How to Handle Criticism

How you deal with criticism speak volumes about you. Being defensive reveals areas of hurts and wounds that have not been dealt with adequately. All criticism hurts and no one likes it, however, it can be very profitable to you. There is a Proverb that says, “Wounds from a friend are better than many kisses from an enemy” (Prov 27:6). Actually at times it may feel like an enemy when criticism comes, but how you view and respond to criticism will make a major difference.

One of the first signs of an immature person is that they are unable to accept criticism. Though no one likes to be criticized, the mature person understands the value of it and how to handle criticism. There are three aspects one must determine in order to handle criticism appropriately.

Determine how you will think about criticism.

In order to deal with criticism one must determine how to judge criticism. Do not take it as a personal attack, but give the person the benefit of having good intentions. That is one of most difficult challenges. To give someone the benefit of the doubt when they are bringing a criticism may be the most demanding thing one will ever do. It might help to know that most people criticize out of what they hate about themselves more than anything else. Recognize that most people criticize out of their own hurts and rejections. When someone brings a criticism look for his or her own hurt. It is not all about you, but often includes their past.

One question you will want to ask yourself, “How is God going to use this to help you grow?”

Determine how you will respond to criticism.

Many years ago I heard Pastor Charles Stanley speak on the subject of criticism. He gave steps to responding to criticism. I have used it to this day. Here is a summary of what he gave.

  • Accept it – Consider it having some form of truth at first.
  • Thank them – Express your appreciation for their desire to see you grow and improve.
    • Ask them – Are there other things you see that would be of help to me?
    • Take action – If it is something that you can address immediately, do so.  If you are having trouble agreeing, ask them to pray with you and express your desire to take this to your leaders, so they can help you see what you need to do. If you put them off, be sure to get back with them. You may find it to be a lack of communication, and this should come out if your response is correct.

Determine your progress in face of criticism

Sometimes criticism cannot be addressed and has no valid point. Criticism that has truth in it will hurt the most. Though no criticism feels good some just does not have the sting because it is not valid. Learn to brush it off and keep going.  Remember, the enemy will try to use criticism to stop you from being an effective leader. There is always the possibility that some time in the life of a leader a false accusation will be made in which only God can vindicate. As it was in the life of Joseph, it is possible for false charges and false criticism can be made. That is where one must completely trust God to vindicate you.

I remember many years ago going through some major criticism. Much of it had validity and it hurt me the most. In the midst of the valid criticism I also heard things that had no validity at all. Although, I hated hearing what was not true it never stuck. There was no traction. It simply fell off along the way and was only a bother to me and had little effect on anyone else. Others quickly defended me and bore the brunt of the invalid criticism. I remember saying to my wife, “God will vindicate us. We must humble ourselves and let God fight our battle.” That is exactly what happened. However, where the criticism was valid that became my impetus for change and transformation and to this day I am grateful.

About the Author:

Glenn Shaffer is the author of Apostolic Government in the 21st Century, Christianity 101 and Discipleship 201. He has a Masters of Ministry degree in leadership studies from Southwestern Christian University and is working toward a Doctorate in Ministry at ORU in Tulsa.

Glenn and his wife, Ami have been married for 40 years with two sons, Matt and Daniel. Together, they co-see the elder pastoral care of Destiny Life Church, one church in two locations (Owasso and Claremore, Oklahoma) where they have been serving for almost 4 decades. It is a non-denominational church, based on a New Testament Apostolic form of church government. Together, they also serve as the directors of ATI- Apostolic Teams International, an emerging network of churches and ministers.

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