One Year Wisdom Challenge

How Wise Christians Process Criticism Successfully


Wisdom Challenge # 11

How do you handle criticism? No one escapes it. Jesus generated a lot of it. We should expect the same if we are walking close to him. So, I’m wondering how you handle it when people criticize? I surely do not enjoy it and it used to send me into a tailspin. I’ve grown a little so that it’s more like flying through a bit of emotional turbulence now.

As an Enneagram One, outside criticism will always be a challenge because we Ones already live with a relentless inner critic. (I highly recommend the book “The Road Back to You,” by Ian Morgan Cron if you don’t know anything about the Enneagram character profile) Other personality types struggle with criticism for other reasons. I’ve observed a variety of responses to being told you don’t cut the mustard.

Some people argue back and verbally beat down the critic until no one is sure what the conversation is about anymore.

Others curl up inside themselves and wonder why you would say something so hurtful.  

Still others (me as a child and young woman) take it on the chin and try harder to be perfect.

Some folks appear not to care. If you share constructive criticism with them lovingly, they give you the wave off . If the criticism comes from a superior, they make enough outward change to appear receptive. Inwardly, they are angry.

None of these reactions are Christlike, but it’s easy for mature, godly people to react badly to a criticism. Each of the above responses lacks the balance of seeing God’s ongoing character development in us through the hard words of others. Avoidance of, overreaction to, or ignoring all criticism is foolish.

Read these different translations of Proverbs 29:1 to put some color into what Solomon says about a person who doesn’t receive criticism well.

Whoever stubbornly refuses to accept criticism will suddenly be destroyed beyond recovery. NLT

Whoever remains stiff-necked after many rebukes will suddenly be destroyed—without remedy. NIV

He who hardens his neck and refuses instruction after being often reproved (corrected, criticized) Will suddenly be broken beyond repair. AMP

For people who hate discipline and only get more stubborn, there’ll come a day when life tumbles in and they break, but by then it’ll be too late to help them. MSG

Solomon’s opinion is that people who don’t know how to receive criticism well don’t end up well. Proverbs are not promises, but they are probabilities.

Imagine what the body of Christ could be like if we could receive and process criticism in healthy ways? Oh my goodness, what could we be up to if we weren’t sidetracked by unhealthy behaviors related to criticism?

Do you avoid involvement with certain ministries or situations because THAT person is involved?

Are you careful where you sit and hang out at church, so you don’t come near certain folk?

Did you drop out of a ministry, committee, or team because someone criticized you?

Are you avoiding some family or friend get togethers because of past criticisms?

How many pastors and leaders are chronically frustrating and driving people under them away because they refuse to make a pathway for their underlings to offer constructive criticism without fear of reprisal?

How much time do you waste replaying criticisms in your mind, reliving the hurt?

How much church hopping can be traced back to criticism and hurt feelings?

How are we being held back in our current position because our superiors notice our immature responses to criticism?

I’m not pointing fingers. I’m listing things myself and others I know have done in response to criticism.

 So, what does it look like to handle criticism like Jesus? Processes will vary with personalities, but there are some distinct characteristics I’ve observed in people who receive criticism maturely and grow from it.

They don’t dismiss the message when they don’t like the messenger. If the Holy Spirit can’t get your attention on something, he may very well send along an obnoxious critic.

They don’t answer back quickly. They think first and speak second.

They process the criticism with God to sort out truth from fiction.

They are humble and recognize they are a person in process with room for improvement.

 They allow the Holy Spirit to convict them and God to change them. People around them can see change.

They don’t agonize over unjust and untrue criticism. They pray for the unhappy soul behind it and move on.

They don’t allow criticism to control them, derail their plans or make them question God’s leading and voice.

The greatest spiritual awakening the world has ever known is on its way. There will be confusion, mistakes, and missteps as the body of Christ struggles to handle the huge influx of new converts. Believers need to work together. Churches need to coordinate and share resources. Denominations need to break down walls to partner with other denominations.

If we can’t disagree or give and receive correction in love, the gospel is going to be hindered.  I’m taking the time now, before it all hits, to let God show me where I’m still weak. I don’t want to miss anything he has designed for me because I’m brooding over criticism or exhausting myself trying to be perfect. What do you need to do in this area to be ready for what’s coming? Will you seek God today on this matter? To help you further grow in receiving criticism in a mature, godly way, I’ve created some short devotionals based on true stories, some of them about very well-known people. I also gathered scripture that’s helpful. Both can be found on my website, or under the heading “Wisdom Challenge Resources.” If you’re serious about growing in wisdom in this area, be willing to do some more digging, thinking and praying.

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