We will all be criticized at one time or another. Sometimes justly, sometimes unjustly. Sometimes others’ criticism of us is harsh and undeserved. Sometimes we may need it. How do we respond to criticism? I haven’t always done well and I’m still learning, but here are a few things I try to think of when others criticize me.
Be quick to hear. (James 1:19)
This can be hard to do because our emotions rise up and our minds begin to think of ways to refute the other person. To be quick to hear means we really do try to listen to and consider what the other person is saying. We don’t just write it off. Even if it seems unjust or undeserved.
Be slow to speak (James 1:19).
Don’t interrupt or respond too quickly. Let them finish. If you speak too quickly you might speak rashly or in anger.
Be slow to become angry.
Why? Because James 1:19-20 says the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Anger won’t make someone do the right thing. Remember, God is slow to anger, patient and long-suffering with those who offend him. How much more should we be.
Don’t rail back.
“When (Jesus) was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23). Talk about being unjustly accused – Jesus was, yet continued to trust the Lord and did not revile in return.
Give a gentle response.
“A soft answer turns away wrath” (Proverbs 15:1). Be gracious even to those who offend you, even as God is gracious to us when we offend him.
Don’t defend yourself too quickly.
Defensiveness can rise out of pride and being unteachable.
Consider what might be true in the critique, even if it is given in a poor way.
Even if it is given with the intent to hurt or mock, there still might be something worth considering. God might be speaking to you through this person.
Remember the Cross.
Someone has said that people won’t say anything about us that the Cross hasn’t said and more, which is, we are sinners who deserve eternal punishment. So actually, anything anyone says about us is less than what the Cross has said about us. Turn to God who accepts you in Christ unconditionally despite your many sins and failures. We can be discouraged when we see areas of sin or failure, but Jesus has paid for those on the cross and God is pleased with us because of Christ.
Consider the fact that you have blind spots
We can’t always see ourselves accurately. Maybe this person is seeing something you can’t see about yourself.
Pray about the criticism
Ask God for wisdom – “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you” (Psalms 32:8).
Ask others for their opinion
Your critic could be right or completely off-the-wall. If this is an area of sin or weakness in your life, then others will have seen it too.
Consider the source.
Don’t do this too quickly, but consider the other person’s possible motives, their level of expertise or wisdom, etc. They may be criticizing you to hurt you or they may not know what they’re talking about.
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Mark Altrogge has been senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of Indiana, Pennsylvania, since 1982. He has written hundreds of songs for worship, including “I Stand in Awe” and “I’m Forever Grateful.” Mark and his wife, Kristi, have four sons and one daughter.
Find out more on his blog, The Blazing Center.