7 Steps to Handling Criticisms Gracefully
Grace to Face Criticisms
Throughout life, we will face criticisms from people for different reasons, but we have to choose how we will respond. On one hand, we can become resentful or even bitter towards the people who criticize us, especially if it is done out of spite or unjustly. But there is a better option, one that draws on the power of God for help where our resources are limited.
As we ask God for help when people criticize us, our Father empowers us with his grace through the Holy Spirit to respond to those who criticize us graciously. He gives us the wisdom listen, and decide whether the criticisms are helpful or not, and to respond with love.
Further, God helps us to use constructive criticisms as vehicles to improve in specific areas, as we yield to the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Even when criticisms are negative in intent, we can still respond with love in the face of the pain through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Whatever the motive for criticisms, these seven devotions which include focus verses and prayer, could help us handle them more gracefully. We can choose to respond to criticisms in a positive way and learn and grow. They can be opportunities for improvement in various domains of our lives, such as work, family, and spiritually to develop patience and self-control.
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Step 1: Ask God's Help and Guidance
Focus Verse:"Casting the whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you [watchfully" (1 Peter 5:7, Amplified).
God is our ever-present help, and nothing takes him by surprise. So when we face criticisms, like any other problem, we can take them boldly to him in prayer. We need to bring the situation first to God, before try to use our own resources.
Looking to God for help could save us from making wrong moves that could cause further pain. Here, we get a sense of God’s leading to deal with the situation. In 2 Chronicles 20, King Jehoshaphat was faced with three armies coming against his small country. The first thing he did was to call out to God for help, and God responded in an awesome way!
We need to God for the wisdom we need to approach the situation. We must be confident that he will give us the grace to deal with these criticisms. This could mean helping us to do some self-searching about our role in the issue. This could free us from the emotional reactions that we experience, and help us benefit from the criticisms where possible.
Prayer: “Heavenly Father, thank you that as your child, I can come to you for help in every situation that I face. Today, I cast all my cares of the criticisms that I am facing on you. You are my present help, please show me the way I should take. In Jesus' Name I pay. Amen."
Step 2: Examine Your Heart
Focus Verse: "Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life (Proverbs 4:23, NLT).
The heart is the core of our being and determines where our lives will go, and so the verse encourages us to guard our hearts. When we face criticisms, one of the first places that need a checkup is our hearts, as how we respond to them will reflect the condition of our hearts.
Deeps in our hearts are needs, expectations, and a desire to belong. Out of these longings, we could become dependent on others for affirmation and so we seek to please them. The things that are deep in our hearts will come out as we respond to issues like criticisms.
The Scriptures affirms that it is out of the overflow of our hearts that our mouths speak (Luke 6:45). Because of our poor sense of self, we this could cause us greater pain when people criticize us. We become more dependent on others than on God to meet our every need.
While God uses specific people in special ways in our lives, we must ensure that our trust is in God and not people. It is important to know who we are in Christ. Truly understanding this should boost our self-esteem, accept yourself, and help you to better handle criticisms. For example, the Bible tells us that we have become the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Critical also to the process of examining our hearts is forgiving the people criticize and speak maliciously against us. (Romans 12: 19-20).
Prayer: “Heavenly Father, as I face the pain of criticisms I give you my heart and hurts. I am open to the Holy Spirit to search me, and I turn from every attitude that is unlike you. In Jesus' Name I pray. Amen."
Step 3: Move to a New Perspective
Focus Verses: "Do not rebuke mockers or they will hate you; rebuke the wise and they will love you....Whoever disregards discipline comes to poverty and shame, but whoever heeds correction is honored" (Proverbs 9:8; 13:18, NIV).
It is important that we approach criticisms with a sense of openness instead of being defensive. When we are open we are more likely to get valuable and fresh perspectives from what people say.
While we might not see the value of the criticism initially, as we open our hearts, and ask God for wisdom, he will give us insights on its merit, and how to respond. We could find that other people’s criticisms could give us different but useful perspectives on things.
In many instances those who criticize us have our best interest at heart, and so we need to actively listen and understand what is being communicated to us. We can then use criticisms as avenues for receiving ideas to expand our horizons.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you that all things work you for good for your people. Help me to see the good even when I am criticized, so that I can gain new and useful insights to grow. In Jesus’ Name I pray. Amen."
Step 4: Use the Opportunity to Improve
Focus Verse: "You're going to wear yourself out--and the people, too. This job is too heavy a burden for you to handle all by yourself " (Exodus 18:18, NLT).
The passage describes Jethro's visit. He was Moses' father-in-law, and he was "delighted to hear all the good things the Lord had done for Israel" (v. 9). However, he was concerned with how much Moses was burden with the affairs of the people, and suggested that he find capable and trustworthy men to delegate some of the responsibilities (Exodus 18).
This was a legitimate criticism, and Moses, "listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said" (v. 14). This resulted in the people's cases being more effectively dealt with. Moses' positive response to Jethro's reproof proved beneficial not just for him but for the Israelites.
While criticisms could challenge our way of seeing things, they could be opportunities for self-development and improvement in specific areas of our lives. We can use these opportunities to plan and take specific steps for enhancement in our ministries, jobs or relationships with others.
Prayer: “Heavenly Father, thank you for giving us the grace to use criticisms as vehicles to improve and grow. Help me to trust you to guide to make the best of every word of reproof that I encounter. In Jesus' Name I pray. Amen."
"The final proof of greatness lies in being able to endure criticism without resentment."— Elbert Hubbard
Step 5: Keep Your Focus and Don't Get Distracted
Focus Verse: "I sent messengers to tell them, "I'm working on an important project and can't get away. Why should the work stop while I leave to meet with you?" (Nehemiah 6:3).
While some criticisms can be beneficial, there are others that are intent on distracting us from our God-given purpose. Take the example of Nehemiah, after praying and asking God for direction and help, he proceeded to build the wall. He was doing God's will, but there were people who were bent on distracting him and stopping the work.
Nehemiah was not about to allow this to happen, he knew he was doing an important work and he was going to complete it despite the opposition. Like Nehemiah, we must take a firm stand, and resist self-defeating thinking in the face of criticisms.
We need divine discernment to know when criticisms are intended to prevent us from doing what God directs us to do. This is not the time to wallow in self-pity and feelings of defeat. Instead, we need to keep our focus, and keep doing what God set us to do.
Prayer: “Heavenly Father, thank you for giving me that ability to keep my focus on what you are guiding me to do, despite distracting criticisms. I continue to trust you to guide me on the right path according to your purpose for my life. In Jesus' Name I pray. Amen."
Step 6: Build Strong Relationsips through Conversation
Focus Verse: "Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church" (Ephesians 4:15, NIV).
God wants his people to build healthy relationships, so in spite of the criticisms we face we must take to enhance our relationships. Our adversary, the devil, takes pleasure in dividing us, and we must not be ignorant of his strategies (2 Corinthians 2:11).
As far as possible, let us purpose in our hearts not to allow criticisms to take a toll on our relationships. We can only do this effectively as we depend on God for help and the power of his love to overcome unloving criticisms. Then we can actively listen to them, try to understand their perspectives, and speak the truth with love.
With an attitude of openness, we can build or strengthen relationships instead of causing strife and disunity. For example, in the church setting, we must do everything we can to promote open communication as members of the Body of Christ. In the face of criticisms, you can find common ground, to learn, grow, and strengthen relationships.
Prayer: “Heavenly Father, thank you that you are a God of relationships. As we fellowship with you, it is your will that we build healthy relationships in our churches, workplaces and home. Give me the strength to move beyond criticisms, show love, and build relationships. Amen."
Step 7: Cultivate the Fruit of the Spirit
Focus Verses: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control ..." (Galatians 5: 22, 23, NIV).
The principle of sowing and reaping in the Bible transcends all areas of our lives. While some Christians might only see this principle in terms of finances, it is more than this. For example in Luke 6: 27- 45, we are encouraged to bless others even when they treat us badly, and be careful not be careful not to speak words of condemnation and judgment.
In essence we are encouraged to cultivate a generous spirit in all areas of our lives, so the Bible instructs us to, "do unto others as you would have them do to you" (v. 31). As we heed this universal principle and sow seeds of kindness, even in the face of criticisms, we reap a harvest of blessings on our lives.
We need to consider the dimensions of the fruit of the Spirit, and when people criticize us, let us respond in such a way that we reflect these godly qualities. We must be careful that our attitude, speech and behavior are Christ-like.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you that I can be like you as I respond to criticisms. Thank you that I have your Holy Spirit indwelling in me, and I can display the qualities of love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. In Jesus' Name I pray. Amen.
Moving Forward - Facing Criticisms Gracefully
People will always criticize us, but we can learn from some criticisms, gain new perspectives and grow. Other kinds of criticisms that could be considered toxic should also be met with a heart of love and forgiveness.
It is as we open our hearts to the Holy Spirit that he shows us our own hearts. When we heed his voice, then we are in a better place to respond to criticisms in a Christ-like manner. The same grace that we so bountifully receive will be evident in our interactions with those who criticize us.
Let us go forward allowing the Holy Spirit to order our steps, and be careful not to get defensive when we are criticized. Instead, we ask for clarification calmly, and seek to understand the other person(s) point of view.
We know that the steps of the righteous are ordered by God, and as we depend on him, no matter what the criticism is, we are victors and not victims.
© 2014 Yvette Stupart