How to Handle Criticism

Stan Russell   -  

1. Ask yourself if it is true. 
The bible tells us that the wounds of a friend are faithful. (Proverbs 27:6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend… NKJV) This means that when people love you and care for you, you should listen to them. If someone close to you, and even more so if many close to you are bringing something to your attention that is causing difficulty for others or is a character issue, you should listen and prayerfully consider it. If it is true, you should ask God to help you overcome the flaw.
On the other hand, it is true that people who don’t like you will often be more honest than those who love you. It is important to seek God concerning whether their criticisms are true, then change in that area even if, in your mind, the wrong person revealed it to you. If it is true, it is true and God will bless your humility if you seek to follow His will and become more like Jesus in every area. (James 4:10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor. NLT)
The most important thing to remember is that if you will seek God for growth in your areas of weakness, no matter how they are revealed, you will be blessed, those around you will be blessed, your relationships will be strengthened and God will be glorified.
2. Try not to take it personally.
Keep your cool, don’t lose your composure and don’t say something that later you will wish you hadn’t. (Philippians 2:14 Do everything without complaining or arguing… NIV) If you do this, often you prove to others that they are off base with their criticism. If you fight back, kick and scream (metaphorically speaking) then you are just making them and others think the criticism is correct. If you think, during the criticism, “I am not going to take this personally,” you can weigh everything evenly and move on without guilt for past or present actions.
3. If it is not true, then don’t worry about it.
I mean literally, don’t worry. Now this is a place where I fall short at times myself. I want everyone to like me and think good thoughts about me, after all, I am a good guy, right? Well, sometimes people will judge you wrongly, even Christians. How do you handle that when it happens? I once shared in anguish with my wife Karen about some criticism I had received about having wrong motives. She asked me, “Is it true?” I said, “No,” and she said, “Don’t worry about it then.” Great advice. I can’t be responsible for every wrong criticism I receive, and neither can you. Instead, pray and give it to God as Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” (NLT)
4. When you respond, speak once and speak well.
Tell the person why it isn’t true. Tell them your real heart and point out to them how they are off base, but don’t speak to them over and over to try to win them with your words. Jesus, when accused of crimes by the Pharisees, spoke once and He spoke the truth well. He told them who He was and they didn’t like it. People who don’t like you want to hurt you and expose any weakness you have. Don’t get into it with them over and over again. Speak once and speak it well and then move on. I like to think of critics as those people who “boo” in the stands when a game is being played. If you are a player, the only way they can affect the game is if you let them get in your head. Don’t talk to them, it is just a distraction. Move on and follow God and He will bless you.
5. Live your life with character and purity.
In the end, the best way to overcome criticism is to prove your innocence with faithfulness to God, character and purity. Sometimes you can’t overcome criticism that is false in the moment, or even in a week or two, but over time, the months and the years of character add up. You will get credit for living the right way. God will vindicate you. Show that your life is one lived in love, in dedicated service to God and with character, and in the end you will win.
Matthew 5:16b … Live so that they will see the good things you do and will praise your Father in heaven. (NCV)
Grace and Truth,
Pastor Stan