Responding to Criticism

Criticism will come from everyone and every angle. There is no way to avoid criticism. So how do we deal with criticism? How should we respond? Some respond by ignoring it completely. Some respond by getting defensive. Some respond by trying to change to please everyone (an impossible task). 

Here are a few suggestions to effectively respond to criticism. [Note: I am not saying I have this perfected. I am speaking to myself as I write this]

Listen Without Being Defensive

Poverty and disgrace come to him who ignores instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is honored (Proverbs 13:18).

Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future (Proverbs 19:20).

Cease to hear instruction, my son, and you will stray from the words of knowledge. (Proverbs 19:27).

If we listen to these verses we might learn something. We must remember and acknowledge that we are not perfect. We will receive criticism no matter what we do. There is no way to avoid criticism. Will the criticism always be legitimate? Of course not, but some will. We need to listen without interrupting and without being defensive. James 1:19 reminds us to be quick to hear and slow to speak. While this is difficult it will produce growth leading to spiritual maturity. 

Pray For Wisdom and Patience

When facing and responding to criticism, wisdom and patience are essential practices (Proverbs 4:6-7, Proverbs 14:29, James 3:17). Wisdom allows us to listen and apply criticism, while patience helps us deal with the message and the messenger. We cannot leave God out of the picture.

Evaluate Criticism

Ignoring criticism would be very unwise. Proverbs 12:15 reminds us “the way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice”. Obviously everyone who gives us advice is not going to give good or wise advice, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn't listen and be respectful. We must chew the meat and spit out the bones. We must evaluate the advice/criticism they are offering. We must judge what they are saying honestly. We need to ask ourselves “is any of what they said true?”. This can be very difficult because it may require us to admit “I was wrong” or “they were right”. 

Change If Possible

Many times criticism we are given has some truth to it. Without compromising biblical truths and convictions we must consider changing, if possible. It may be a change in how we operate, it may be a change in how we organize, or it may be a change in how we communicate. We might receive criticism about how we interact with others. Romans 12:18 tells us that "as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone". We may need to make changes, without compromising biblical truths and convictions, in order to do that. 

Remember You Can’t Please Everyone

It’s not possible to please everyone. I once heard an illustration of a father and his son who were going on a long journey. They only had one donkey so only one could ride. The father told the son to ride while he walked alongside of them. As they passed by a man on the road, he said “Look at that entitled son! He should let his father ride because the son still has his youth and can walk with more ease”. So the father and son switched places. Another complaint came next, “Look at that awful father making his son walk”. So they father and son decided to both ride the camel. The next complaint was “Look at that poor donkey. There is no way it can make it with all that weight on its back”. So the father and son decided to both walk with the donkey. As you can imagine another complaint was given—“Look at those two! They have a perfectly good donkey to ride on, but both are walking!”

There is no way to please everyone. As long as we attempt to keep the peace (Romans 12:18) and please God, we’ve done our part.

 

Criticism is not always easy to listen to; it is not always easy to accept. But since there is no way to avoid criticism, pray for the patience and strength to:

  • Listen fairly
  • Evaluate honestly
  • Accept peacefully
  • Change graciously

Above all, remember who we live to please-God.

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