If you’re breathing, then you’ve been criticized at some point in your life. Aristotle said, “There is only one way to avoid criticism: Do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.” I believe that’s true.
We all have varied opinions on a multitude of subjects, especially politics and religion, which can bring on criticism quicker than anything. When we share our opinions, thoughts, or ideas on just about any topic, we should expect to receive criticism of some kind. So, how should we handle it?
My first piece of advice is, don’t run from criticism. Just as the cartoon above says, “Criticism is a gift.” God agrees.
If you listen to constructive criticism, you will be at home among the wise. Proverbs 15:31
To one who listens, valid criticism is like a gold earring or other gold jewelry. Proverbs 25:12
If you ignore criticism, you will end in poverty and disgrace; if you accept correction, you will be honored. Proverbs 13:18
Whoever stubbornly refuses to accept criticism will suddenly be destroyed beyond recovery. Proverbs 29:1
We should never get to the place in life where we stop learning and think no one can point out any wrongs in us.
This leads to my second piece of advice – Acknowledge pride.
When we are unable to accept constructive criticism, pride is the root cause. We must dig out that sin at the root, confess it to God, and repent. Humility allows us to learn and grow through the criticism of others. We become better people when we’re able to admit we’re wrong, or that we could have acted in a more godly way, or we have room to improve.
Thirdly, not all criticism should be taken to heart. Others can be mistaken when they give advice, so we need discernment to decide which criticism we accept. I adopted the philosophy a long time ago to take others’ criticism to the Lord and ask Him to show me what, if anything, is true, to help me change what I need to, and throw away anything that isn’t true or helpful.
As a writer, I’ve learned very quickly how important these concepts are. I joined a critique group the beginning of February and just as its name suggests, I receive “criticism” on my chapter submissions. I’ve had to grow a thick skin the past few months.
I admit that when a harsh critique comes my way my first reaction is hurt, but when I work through it by acknowledging my pride and asking God to show me what is true, I become a better writer. In fact, I’ve come to deeply appreciate the especially harsh critiques I receive because I know they are exactly what I need to grow and change. After all, that’s the reason I joined the group.
The rules of the critique group include starting out with something positive and ending with a positive. This is a good rule of thumb in every area of life when we have to confront someone with any type of criticism. Many times it’s not what we say, but how we say it. We can learn to dish out constructive criticism in a way it will be well received, and we can learn to graciously receive the criticism given from a loving heart that desires God’s best for us.
Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy. Proverbs 27:6
Join the conversation. Have you been criticized for something you’ve said or done recently? How did it make you feel? Did you get angry or defensive, or did you take the criticism and use it to grow and become better?