Question:

What are the biblical teachings concerning criticism, forgiveness, and how to deal with criticism? Criticism has many faces, but I'm inquiring about the kind that can mar a person's self-esteem and his good reputation.


Answer:

How you handle criticism depends on why you are being criticized. "For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: "Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth"; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness--by whose stripes you were healed" (1 Peter 2:19-24).

Some people criticize because they are trying to tear you down. But others are trying to help you become a better person and to do that they need you to see your flaws. Few people enjoy having their weaknesses exposed. Rather than admit that they have a problem, it is "obviously" the criticizer who is having the problem. Thus Solomon states, "A wise son heeds his father's instruction, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke" (Proverbs 13:1) and "A scoffer does not love one who corrects him, nor will he go to the wise" (Proverbs 15:12).

A wise person will examine each rebuke that he receives. Is it pointing to something that he is doing wrong? Does it contain at least a nugget of truth? If it is inaccurate, is the misunderstanding due to something I am doing or, perhaps, not doing? A wise person knows it is dangerous to dismiss a rebuke just because he doesn't like it. "He who is often rebuked, and hardens his neck, will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy" (Proverbs 29:1). Instead, he examines whether there is something that can be changed to improve either himself or how he is perceived. "Do not correct a scoffer, lest he hate you; rebuke a wise man, and he will love you" (Proverbs 9:8). Or, as David said, "Let the righteous strike me; it shall be a kindness. And let him rebuke me; it shall be as excellent oil; let my head not refuse it. For still my prayer is against the deeds of the wicked" (Psalm 141:5).

Bad criticism often points out the perceived flaws in a person, but never contains any suggestion for fixing the problem or encouragement to do better. At times bad criticism calls things wrong that are not wrong. The best thing to do is turn the conversation toward the Bible. Show from the Scriptures that what you are doing is approved by God. Ask for passages that indicates what you are doing is wrong. Then the conversation moves away from personal likes and dislikes and toward what is right or wrong in God's sight. If they still insist in arguing against good, then their dispute is with God. You will not have to take it personally because anyone who is doing the same would receive the same criticism.