No matter what you do someone will criticize you. It is simply a fact of life. In fact, if you were to do absolutely nothing at all someone would criticize you for that. So, what do you do when someone is being critical of what you are doing? How you are doing it? How do you handle those who criticize the way you dress? Your tattoos? Your piercings? Your hair style? Your life-style?
Well, there are a number of responses to the critic and the criticism…
1> Listen to criticism when it’s appropriate
Proverbs 15:31-32 “If you listen to constructive criticism, you will be at home among the wise.
If you reject discipline, you only harm yourself; but if you listen to correction, you grow in understanding.”
Some criticism is actually useful and important. Sometimes it’s given from people who care enough about you to risk offending you. Their criticism is constructive. They offer suggestions to help you improve yourself. I try to listen to others when I believe their motives are pure.
2> You should answer the criticism
Someone may criticize you without the goal of helping – they simply want to voice dislike for you or something you’ve done. In some cases, you should answer the criticism. Who is it wise to answer? Whenever you think that offering a response can help the critic understand your position. But watch your attitude – simply answering can easily turn into defensiveness.
Consider answering when they’re missing important information that could change their perception (and if you think they are open to listening).
Gideon, one of Israel’s national leaders, gave us a great model for answering criticism. The delegation from the tribe of Ephraim was upset that Gideon didn’t seem to be paying them much attention. Judges 8:1-2a recounts the story: “Now the Ephraimites asked Gideon, “Why have you treated us like this? Why didn’t you call us when you went to fight Midian? ” And they challenged him vigorously. But he answered them…”
Gideon acted wisely. He gave them more information. He gave them a soft and wise answer. This often silences the critics.
3> Dismiss the criticism
Another appropriate response to invalid criticism may be to simply dismiss it. I’m convinced that some people see only the bad side of everything. All of their silver linings have clouds. These horribly miserable individuals have the gift of dragging people down – especially themselves. I’ve chosen not to let them do that to me. If you face someone who can’t be pleased, dismiss their invalid criticism.
When dealing with overly critical people, try to see past the arrows to the struggles that launched them. Often the critic is a very wounded and hurting person. So, it is good to try and see past the criticism even as you dismiss it to discover the wound in the critic that is the source of the criticism.
4> Endure the critic and the criticism
Okay, sometimes you should listen to your critics. Sometimes you answer your critics. And sometimes you dismiss them. But what if you can’t ignore them? What do you do when people say things about you that are not true, and you try to dismiss them … but they resurface again and again and again? It’s time to endure.
When critical people just won’t go away, I can only tell you one thing to do: endure.
Endurance is critical if you want to succeed spectacularly at anything God sets before you. Whenever you veer off the beaten path, whenever you blaze a new trail, you’ll be criticized. Sometimes it will be relentless. You must endure.
In the Church world, I’m grateful for the spiritual trailblazers. Ten of the twelve original disciples died a martyr’s death spreading the gospel so that one day I would hear and believe. The Church fathers of the first three centuries endured over-whelming persecution for their faith. Martin Luther faced a life-and-death trial for defending God’s Word. Wesley, Finney, Moody, and Spurgeon patiently held up under criticism during the great historical revivals. Modern-day pioneers have endured battles to reshape and renew the Church. Someone said you can always tell a pioneer by the arrows in his back.
To succeed, you have to be able to suffer. And one of the most common pains obedient risk-takers face is the pain of criticism.
Jesus is our greatest model, He was willing to obey His Father’s voice no matter what the cost. Hebrews 12:2 tells us to “fix out eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross.” It’s for the joy and reward set before you that you endure the pain of risky obedience.
If God’s calling you to do something (and He is), get to it. Fix your eyes on Jesus. Be obedient. For the joy set before you, endure your unavoidable opponents.
Listen. Answer. Dismiss. Harder still, endure. Above all else, never forget: You can’t please all people but you can please God.
No matter how hard you try, you’ll never please everyone. It’s an impossible goal. Give up trying to please the unappeasable, and live first of all for God, your Father, who always has a smile ready for you. I love the way Paul says it in 1 Thessalonians 2:4: “Our purpose is to please God, not people” (NLT).
If, like me, you hate being criticized, recognize that the root problem is that we’re people pleasers. Once we find freedom from our need for people’s approval, we can focus on the eternal goal of bringing pleasure to God.