Developing the Skill of Criticism

9412426040060d532a6da7d374606f50“And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth;” (2 Timothy 2:24, 25)

The fact is … most if not all of us are just a bit resistant to criticism!  There are not many who have walked this path of life who relish in being criticized.  Yet, criticism … whether constructive or even destructive … is a part of life.  Developing the skill of both receiving and giving constructive criticism is not an easy life skill to acquire.  The maintaining of this life skill over the long haul will continue to be a challenge to even the most disciplined among us.

Criticism is “the art of judging with propriety of the beauties and faults of a performance; remark on beauties and faults; critical observation, verbal or written.”  We all understand that criticism can come in different ways and for different reasons.  It may come from members of our own family, our friends, our co-workers, our enemies, and even from our brethren in the Lord.  The majority of mankind takes any form of criticism as some sort of personal affront!  There can be cases when this just might be the case, but giving others the benefit of the doubt we would hope that the criticism offered is intended to help us become better or more efficient or more importantly, like Jesus Christ who exemplified perfection in every aspect of His life!

Criticism received and in many cases given can cut us as with a knife.  Criticism can cut  us to the quick and even deeper at times.  If not offered in the spirit of love (Ephesians 4:15) one can carve a marriage into pieces, dissect friendships into small cubes, and mince relationships among brothers and sisters in Christ!  But the flip side is also just as true.  You see, criticism that is on point can have the ability to lay our hearts open and see something not otherwise seen in view of making positive changes for our good and for the benefit of others (Galatians 4:16).

With the help and instruction that our wonderful and amazing God has provided for us in His inspired Word, we can learn the proper way to both receiving any criticism whether it is justified or not!  With the help and instruction that our wonderful and amazing God has provided for us in His inspired Word, we can the learn the proper way to offer constructive criticism that is intended to help someone be a better parent, child, co-worker, spouse, brother or sister in Christ in whatever capacity they are serving the Lord!

Not all criticism is considered equal is it? Sometimes it is offered out of jealousy, sometimes out of meanness, sometimes out of misinformation, sometimes just because some folks are critical by nature!  So we must learn to evaluate both the person offering the criticism and what their motives might be, and we must learn to evaluate our own dispositions and motives for the criticism we offer up.

Each of us if we are to be wise and careful in our manner of life needs to take a closer look at our perspective on criticism (2 Corinthians 13:5).  Rather than viewing criticism as humiliating, as something that is viewed as embarrassing, we must develop the attitude of seeing truthful criticism as an opportunity to grow and develop as a person who wants to “walk in the light of God’s Word” and hear the Lord say to us on the Day of Judgment, “Well done, My good and faithful servant; enter into the joys of thy Lord.”

Perhaps the words of the English Prime Minister, Winston Churchill would be most appropriate at this point of the article when he said, “Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary.  It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body.  It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.”

There’s an old proverb that says, “If one man calls you a horse, ignore him; if two men call you a horse, consider it; if three men call you a horse, buy a saddle.” What is this proverb teaching us? Very simply, that we need to consider where the criticism is coming from. If the criticism is coming from a trusted source or from a number of sources we value, we should start to consider if there is any truth in the criticism…  If criticism is coming from an undependable source and is being offered with improper motives, we must learn to take it with a grain of salt and move on, and not belabor the point, but always act like the Lord would have each of us to live (Colossians 4:6).

We must always remember that Biblical criticism is to be viewed as helpful, loving and based on God’s inspired Word!  Any correction, instruction or admonition is to be offered with the attitude of gentleness, a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22, 23).

Bill Fairchild, Jr.

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