Character-revealing tools for handling constructive and deconstructive criticism with grace
We are going about our lives doing the best we can when suddenly we are criticized for our talk, dress, actions or beliefs. Now what? Are we immediately defensive? Do we hurl back insults and accusations? Or do we cave internally, feeling really bad about ourselves and finding it hard to recover and move forward? Not wanting to change stops our growth process. Defensiveness might come from either pride or insecurity – both of which need to be recognized and managed. We know we can always get better, so how do we take the pain of a jarring critique NOT as a roadblock or defeat, but use it as a tool to build our Christian character?
Let’s face it, there is power in criticism. If you are the criticizer, you wield a tool that can be used for building or demolition. It is you who decides what you are looking to accomplish, and your decision is boldly proclaimed in the delivery of your critique. Are you cutting, demeaning and sarcastic? If so, you are shamelessly focused on picking another apart. Are you tactful, truthful and kind? If so, you are gracefully focused on building another up. Unfortunately, most of us usually don’t stop to think before we criticize. This is because we are criticizing as a reaction and really not thinking much at all. The end result of this kind of criticism is usually destructive.
We always envision the power of criticism as being held entirely in the words and delivery of the criticizer. Have you ever stopped to consider the great, even life-changing power the one being criticized holds? Think about this. When someone criticizes us, their power is that of an offer and really no more. They offer a battle or an insult or an observation or even a suggestion. Once the criticism is delivered, their power has ended. As the recipient of that criticism, I now have all the power. I take that offer and decide how to handle it. I have the power of application and conclusion.
The bottom line is, we can choose to do something constructive with even the most harshly delivered criticism. Our first tool for handling it is sincerity. Do I really want to get better? Am I willing to look whatever legitimate truth might be hidden within someone’s vitriolic words and filter it out for consideration? Do I have the courage to accept that which is helpful and graciously discard the rest?
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Check out our December 2, 2019 podcast, “How Can Criticism Help us Grow?” for more. We looked at biblical examples of criticism received and ignored. We find examples of how NOT to dish back the kind of criticism we might be given. We talk about finding and standing on the solid and godly middle ground of response. Whether you are inclined to fold your arms and fight back, or to run hide and carry the wounds of criticism with you, there are answers you need to hear!
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