Recently I shared a message in our Belmont church about ‘How to deal with criticism.’ Whether we like it or not, criticism is something we all deal with. Even the overly nicest and kindest people who wouldn’t hurt a flea are recipients of criticism. It’s unavoidable and because of that—we need to know how to deal with it in a Christ-like way.
Typically, to deal with a difficult person we would rather avoid them or maybe not have anything to do with them anymore. But that’s not what Christians are called to do. Jesus gave a command to every believer to love people just as we love God.
Jesus said to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ Matthew 22:37-39
If we are told to love people… how do we love those who are difficult and criticise us?
There are three responses to follow that can help us next time we receive criticism:
This first response is incredibly important. If you want to be all that God wants you to be, you need to learn how to listen to constructive criticism.
How do we know when to listen?
We will listen when their motive is to help and not hurt.
When the person’s motive is not pure, they are actually going to hurt you rather than help you, so listen whenever someone’s motive is to help us and not hurt us.
We want to listen when the person can help.
When the person is known to be knowledgeable and they have some experience, we will be very wise to listen to their constructive criticism.
If you listen to constructive criticism, you will be at home among the wise. If you reject criticism, you only harm yourself…. Proverbs 15:31-32
Don’t take offence if the criticism is to help. Learn from the person who has the reputation by listening to what they have to say to help you to become better.
When people are criticising us, there is also a time to answer their criticism, to offer a defence or to answer their criticism.
So when do we answer?
We answer when the person is missing information that would change their perception.
They may be criticising you for something and you would say, “Here’s something that you didn’t know,” and you tell them something and they may say, “Oh, I see now. I understand.” There are two sides to every story and criticism usually comes from only one side. So, you offer them information that they didn’t previously have.
We answer when the person is open to change.
Some people, no matter what you say, are still going to be critical. And, for those people, we don’t try to answer them. If the person criticising is open to listen and change, you won’t be wasting your time in giving an answer. It could be a positive experience for everyone involved.
We must learn to dismiss invalid criticism, as this is so important, and yet very difficult.
When do we dismiss invalid criticism?
We dismiss criticism when the person is characterised by being overly critical.
We dismiss criticism that comes from those who see everything as negative. They are not going to see anything good in us. We need to learn to dismiss that and not be distracted by it.
We also dismiss invalid criticism when the person who is criticising is emotionally unhealthy or wounded.
Now, we do not dismiss the person. We love a person who is hurting or wounded, but we have to understand that when someone else is deeply hurt, hurting people— hurt people, and they will criticise you.
Criticism from hurting people is not likely personal. You just happen to be an easy target. We dismiss criticism when it comes from those who are wounded or unhealthy.
Dealing with critical people – it is a part of life. I will be criticised, and so will you. At the end of the day, here’s the only thought that I want you to take away.
We can’t please all people, but we can please God.
People matter to God and so should people matter to us. However, people can be difficult for whatever reason. Try your best to love your neighbour as yourself without compromising on pleasing God as He matters to us.
I hope this helps, because we can be a church who loves people and have a deep desire to see our criticisers transformed and follow Jesus.