issues they have over come. Thereby giving an impression to young people, seeing themselves as less then perfect, the idea they cannot hang out with people that never do anything wrong.

  2. Fantastic article. I search Google on a regular basis to make sure my reputation is clean and nothing odd pops up. Keep it coming Phil!

  3. Speaking the truth and being honest will do you much good in the long run. Jesus said, the things that are done in the secret will be proclaimed on house tops. If you do not own up, sooner or later it will come out. It is in your best interest to let it out yourself.

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