Dealing with Criticism

by Michael Thomas

We've all been told unpleasant things.

"You're not doing this right."

"You could've done this better."

You're not as good at this as he is."

Criticism justified or not, is a part of life, so how can we benefit from it?

Listen to It

As painful as it is to hear our critics, they are often telling us truthful things about ourselves. They may not always tell us for the right reasons, but most of the time they have found something in our lives that is lacking - which is why they are pleased to tell us. Before we react emotionally through pride, we should humble ourselves by listening to what others have to say. We may hear something we need to know. "Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a just man, and he will increase in learning" (Proverbs 9:9).

Correct It

No discipline is pleasant, not even from God, but "afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it" (Hebrews 12:11).

I may growl at those who shoot me down from the lofty opinion I hold of myself, but when the smoke is cleared, and I finally stop attacking my critics, I may be left with behavior that still needs correcting as well as a newly damaged ego. If we discard every negative comment someone says to us we will never improve. "A wise man fears and departs from evil, But a fool rages and is self-confident" (Proverbs 14:16).

Ignore It

Lest we think that all criticism is good, let me also emphasize that some of it is not worth listening to. There are a lot of people who are filled with "bitter envy and self-seeking" in their hearts, who "boast and lie against the truth," even among God's people (James 3:14; II Corinthians 12:20). In cases as these, we should:

  • remember that we too can be and have been overcritical (read Ecclesiastes 7:21-22);
  • commit ourselves to Him who judges righteously (I Peter 2:23);
  • pray for those who despitefully use us (Matthew 5:44-45).

The main thing is that we do not become an unjust critic ourselves. We all will be tempted to strike back at those who hurt us or tell us to repent. Whatever the case, let us not suffer as "an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people's matters," but as a Christian. This may mean we hold our tongue while hearing unpleasant things about ourselves, but that's okay because you can "Rebuke a wise man, and he will love you" (Proverbs 9:8).