How Should We Respond to Criticism?May 2, 2014
Criticism is like a shot in the arm: It hurts but it eventually helps. To think you are above it is folly. To think you don’t need it is arrogance. The reason we find criticism so difficult to deal with is because it touches the area of our heart that is often guarded and relentlessly defended: the area of pride. We may never admit it, but failure to embrace criticism is an attempt to claim perfection. Granted, not all criticism is substantiated, warranted, or deserved; but our response to the criticism is often the measuring rod of our character.
Knowing that all men, especially those in the ministry, will face criticism, the question becomes, how do we biblically respond when we are raked over the proverbial coals?
1. We Use it.
Charles Spurgeon said, “What a blessing such an irritating critic will be to a wise man.” If you are fortunate enough to have a friend who will look beyond your sensitivity and try to help you even when it hurts, then you should, with confidence, call that man a friend indeed. Sometimes it is hard to determine which critics are there to hurt you and which critics have been directed by God to help you. If not careful, you can be so disgruntled with the critic that you fail to see the legitimacy of the criticism. Use criticism to evaluate your actions and attitudes. Examine your motives and determine whether or not there is merit in what has been said. If there is, repent and change.
2. We Refuse It.
When I say “refuse it” I mean to ignore it, leave it alone, get over it. Break free from the bondage of man’s judgment. Find contentment in Christ. You will not satisfy every whim and fancy of those around you, nor should you so desire. If you want to be miserable, try to please the critics and naysayers of life. One of the mistakes we oftentimes make in ministry is to fulfill everyone’s expectations of what they think we should be, all the while, we come short of pleasing the One Who matters the most: God. Refuse to live in the long, dark shadow of the pointed finger.
3. We Defuse It.
You can oftentimes defuse criticism by approaching your critics with a spirit of love and grace. When we take the Biblical steps to reconciliation, we are granted liberty and freedom in the Spirit of love (regardless of their response). Admittedly, there are some critics you will never be able to come to terms with: refuse them. But when possible, approach the cynics of life with a desire to resolve contention. In his book Christlike, Bill Hull contends, “Some of the most encouraging people in my life have affirmed their belief in me while at the same time mentioning areas needing attention.” Such an affirmation can be experienced when you work at defusing the criticism.
The one thing we must avoid is trying to avoid criticism altogether. Not all criticism is bad. As a matter of fact, there are some times when it is necessary. When given in the right spirit, with the right motive, under the right circumstances, criticism can be your greatest companion. The Bible says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Proverbs 27:6).