Criticism happens. Occasionally it can be a positive or constructive tool in our lives; but more often than not, it ends up leading to hurt feelings and defensive emotions. In school, our teachers critique the homework we submit. In the workplace, our boss is criticizing our job performance. At home, our friends and family critique the choices we make in life. Facing criticism is simply a part of life, and we must learn to handle it with grace and understanding.
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So how should a Christian handle criticism? When criticism hurts us, it is important that we don’t give in to the temptation to retaliate. (Luke 6:28-31)
This is easier said than done depending on how badly you were wounded, but God’s Word is clear that getting even is never part of His plan for our lives. The good news is that God promises to give us the strength we need to allow His love to shine through us. When someone hurts us, we don’t have to deal with it on our own. His love supernaturally works through us allowing us to forgive as well as to “turn the other cheek” as this passage in Luke describes.
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A wise person listens to and applies wise counsel.
So how do we know if we are listening to the critique of a wise person or of a fool? This is often the point where many Christians (myself included) get confused. If a “fool” is critiquing my actions, then I shouldn’t pay attention to it. I should continue to love them and forgive them as God’s Word describes, but their critiques shouldn’t change the way I behave. On the other hand, if a “wise” person critiques my behavior, then God’s Word tells me that I should listen to their advice because it will help me to grow.
Here are 4 steps to take when deciding how to proceed when you receive criticism from others:
- Pay attention to who is giving the critique. Where is the criticism coming from? Is it coming from someone who has your best interest at heart? Critique is sometimes difficult to hear, but if it comes from someone who loves God and wants God’s best for your life, then it would definitely be wise to pay attention.
- Test the advice. The best way to know if someone’s advice should be followed is to test it against God’s Word. We should never take any advice that is contrary to what Scripture teaches.
- Pray. Another way to know if the criticism is “wise” or “foolish” is to pray about it. God will honor the fact that we are taking the critique seriously, and He will be faithful to answer us regarding the next step to be taken.
- Seek counsel that you know to be wise. A final way that we can test someone’s critique is to discuss it with another believer. Be careful, however, that this doesn’t turn into gossip. The objective here is to talk to another believer who can be trusted to give you sound advice regarding the original critique.
I will admit, hearing criticism can be extremely difficult. Usually, my first instinct is to dismiss the person as a fool and be on my way! It is so much easier to believe that they’re the one with the problem instead of me! We must be careful though… God sometimes uses the critiques of others to mold and shape us into who He’s creating us to be. To dismiss them all, would be to possibly miss out on something that God wants to teach us or correct in our lives.
The best thing for us to do is to take each critique as an opportunity for growth.
We will either learn more about ourselves (and make changes where necessary), or it will simply be an opportunity to allow God’s love to work through us as we choose to forgive and “turn the other cheek.” Either way, we are growing in Him.
Acknowledge critique as an opportunity for growth, and be kind to those who critique you…even if the criticism is less than kind.
*Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.