Something I’ve noticed more and more over the last few years is that no matter how hard you try, criticism will find you at some point. Some of it will be unfair, some of it will be warranted but all of it will be painfully unavoidable. It’s simply a matter of time. Like the Elbert Hubbard quote above, the only way you can avoid criticism is by doing nothing…but to be perfectly honest with you, you’ll probably be criticised for that too! This is the point where we could moan and groan about how unfair the world is, but I don’t really want to do that. I think the more pressing issue is how we respond to criticism when it does eventually descend on us.
Despite the pain that can be caused when criticism is expressed poorly, there are usually some beneficial aspects to take into consideration as well. Criticism, after all, is often a comment on a facet of your life that you can improve on. Criticism can therefore be like a sign on a road leading us to our destination. Criticism also helps us to remain humble and reminds us that there is still room to grow. If viewed in this light, many potentially destructive words from the people around us can help elevate and build us rather than pull us down. Criticism isn’t always bad after all!
There will of course be times where comments are unavoidably hurtful, whether intentionally or otherwise. During these times, I’m more and more drawn to the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:1-5 (NIV):
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
It goes without saying that this passage is a fantastic encouragement not to judge others, but I think it also helps us to relate to those that are criticising us too. We could react rashly and say things that we’ll probably regret or we can remember that nobody is perfect. We might have a ‘plank in our eye’, but the chances are that whilst someone might be all too happy to point yours out, they can’t see their own. What I’m not saying is that you therefore make an effort to get revenge and point it out to them!! That wouldn’t solve anything. Rather, simply by remembering that we are all flawed individuals, we can choose to love that person despite any hurtful words they might say to you. They might be saying it out of a place of brokenness and pain and it’s entirely possible that their words are tainted as a result. Choose love over revenge.
- Criticism is unavoidable
- Criticism can help us grow if we choose to
- There might be more to hurtful criticism than meets the eye. You don’t necessarily know everything that’s going on in that person’s life – choose to show love rather than revenge
How are you going to react to criticism?