Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy (Proverbs 27:6).
How do you respond to criticism?
Perhaps someone talks to you about an area of your life where you’re not in line with what God wants. Or they offer you some (more or less) constructive feedback on a project or a performance.
Do you feel resentful? Do you seethe inside? Do you think of all the excuses you can? Does it keep you awake at night? Do you endlessly re-run the conversation in your mind? (and perhaps like me you always seem to win the replays!)
Or do you buy them flowers and chocolates?
Here are the three Es of criticism that I’ve found helpful.
Firstly EXPECT it.
Unless I think I’m perfect in every way (!) criticism is inevitable. There is a certain arrogance and naivety about being constantly wrong-footed by feedback.
Second EVALUATE it.
There’s very rarely any smoke without fire. It takes great humility to look for the grain of truth in what someone has said; especially if the feedback was delivered roughly or rudely.
Thirdly ESTEEM it.
Often it is only our truest friends that are brave enough to be candid with us. Perhaps you can think back to people and/or conversations that have made you the person you are today – but they were difficult at the time.
All of those three Es will be much harder for me (perhaps impossible) unless I constantly and consciously draw on the resources the Christian gospel gives us.
The gospel presents us with a God who loves us despite seeing all the worst things about us. We don’t have to be perfect to be loved! That takes the pressure off! We can now listen to criticism honestly and openly rather than ignoring it or firing back.
In fact how we deal with reproof is one very good test for the extent to which we have internalised our faith. I don’t suggest you use that test on other people (!) – it’s something for self-examination only. We can’t see into other people’s hearts; it’s hard enough accurately reading our own!
Let me leave you with some very relevant proverbs. I hope this will be your experience of giving feedback to me! If it’s not – then that’s something else for you to reprove me on!
He who rebukes a man will afterward find more favour than he who flatters with the tongue (Proverbs 28:23)
A fool rejects his father’s discipline, But he who regards reproof is sensible (Proverbs 15:5).
He is on the path of life who heeds instruction, But he who ignores reproof goes astray (Proverbs 10:17).