Friday, October 02, 2009

Criticism and the Christian

Let's face it, no one likes to be critiqued or criticized. It can be especially challenging to handle if we perceive the criticism to be unwarranted or unjustified. In those situations, we can often respond with a defensive posture, a myriad of excuses or even with counter-attacks.

But is there a different way that we can respond to criticism? I think so.

I was reminded of the value of criticism as I read the article entitled "The Cross and Criticism" from Peacemaker Ministries. The author, Alfred Poirier makes the point that the Bible commends the ability to heed criticism as a mark of wisdom.

"Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser;
teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning"
(Proverbs 9:9)

In fact, wise men and women, not only heed criticism but consider it to be a blessing when it comes from a righteous source.

Let a righteous man strike me - it is a kindness;
let him rebuke me - it is oil for my head
(Psalm 141:5)

The point Poirier makes is that the Bible teaches us that correction and criticism can often be a means of God's blessing for our lives and he's right. In the article, he argues for how Christ's death on the cross enables us to view ourselves critically, yet secured by God's justifying love for us.

Certainly, there is a place for clarifying misconceptions and appropriately defending oneself against false accusations. Sometimes criticisms are actually unjustified or incorrect. In those situations, we should feel at liberty to "set the record straight" but not at the expense humbly listening and receiving the corrective input.

However, even when criticisms are unjustified, I've found them helpful in humbling my soul as it leads me to put my trust in Christ. Just think - if we are not open to receiving criticism, we might be overlooking the blessing of God hidden in a corrective word.

How do you respond to criticism? Do you make it easy for others to provide constructive criticism or feedback?


Red Letter Believers said...


This really nails me between the eyes. I dont like to be criticized..IT hurts.

So I do everything i can to avoid criticism. I protect myself, which means i dont take the necessary risks.

I fail to speak up. I fail to converse. I fail to be real.

To avoid crticism is really a matter of pride.


Every Square Inch said...

RLB - I feel your pain. Receiving criticism isn't natural to any of us. But really knowing that we've been accepted by God on the basis of Christ opens the door for us to be vulnerable and "real". We can afford to take risks when we know that God is with least we're positioned to do so,

Halfmom said...

I think that RLB has gotten to the bottom of, at least part, of the problem. It is pride, pure and simple. Like the garden, we want to be the ones in control, the ones who have the knowledge, power, etc. So often over the course of the years I've considered my "fear of man" issues to be lack of an appropriate self image. What I've come to recognize is that it is far more a pride issue.

How easy am I to offer criticism to? I don't know the answer to that. I suspect, though, that it depends on who is offering it. If they are already have my respect I'm much more likely to listen well. If not, or if I'm predisposed by previous interactions, to think the person lacking in wisdome or having impure motives, far less likely to listen.

However, I had a pastor many, many years ago that taught us to always listen for "a kernal of truth in a field of criticism". Certainly it has been true in my life that even the most unfair and harsh criticism still has, by God's grace, a kernal of truth that I need to take away.

Good post - hard topic.

Every Square Inch said...

Susan - I understand.

Your point about the link between the fear of man and pride is spot on. Someone once characterized our fears as inverted cravings... it's the craving for the approval of men that leads to fear of men's opinions.

thanks for sharing so honestly

Halfmom said...

Inverted craving - I understand that!!

Sharing honestly - why not - God already knows it all...

Ted M. Gossard said...

You should always listen to it and weigh it before God and take time to do so. There usually is some sort of truth in it somewhere and somehow. The older I get the more I do so. Don't jump to conclusions either way. Be open. That's where I'm at on this now.

As to pride, yes, sure. But there are other factors involved as well. Pride is overblown at times, I believe. Many people have experienced gross injustice and there are other factors played out in their lives which make them distrusting of criticism. But they need, in Jesus, to come to be open to it.

Ted M. Gossard said...

And I'm not denying that pride is not an issue, and likely it is in place always in some measure. A part of us as sinners. But I'm just doubting that it is necessarily preeminent as some make it to be. (though maybe they're right!)

Every Square Inch said...

Ted - At least for my own life, pride is an issue - both explicit and implicit.

Halfmom said...

I was thinking - "lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, the pride of life".

Lust means I want something I can't have - whether it's because it's not OK or it's just not OK now, I want what I want when I want it - "I want to be in control".

The "pride of life" - "I want to be in control".

I guess it all boils down to idolatry for me - and by me :(

Ted M. Gossard said...

Yes, ESI. Surely true for us all!

Let's just say that as we walk in the Spirit we do not fulfill the lusts of the flesh which includes prideful thinking and living (note the works of the flesh listed in Galatians).

At the same time we're works in process and it's not like we've arrived to perfect humility. Though I think by God's grace we can arrive to levels of humility and unpride that are good for that time. Then God can uncover more in his good time along the way.

And again, it's a question of focus as I share in the analogy at Susan's blog.