Coping with Criticism


The Biblical standard is to tell the truth in love. Members of the Christian community are bound to act in each other’s best interest. In many cases, that means they have an obligation not to withhold the truth from each other. If the truth is unpleasant, it is often difficult to discern the love.

Criticism that is offered in love is generally more constructive than criticism that is intended to wound. Nonetheless, good will and good intentions do not guarantee the validity of what is being said. Every statement must be considered on its own merits. It is easy to swallow something whole if the packaging is appealing enough. If our critic is someone we are very fond of, rejecting what s/he has to say can feel like rejecting the person. When the utterance has a preface like “the Lord put it on my heart to tell you this”, it is particularly difficult to be objective. Honest questioning can feel like resisting the Holy Spirit. The most sensitive and fearful of us can be completely paralyzed by the fear of displeasing God.

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth, and his job is to guide us into all truth. We hear the Spirit’s voice through a variety of channels. It is our job to winnow everything prayerfully and find the life-giving, nourishing grain. No one else can do that for us. Collectively, we have the mind of Christ, and individually, we have the responsibility of learning how to tune into His thoughts and acting accordingly. However painful the process is, important issues must be brought to light and hidden questions must be asked. One reason we so easily get obsessed with controlling others is that our heroic efforts distract us from hearing our own stifled inner voices, including the voice of God leading us into change and growth we would prefer to avoid.