Suggested Reading: Matthew 5:1-12
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account—Matthew 5:10-11
Its been said if you want to avoid criticism then do nothing. But then that doesn’t really work because there will always be someone to criticize you for doing nothing! No matter what you do or don’t do, eventually you will come up under severe scrutiny and come face to face with disapproval. Sometimes it is warranted and at other times it is unfair, untrue, and unfounded.
Criticism is the opposite of encouragement. It is the expression of disapproval of someone, or something based on perceived faults or mistakes.
Nobody likes to be criticized. I know I don’t. During our lifetime we will be criticized not just once but countless times. Sometimes we are criticized for not doing anything, and at other times, for something we are doing. We will be criticized for the way we do something and told how we should have done it better. We will find out that we cannot please everyone all of the time and no matter what we do we will receive criticism. Concerning criticism, the question is not if, or when, we will encounter criticism, but how we will handle criticism? How will we handle rejection? How will we handle or respond when, what others perceive as fault or mistakes are not true?
As stinging as it is criticism does not have to have a bad or negative outcome. Whether it is meant to be constructive or not, it can actually be the catalyst for something good to come from it. We may need to sift it, but it can still serve a good purpose. I am reminded here when Paul wrote that God is able to bring about good, even from something that is meant to knock us down or destroy us (Romans 8:28).
Many times over the course of my writing career I have received criticism about a piece of writing or devotion I thought was pretty good; had a manuscript returned that was full of red marks and slashes. In the beginning it was hard to take, and I would vow not to write anymore or send anything else to that publication. But I toughened up and learned to not only take the criticism in stride but make it work in my best interest as a writer.
When we are criticized, we should stop to consider the source: who its coming from. Some people criticize others because of their own insecurities or unhappiness with themselves; some because they are threatened or jealous; some because they are prideful and do not think others can do as good a job or even better than they could do; some people are critical by nature and have something critical to say about everything. And there are even professions and people who criticize the performance of others for a living.
We may think we are pretty tough, but something like criticism can prove how thin-skinned we really are. Criticism feels personal. It feels like a rejection of us. We may even feel betrayed by the one who criticizes us, because we never saw it coming from them. Being criticized by those we are close to or love is very hurtful and may throw us for a loop. Our initial instinct may be to lash out at our critics, get them back in some way, or even take us into a downward spiral of depression and despair but when we allow criticism to do this we are giving our adversary a victory; and we certainly don’t want to do that!
The Bible is a great and reliable source on how to handle criticism and if we follow the precepts of Solomon through the wises Proverbs, or even read how Jesus handled criticism in the Gospels and the disciples took it in stride in the New Testament and Epistles we can get some good pointers on dealing with criticism so it does not ruin our day or our life or outlook.
When we are criticized, our adversary, the devil would love us to have a pity-party, give in to those strong urges to blast the person who is criticizing us out of the water, or start speaking poorly about them. He would love us to look for ways to get back at them or become as vicious as they are being. He would love us to become bitter or say things we may regret later, to start involving other people who will take sides with us and get a war of words going. He loves it when we let our emotions lead us down a dark or critical path and become stressed, anxious, and even start to obsess over the matter or the person who is being critical. As Paul wrote in I Corinthians 10:23 all these things are permissible but are not necessarily beneficial.
Jesus was criticized often. When he was, he knew exactly how to handle his critics. He always took not just the high road, but the God road which ends up being the good, blessed, and victorious road. He refused to give the devil a victory in anything. We are not Jesus, but we have the power of Jesus, the mind of Jesus, the authority of Jesus and the Spirit of Jesus so we can also handle criticism in a good and godly way. Because our identity is shaped through and in him, we know who we are. It does not matter what people say or say about us. Our approval comes from Christ and our MOST High God. As Paul wrote in Romans 8, “If God is for us who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31)
God, in Christ Jesus will give us the confidence we need to press on and to counter criticism with positive, loving thoughts. He will help us sift and consider the source and where the criticism came from, turn the criticism into a positive activity, make it work for our good and God’s glory and, if there is a need to prove our critic wrong, he will show us what to do. As the saying goes the best revenge is a life well lived.
Jesus will help us fulfill our Christian duty of taking criticism in stride and exampling for an unbelieving world the correct way to handle criticism and come out victoriously. In Christ we are empowered to do as he did, take the jab, the stab, the slap, be knocked down but get back up as many times as necessary. We can keep smiling because the joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10). We can be gracious as the Lord is gracious (I Peter 2:3). And we can pray for those who criticize us because they need to experience the joy and freedom Christ brings that overcomes any spirit of negativity and criticism. Let’s Pray
Dear God, because we belong to you and have placed our faith in Jesus, our identity is secure and we can take criticism in stride. We can look at and receive criticism in a way that helps grow and know if there is anything to gain from it. When criticism comes may we not react as those in the world would: negatively, vengeful or even becoming depressed but looking for the good that can come out of it, in that way we always blessed and always glorify you. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen