Pastor's Corner: Wisely handling criticism
Last updated 8/5/2023 at 7:31am | View PDF
The old saying goes, “Everyone’s a critic!” How true this is in a world where all of us are sinners with keen eyes to find faults in others. Critics quickly pounce on other’s flaws and point out failures. A lesson more valuable than gold is how to handle criticism. “He that refuses instruction hates himself: but he who listens to reproof acquires understanding.” (Proverbs 15:32).
There is a difference between constructive criticism and destructive criticism. Destructive criticism notices the faults and failures of others and seeks to tear them down. The one who is destructively critical will dwell on the faults of others with no interest in their good or improvement. The destructive critic is sinning in violation of the central commands of Christianity, including being unloving, unforgiving, lacking grace, insensitive and harsh (Galatians 5:22; Ephesians 4:32).
Christians are to offer constructive criticism and encouragement to others that will help them improve. Constructive criticism can be viewed as the process of offering well-reasoned positive comments about the work of others in a friendly manner. Constructive criticism helps someone improve so that further growth is promoted. Constructive criticism helps people improve and strive for excellence, which is pleasing to the Lord (Philipians 1:10).
Destructive criticism has its roots in sin. We always want to check ourselves first to make sure we are not offering hypocritical or mean-spirited criticism upon others (Matthew 7:1-5). Sins related to destructive criticism include pride as we set ourselves up as judges over others to build ourselves up as we tear others down. Sometimes there is sinful pleasure from criticizing others to feel better. If we are angry at someone, criticism becomes a weapon to tear others down and to hurt them with words. Jealous and envious people often become critics of those who have things that they want.
It is very important how we receive criticism that comes our way. Beware of negative responses to criticism like ignoring it, running away from it, making excuses, shifting blame and attacking the critic with destructive criticisms of your own. Deflecting constructive criticism may leave you unhappy and unfulfilled (Proverbs 1:30-32). Ignoring constructive criticism may leave problems unaddressed until they cannot be fixed (13:18). Arguing against criticism can lead to poverty and shame (29:1). Denying all criticism is foolish, and the wise person gladly accepts council in the form of correction to improve (12:1).
Criticism can be for our benefit and improvement (Proverbs 27:5). Receiving criticism well will lead to a more productive and fulfilling life and will yield greater wisdom and understanding (10:17a; 15:31-32). Responding well to criticism or correction will bring greater joy and may result in honor from enemies (13:18; 27:9b). Finally, responding well to criticism is part of the refining and sharpening process for faith and growth in maturity (27:17).
Sometimes it may be our place to give constructive criticism, correction and encouragement. As Christians, we want to put off destructive criticism and to put on giving encouragement. We want to think through what Scripture says before we give a loving rebuke or corrective counsel (2 Timothy 3:16). I pray all Christians grow in the wisdom of both receiving and giving constructive criticism for the growth of the church and for the maturity of the faith. “But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up [in maturity] in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ.” (Ephesians 4:15).