Criticism, who likes it? Not me. My first tendency is to lash out with defense, denial, humor, withdrawal, anger, sadness, or even feelings far worse.
Sometimes this is not a bad thing. Like when the guy flips me off on the freeway because I was not willing to drive off into the ditch instead of merging in front of him; I tend to reject his criticism with humor and… well depends on the day. Pray for me.
Well other times those instinctual responses to criticism are not always best. In fact it could be me choosing my own pride and image over Jesus, and what he would have for me. Criticism raises deep heart issues, and most of us can come up with a million excuses/reasons for tossing aside criticism that we may need to hear.
My buddy Brad gave me tickets to go to the Rockies game today (they lost and are a terrible team) and I went with my awesome wife. We had a great time just visiting and talking about life and faith. Somehow we got on this subject of criticism and how Christians should handle it.
I was reminded of Proverbs 27:6, “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.”
This verse can be somewhat weird but I think there is two key principles that can help us get the most out of criticism that comes our way. Sometimes both of these principles should be there to accept the criticism, other times it may only need to be one.
1. Proximity: How close is the person to you that offers the criticism? Is it one of your closest friends? Or is it a commentator on a random blog? Those who have proximity to us, and are able to observe a wide body of our life and actions, have a valuable view into our lives and actions. If someone is a constant in your work, social, or familial life, stop and pause and give credence to their words. But often principle two needs to be there as well.
2. Character: All of us have people in our lives whether it is the person in the cubicle next to you, or the crazy uncle you have to see on a regular basis, who you may have proximity with, but still are not reservoirs of wisdom. Yet there are also those other people in our lives who are upstanding (tasdiq) wise, loving, and reliable. Or they may not even be a person we have lots of proximity with, but are known for having righteous character. These are people we should listen to.
I would also caution to not dismiss criticism because of the delivery. Often many of us will toss away some tough words we may need to hear just because we can nitpick the way the person approached us. This is a mistake, and is usually our sinful hearts just trying to squirm off the hook of piercing truth.
So when we come up against criticism from someone with good character and proximity we should keep in mind Proverbs 27:6. They are often a blessing. These people are friends who the LORD is using to grow you. Keep these two principles in mind next time some hard words come your way.