The Chewing Gum Approach

Ever had someone be critical of something you have said or done? Are you breathing? Of course you have. Every person alive has had a criticism of one sort or another TODAY!

So, what do you do when someone criticizes you? Well most of us first determine if the criticism was justified – and, if it was, we accept it even if we don’t like it. Well, that was a lie. If we think it was not justified then we dismiss it and sometimes the person who spoke it is written off as well. Ah, closer to the truth! Sometimes we get defensive and lash out with a criticism or two of our own – even if not true and not warranted. We do it to switch the focus off of us and on to them. It usually works – I know because I do it. Now we have it – the truth of the matter.

Many years ago Jamie Buckingham (a wonderful Spirit-filled believer and leader wrote a book on how to handle criticism. He spoke a truth into my life I have never forgotten. He said that in every criticism there is some percentage of truth. And, if we would just take the time to examine the criticism, and not just write it off, we would have much to gain – including someone who could have been an enemy and who turns out to be a true friend.

Recently this was brought back to mind as I was reading a book on … I don’t remember – honest, I just don’t remember (it may be half-timers as I am half way to 120 years old). The author made a similar point 3 decades after I first learned this truth. He said …

“I favour the chewing-gum approach to criticism: chew it and spit it out – don’t swallow it. Take advantage of the criticism by chewing on it, absorbing the 10 percent or so that’s valid, learning from it, and then spitting out the other 90 percent. Don’t swallow it whole, but allow the flavour of criticism to help you grow.”

Now, that is great advice. Advice that Christians and non-Christians and anyone in a relationship of any kind (all of us) needs to listen to. Simply chew over what has been said – take the truth (flavour) and enjoy it and simply spit the rest out.

Want to apply it to today’s criticism? Let me know if it helped!

4 replies
  1. Bill Shiers
    Bill Shiers says:

    Ralph I have yet to meet the person alive who accepts criticism in such a dismissive manner. Oh certainly we may remain silent during criticism but acceptance is never near. So how about learning to discuss the criticism because there must be an underlying problem, one that maybe should be faced. No I don’t believe that open criticism is the problem. The problem is more than likely a behind the back criticism or even an unspoken judgement. These are simply impossible to deal with and many of us are prone to this.

  2. Ralph
    Ralph says:


    When we are mature believers (human beings) we should understand the basics about criticism and not dismiss it as most do. Thus, I guess I am saying that most people are very immature – at least relationally.

    I believe people today really are not secure enough to accept criticism and so see criticism as rejection. This is a major cause of relational breakdowns – that the actions of others are not seen as loving concern but simply as straight-out rejection.

    I also believe that people don’t know themselves well enough and so have not matured enough to filter criticism so that it is beneficial to them. People today are not normally in touch with the inner life and do little if any regular self-examination. Then, when criticism comes along, they don’t welcome it and simply write it off as judgmental. We really are a people who are an inch deep and a mile wide and totally out-of-touch with the real “me” on the inside. Maybe I will blog on that in the next few days.

    You raise an excellent word – “judgment”. When we view criticism as judgment we most certainly almost always write it off immediately. However, I really wonder if most criticism is given as judgment or simply viewed as such because of our insercurity and lack of inner peace? If someone is judging us that is an entirely different situation.

    We, as believers, have no right to judge non-believers. But scripture does state that believers are to judge believers – limited to just the fruit that is seen or not seen. We cannot and must not judge the heart of a person as only God truly knows a man’s heart. I feel another blog coming on.

    Your comment also raises the issue of one person talking to another about a third person – we call that gossip. It might sound judgmental and go under the name of criticism but it is simply gossip. And, gossip is never 100% true in content as it usually arises out of an offense. Thus, the person gossiping is breaking one of the Lord’s Ten Commandments that states: “You shall not bear false witness…” Material for a number of blogs….the number one Christian sin!

    I appreciate your feedback on my blog – look forward to any thoughts this response may raise.

  3. Bill Shiers
    Bill Shiers says:

    This blogging is great, educational too! I agree whole heartedly with you and I might add that sometimes by their actions people
    criticise or even judge as evidenced by their actions. When suddenly they stop fellowshiping,
    or speaking to you.Fear maybe, fear of confrontation, or perhaps of being ostracised because of an opinion. Crucial Conversations, and Crucial Confrontations are good studies to cover these situations.

  4. Ralph
    Ralph says:

    The two books Bill mentioned are from the secular and business arena but excellent for everyone and anyone…
    1> Crucial Conversations ISBN# 0071401946
    2> Crucial Confrontations ISBN# 0071446524
    A third one that is also excellent and goes along with these two … from a Christian vantage point:
    How To Have That Difficult Conversation You’ve Been Avoiding by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend


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