Accepting Criticism

Nobody enjoys criticism, constructive or otherwise. However, we all need it from time to time. I try to keep three biblical principles in mind whenever I receive criticism.

Don’t Defend Yourself

James tells us to be swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to wrath. Genuinely listen when people confront you, thank them, and ask for some time to think about what they said. Resist your natural urges towards argument and anger. Regardless of how the criticism is brought, take as long as you need to hear. You may need days or weeks before you are ready to speak. You should need even longer to get angry.

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

Peter tells us to be so blameless that criticisms sound absurd. The very fact that someone brings criticism often indicates a sanctification problem somewhere. Even the kindest and most honest criticisms will be wrong in one particular detail or another. Unless the detail is absolutely crucial, don’t worry about setting the record straight. It doesn’t even matter whether the criticism correctly diagnoses your problem. If the criticism bothers you, it probably points to a problem of some sort. Find the true problem, confess it, and fix it.

Don’t Lie to Yourself

John warns us not to lie about our own sinfulness. Whenever criticism arises, your first reaction will be to present yourself in a more positive light. This often requires you to misrepresent minor details, claim nonexistent motives, and even simply make things up. These blatant lies won’t fool others, but you probably will succeed in deceiving yourself. Our hearts are proud and wicked. We desperately long to believe our own lies.

Don’t reject criticism. Embrace it until there is nothing left to criticize.

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2 thoughts on “Accepting Criticism

  1. My comments are attempting to avoid getting entangled in the small stuff! In the big picture, some people look forward to criticism- especially if they are in the arts or sports. What’s key is the person delivering the criticism and whether an atmosphere of acceptance has been established between the giver and the receiver. When an atmosphere of acceptance exists, the receiver is more apt to being receptive to the criticism because he or she recognizes that the giver’s intent is to be helpful. What’s underlying in an atmosphere of acceptance is shared trust and respect, alignment of goals, priorities, boundaries, and an understanding of how best to interact with one another in order to have productive exchanges. Achieving an atmosphere of acceptance and delivering quality criticism are skill sets that need to be learned and fine tuned. What also helps receivers remain open to criticism is when they can quickly and accurately assess the difference between quality criticism and other types of criticism because after all, some criticisms are meant to hurt and be destructive.

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