Criticism can be a ruthless weapon. Forget about encouragement and a friendly tip, it can cut us right to the bone! Our criticizers become our foe and the world seems to topple over. Well it’s time to see criticism in the light, because it’s not as shadowy as you might have thought!
It starts with humility.
In Proverbs 12:17, it notes a person who, when they proclaim the truth, speaks of what is right; while the one who gives a false witness speaks deceitfully. Before we can face any criticism, we need to do a checkup on our desires. Do we desire to proclaim the truth about ourselves, or do we desire to give a false witness about ourselves? Will we admit our faults and our needs, or will we mislead ourselves by ignoring them? If there’s any good to come to the surface, we’ll need to make sure that we are aware of what we do need and what we can tune out in a criticism. God desires us to proclaim the truth, so we just need to follow His direction.
Let go of your defenses!
When you come face to face with this monster of an experience, there’s no reason for a fight. Rather, put every criticism you face into proper consideration. Sometimes you’ll face foolish criticism, sometimes you’ll face friendly evaluations that have no relation to your present circumstances and other times you’ll face criticism that can aid you. Watch for the gems in every remark you face. You can’t snatch the good stuff that’s tossed at you if you’re building walls of fire! Even foolish remarks, though they should be realized for what they are, shouldn’t be answered by a vein comeback. Proverbs 29:11 teaches us how the fool lets loose all of their foolishness, while the wise keep their foolishness behind them. God doesn’t want us to be the fool!
Learn to interpret.
Misunderstanding someone is an easy setback. So ask yourself, are your criticizer’s statements malicious or are they intended to be helpful? Malicious criticism is unhealthy and needs a merciful receiver. Criticism that’s intended to help is healthy and deserves respect, whether or not you can use the advice! When worthy suggestions are made, implement them into your life. Paul told the church at Corinth, in 1 Corinthians 14:20, that they should be like infants to evil, but should not think like children; rather they should be mature. We too should be this way, and try to understand others.
Learn to accept helpful criticism willingly, even happily.
If you’re unable to see helpful criticism as an opportunity for growth, you are admitting to others that you believe your own way and intention is better than their perspective or idea. This is almost as destructive to you as being knocked down by another’s malicious criticism. Proverbs 3:7 teaches us that we shouldn’t be wise in our own eyes, but instead we should fear God and turn from evil. One aspect of maturity is taking things for what they are and upholding God’s wisdom in that situation. There’s nothing more rewarding than being humble!
Time to grow.
When the criticism has finally been placed on the table—when it has been spread before your sincere heart, your broken defenses, your ability to interpret and your willing interaction—you can readily ask God what to do with it. Sometimes you’ll know right away whether or not you can use the advice, but other times God has some teaching to give you before you realize that the helpful criticism given is meaningful for you. And don’t be let down by any evaluation you face. Not only can unneeded criticism hurt, even helpful evaluations can hurt. This is no reason for you to feel down! Useless criticism can be passed off politely. Any pride you have that blocks helpful suggestions should be knocked out of you. Sometimes we’re just not strong enough to hear criticism because we misinterpret it as an insult to our honest efforts and our being. But remember, you are God’s handiwork, and He’s not quite done with you yet! 1 Thessalonians 4:7 says that God has not called us into impurity but into purity. Receiving criticism is a time to grow.
Helpful criticism can be given an easy thank you, but what about ill-given or thoughtless criticism? What response should you give then? Keeping quiet or thanking them for their suggestions is sometimes the best and only response you can give. However, if you know the person well enough to provide a friendly observance of the mistaken advice, it’s ok to mention. When you do, you should keep in mind that your response has nothing to do with lifting yourself up. Your intensions should entirely be for the growth of the other person. As 1 Thessalonians 5:11 teaches, we should be encouraging and build each other up.
When it comes to receiving criticism, use what will build you up into the person God has intended you to be. Nothing in criticism is truly hurtful, except the lies you believe are true. So take hold of God’s hand and look out for all the blessings criticism can offer. What once was a ruthless weapon, may now bring a smile to your face! Praise the Lord!