Receiving Criticism
Yesterday, we talked about giving criticism. Specifically, it was stated that if a person doesn't have the desire to genuinely help someone, then he really doesn't have the right to criticize him at all. If our hearts are not right, it would be better to remain silent than to offer criticism.

Of course, in our interactions with people, sometimes we will offer criticism and sometimes we will be on the receiving end of it. We must learn how to deal with criticism and accept it appropriately.

When it comes to receiving criticism, may we strive for a humble spirit and truthfully consider whether the criticism contains any truth. Criticism--whether it is constructive or not--can be a priceless source of information for those who are strong enough to accept it in a proper spirit. If one is not careful, however, he will spend more time trying to justify himself than actually learning what he can from a critic. Only a fool does not profit when he is rebuked for his mistakes. Only a fool, when given a fish to eat, obsesses over the bones and discards both them and the meat! A wise man will consume the meat and spit out the bones. Not all criticisms we receive will be just or even valid, but generally there is at least something worth chewing on and digesting. Don't reject criticism outright because of its poor delivery or inaccuracies. Reject that which is unprofitable, and learn what you can from the rest.

Consider some thoughts from the book of Proverbs on this important subject - "Rebuke a wise man and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser. Teach a just man, and he will increase in learning" (9:8,9). "Whoever loves instruction [or discipline] loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid" (12:1). "A scoffer does not listen to rebuke" (13:1). "Poverty and shame will come to him who disdains correction, but he who regards a rebuke will be honored" (13:18). "He who disdains instruction despises his own soul, but he who heeds rebuke gets understanding" (15:32).

Clearly, the sacred text has quite a bit to say about the importance of receiving correction properly (as well as giving it). Practically speaking, when someone offers criticism, I believe we should do the following things to the best of our ability:

  1. Listen attentively and respectfully, even when the criticism seems to be delivered inappropriately or from an improper motive.
  2. Immediately pray to God for wisdom that you would be able to benefit from the criticism, not develop a spirit of resentment toward the critic.
  3. Do not feel compelled to instantly offer a counter criticism. Perhaps this is needed at times, but it is difficult to rationally evaluate the validity of a criticism if we become more focused on correcting them than ourselves.
  4. Remember that you are not perfect--no one is sinless (Rom. 3:23). If you have made a mistake or committed a sin, own up to it. Nothing good is accomplished by denying the truth; acknowledge it--even when it makes you look bad. Always be willing to humbly confess your sins to God and to those you may have hurt or offended.
  5. If criticism is offered to you in a constructive way, compliment the critic. If he, in a proper spirit, was willing to risk arousing your displeasure by presenting some criticism to you, it should be obvious that he cares about you. His suggestions, therefore, should be considered all the more seriously.

Dear friends, when we are criticized, let's accept what is true and act upon it, thereby becoming a stronger person. He who profits from a mild correction or even a harsh rebuke is wise (e.g., Acts 18:24-26; Gal. 2:11ff). Let us always endeavor to both give and receive criticism in a proper spirit.