by Doy Moyer
People are critics of others. Right or wrong, good or bad, people will criticize. We all do it. But there are good and bad ways to go about this. Not all critics are the same. Not all share the same credibility or show the same levels of concern. Think about it on a personal level. For example:
There are critics who loathe you, to begin with, and they will jump on anything that will make you sound or look bad (e.g., Paul in Philippians 1:16-17). They want to spread the news about your problems. They have no desire to help you, but only to take you down and see you fail, and they will be as public as possible about it all. What they ought to understand is that if they have already taken this posture, then their criticisms of particulars are not going to be given much credibility, even if a particular criticism is valid. They want to stir the pot and cause difficulty for you, and that becomes quickly obvious.
“Hatred stirs up conflicts, but love covers all offenses” (Proverbs 10:13).
There are critics who don’t know you much at all, but they are happy to chime in with their opinions anyway. They don’t say they hate you, but they don’t particularly like you either because they just don’t know who you are and what you stand for. They generally will make assumptions about you without trying to get to know you personally. They would say they aren’t really trying to hurt, but neither are they actually interested in helping. Their criticisms will only be marginally effective because they don’t have anything to gain or lose. Their credibility is nullified by their general apathy toward you. If they really cared, they’d come to you.
“A fool does not delight in understanding, but only wants to show off his opinions” (Proverbs 18:2).
But then there are the critics who are also your friends. These critics care about you. They want to see you succeed and have no desire to spread something that is going to hurt you. Their criticism comes from a heart of love and desire to help. These friends will usually come to you privately because they want to show genuine, personal concern. They have credibility with you because they know you and you know they care about you. These are the ones you are eager to listen to. You welcome their critiques because you know they can help you become better.
“The wounds of a friend are trustworthy, but the kisses of an enemy are excessive” (Proverbs 27:6).
When you feel you must engage in some form of criticism, then what kind of critic are you? The hateful one, the apathetic one, or the loving one?
On the receiving end, however, we should always try to listen for valid criticisms regardless of the source. Even if I know someone who does not like me, that person might have something to say that I can take and use to make some improvements. If I know someone is apathetic about helping, I might still find that voice useful to improve how I do something. And of course, I want to hear from the one I consider my friend. That one will know me best and will help me because “Iron sharpens iron, and one person sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17).
Let us be careful about the kind of critics we are, but let us also seek to take criticism in a way that can help us grow and improve how we act and speak.