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How Christians Can Handle Criticism

Carola is a Christian writer and author of several books. She writes about Christian living, relationships, and other related topics.

The Christian life compels us to accept constructive criticism. Pastors admonish us to improve ourselves. The Bible cuts our consciences like a two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12). Correction is for our good, helping us to grow and become more Christ-like (Proverbs 6:23). Still, criticism is excruciatingly painful, especially if it is primarily destructive. It may attack our self-esteem, peace of mind, sense of security, and self-image.

We need to recognize and process the good and dismiss that bad. So how do we separate the wheat from the chaff – the constructive from the destructive? Criticism is sometimes a mixture of both. No matter how off base the criticism may be, it will probably have elements that we need to think about. There are steps we can take to dismiss the bad and benefit from the good.

“Don't mind criticism. If it is untrue, disregard it; if unfair, keep from irritation; if it is ignorant, smile; if it is justified it is not criticism, learn from it.”
- Unknown

Characteristics Of Constructive Criticism

Criticism is more likely to be constructive if people:

  • Share a mutual trust and close relationship with us
  • Care about us and has our best interests at heart (Proverbs 27:6)
  • Prayerfully consider what they will say before confronting us
  • Are wise and discreet (Proverbs 16:21)
  • Rarely criticize and only do so if they feel it is absolutely necessary
  • Approach touchy subjects in dispassionate and logical ways rather than being angry or emotional
  • Have evidence to back up their claims
  • Uses words that are nourishing and helpful (Proverbs 10:20-21), giving praise as well as correction
  • Limits their words and focus on only one issue
  • Approach criticism in a spirit of humility
  • Has a sincere desire to help us be better people or to encourage us to improve ourselves

About Destructive Criticism

There are several reasons why someone criticizes us.

Negativity and Bitterness

Some people have a negative outlook, and criticism rolls off their tongues like butter. Some people pick on us because they are angry, bitter, and complaining whiners who see everything as bad or wrong. A few enjoy upsetting and hurting people.

They Have an Agenda

Some people are very set in their ways and sure that they are right. Smug and self-righteous, they attack anyone who does not fit their rigid view of the world. They criticize in the hope that people will fall in line with what the critics believe is the only way to go.

People Are Arrogant and Judgemental

Unfortunately, some people think that their Christian faith justifies them judging and condemning others. They don’t just criticize. They blurt out garbage (Proverbs 12:23). Their mouths expose them as fools because they are unable to hold their tongues.

Proud people think they are showing off their intelligence but actually reveal that they are foolish. They are not interested in understanding another person’s view – they want the satisfaction of sharing their own opinions (Proverbs 8:2). Sometimes their words stir up strife and could provoke a physical attack (Proverbs 18:6).

People Dislike Us

Sometimes, people just do not like us. They may be jealous of what we have, irritated by some of our characteristics, or simply have an irrational dislike. They will jump on the chance to correct us and put us down.

How To Respond Effectively to Criticism

It is important to respond to correction in a godly way so that we can recover and learn from it.

Admit When We Are Wrong

We should promptly confess our wrongdoings and apologize, if needed. We will be tempted to flog ourselves for our errors and shortcomings. Instead, we should cry out to God in a spirit of repentance and ask for His forgiveness. Then we can put the incident behind us. Even though the words of correction we hear are devastating, we are wise if we accept correction (Proverbs 10:8, 12:15, 15:5).

Set Boundaries

Some people, however, cross the line between correction and abuse. For example, a boss chooses to bawl out a staff member out in front of the entire office instead of quietly pulling her aside and pointing out that she made some mistakes. He bristles with indignation as he makes comments about her lack of intelligence and ineptness.

We should be held accountable when we make mistakes, but no one has the right to put us down or be verbally abusive. We are within our rights to tell people to stop. It is no use talking to some people who will just scorn what we say (Proverbs 23:9). Their words pierce like swords instead of promoting wellness and healing (Proverbs 12:18).

In the face of unjust criticism, we can become bitter or better; upset or understanding; hostile or humble; furious or forgiving.
- William Arthur Ward, American author

Accepting Constructive Criticism

What do we do if the criticism is a much-needed correction? We will be tempted to argue and defend ourselves, but this will only start an argument. We may become angry, hurt. If we are in an overly emotional state, we may lash out at them, putting our friendships or relationships in jeopardy.

If we disagree with the correction, there are several things we can do: Most critics want some assurance that they have been heard. After telling them we have listened, we have several choices.

  • We correct any information that is inaccurate
  • We acknowledge our faults (if needed) and tell the critics that we will address the issues raised
  • We give a non-committal answer such as: "OK," "I will think about it," or "We can discuss this later"
  • We talk about the issues in a logical, unemotional way

Criticism – both destructive and constructive - is painful but is needed on occasion so we can improve our Christian walk. Even the worst barrage of nonsense from a fool can teach us something. If we are wise, we will listen and learn from others who criticize us (Proverbs 9:9-10, 12:1).

Reference: The Holy Bible, New International Version

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Carola Finch