Criticism is something that we all face from time to time in life. Despite this, we often unknowingly get into the mode of criticizing others, yet at other times we become victims of criticism.
We all face criticism at some time or the other and it isn’t easy to be criticized. Furthermore, if the criticism isn’t handled well it tears a person apart, discourages us and demoralizes us.
Dealing With Criticism
A few points I want to go through with you :
- What does the Scripture say about criticism?
- When we criticize others what are the measures we can use scripturally?
- How to deal with criticism?
In this case, Nehemiah got burdened to go and rebuild the broken walls of Jerusalem. So when Nehemiah finally gets the chance to go to Jerusalem from Persia, he envisions the people coming together to build the walls. By Nehemiah chapter 3, everyone left behind their jobs and was involved in building the walls but all of a sudden they face a lot of criticism.
But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official and Geshem the Arab heard about it, they mocked and ridiculed us. “What is this you are doing?” they asked. “Are you rebelling against the king?”
Now Sanballat was the ruler over Samaria. Samaria was the capital of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. It fell and was conquered first by the Assyrians. Now as Sanballat knows that the Jews are rebuilding the other capital Jerusalem, he criticizes them. So how does it affect Sanballat? He indeed knows that the Jews are getting stronger, he will not have control over Jerusalem, and what if they come and take control over his territory?
MSG1-2 When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall he exploded in anger, vilifying the Jews. In the company of his Samaritan cronies and military he let loose: “What are these miserable Jews doing? Do they think they can get everything back to normal overnight? Make building stones out of make-believe?”3 At his side, Tobiah the Ammonite jumped in and said, “That’s right! What do they think they’re building? Why, if a fox climbed that wall, it would fall to pieces under his weight.”
Whenever you face criticism, you need to take it through some filters before you react or respond. Here is the first filter:
Questions to ask when you are criticized:
1. What is the target of the criticism?
What are they criticizing? Is it a personal criticism against you or is it a criticism against the mission for which God has called you?
If you face criticism against yourself at the workplace, figure out whether the criticism is personally directed at you or your Christian ethics.
For example, you may be a stumbling block for someone else’s promotion and due to that reason, that person might build up some unfriendly feelings for you and will ultimately criticize you. That is personal criticism.
Then there are people who criticize you for holding on to your scriptural ethics. Maybe they want you to participate in the wrong and you cannot be a part of it. Your family may criticize you for your faith in Jesus Christ. Such criticism is directed against your faith and is against your godly mission at the workplace.
In Nehemiah’s case, it was external critics. The aim of their opposition was to dismiss the work of God. The actual reason for their criticism was the work of God for which God set Nehemiah aside. Nehemiah knew it is God’s mission and the criticism is against it. Therefore, he knows he needs to overcome this and go on. So he never gives in to their strategies.
When word came to Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab and the rest of our enemies that I had rebuilt the wall and not a gap was left in it—though up to that time I had not set the doors in the gates— 2Sanballat and Geshem sent me this message: “Come, let us meet together in one of the villages on the plain of Ono.” But they were scheming to harm me; 3so I sent messengers to them with this reply: “I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?” 4Four times they sent me the same message, and each time I gave them the same answer.
Nehemiah was part of a mission and the mission was given by God. The mission was criticized by the enemy.
Presently, God’s mission today is fulfilled through the church. We have no mission of our own, we have God’s mission and it will be challenged and criticized by the enemy. God’s mission is to transform people with the Word of God, make them a disciple, connect them to the body of Christ, in our case in the local church here and enable them to have a fellowship with God which brings transformation in their lives. When we do that as a church, each of us makes a difference in the world. The goal of the mission is to transform people and the community with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Now, who will oppose that? The devil will oppose that because he does not want people to be transformed by the Truth.
Whenever you do God’s work, you will face criticism.
If you are facing criticism for your faith, your mission in Christ Jesus, don’t stop the good work that God is doing through you.
How does the enemy discourage us? He criticizes, distracts and disrupts.
These are the tactics of the enemy. Criticism, distraction, and disruption. Consequently, doing God’s work will somehow bring you criticism. However, don’t give in when you are being criticized for your mission.
If you don’t want to face any criticism follow some simple rules, neither talk nor do anything. No criticism.
For instance, here, one large group is building the walls, others are just standing by the sides and critiquing the builders.
Remember, the moment you start building, that is the moment you also start battling. That means that Satan opposes what God does. God is in the rebuilding business but Satan is in the tearing down business. If you are doing the work of God, you will face opposition.
|The great preacher John Wesley was riding along on his horse one day when he realized that three days had passed by, and he had not been persecuted in any way. Not a single brick had been thrown in his direction. He had not been hit by an egg or come under some form of attack. So he actually stopped his horse and said out loud, “Could it be that I am backslidden or I have sinned?” Slipping down from his horse, he knelt on one knee and asked the Lord to show him if there was anything wrong with him spiritually. About that time a farmer who disliked Wesley came along and when he saw him kneeling in prayer, he picked up a brick and threw it at him, barely missing the preacher. When Wesley saw the brick fly by, he threw his hands in the air and he said, “Thank you, Lord! I know I still have Your presence.”|
The enemy wants to discourage us from fulfilling God’s mission, so consider the target of the criticism.
2. Consider The Source Of The Criticism
Who is the criticizer? Are they the people you should listen to or are they people you should not listen to? Are they criticizing in your best interest or in your bad interest? Is it constructive criticism or is it destructive criticism? This needs wisdom.
We see that in Nehemiah. For Nehemiah when it was external criticism, he shut them off. Then there was internal criticism. The poor are oppressed by the rich and Nehemiah does listen to that and changes the direction and the course. He confronts the problem in a very immediate manner.
1Now the men and their wives raised a great outcry against their fellow Jews. 2Some were saying, “We and our sons and daughters are numerous; in order for us to eat and stay alive, we must get grain.” 3Others were saying, “We are mortgaging our fields, our vineyards, and our homes to get grain during the famine.” 4Still others were saying, “We have had to borrow money to pay the king’s tax on our fields and vineyards. 5Although we are of the same flesh and blood as our fellow Jews and though our children are as good as theirs, yet we have to subject our sons and daughters to slavery. Some of our daughters have already been enslaved, but we are powerless because our fields and our vineyards belong to others.”
Let’s study the situation:
The rich didn’t give any gain to the poor, the poor mortgaged their fields to get grain, they borrowed money to pay their taxes and the children of the poor got enslaved by the rich.
See how Nehemiah deals with the issue head-on:
6When I heard their outcry and these charges, I was very angry. 7I pondered them in my mind and then accused the nobles and officials. I told them, “You are charging your own people interest!” So I called together a large meeting to deal with them.
If there is any kind of criticism or complaint, it is wise to consider the source. Here, Nehemiah knew that the criticism was very genuine and he took action on the issue.
Find the source of the criticism. Who is it that is criticizing you? Filter out these three categories of people I am going to speak about now.
These three categories of people are in our workplace, they are in our homes, and they are in the church too. Some of you work with these people and might be married to them as well. Many of you go to church with these people. However, all of us fit into one of these categories at some point in our lives.
a. The Wise People
Identify whether the criticism is coming from a wise person. It does not mean that every advice or criticism the wise are giving is always right, but you have to listen to them. Wise people are the ones who over time yield their lives and way of thinking to God’s word. Learning from their own mistakes is a major attribute they have, as well as responding to other’s corrections. Wise people when they criticize you, it is a good thing, not a bad thing.
NLT Better to be criticized by a wise person than to be praised by a fool.
Listen to wise criticism. Good criticism is mandatory to keep us in check. Do you know who is my biggest critique? My wife, Mrs. Glory Shine and next in line are my children. I ask or ponder with Glory about everything, some matters she encourages me and some she critiques. Then I have a select group of friends with whom I discuss things. I take those criticisms very seriously. That is what keeps me in check. I value their comments and it is for the good interest and growth of me. I identify them.
Be discernible when people speak to you. Try to learn sometimes from your critics if they have your best interest in mind. Are you facing criticism? If the answer is ‘yes’, question yourself, “Are those people trying to help me or hurt me?”
I have come out of painful situations by listening to wise people. Then there are times I have caused myself turmoil by not listening to wise people. These are the type of people we need to adhere to.
This is how the wise criticize. If you want to practice constructive criticism here is how it has to be.
Scriptural Standards for Constructive Criticism
Criticism Should Be Grounded In Love.
The wounds from a friend can be trusted….
…speaking the truth in love…
Godly criticism is honest and loving and must come from a humble and compassionate heart that wishes for the best of the other person. Godly criticism will never be bitter, insulting or cold-hearted.
2 Timothy 2:24-25
24And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 25Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth,
1 Corinthians 13:4-7
4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Criticism Should Be Grounded In The Truth Of God’s Word.
Godly criticism is reflective of what the scripture is critical of.
2 Timothy 3:16-17
16All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
In other words, the inspired Word of God leads Christians to analyze everyday situations critically.
When You Criticize Others, You Will Be Judged In The Same Measure
1“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
MSG “Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging.
Therefore, as a disciple of Jesus, we can criticize. Only the wise who aligns their way of life-based on God’s word must criticize but it should be rooted in love, scriptural ethics, and knowledge that you will be judged by God in the same measure.
Coming back, identify the source of the criticism. If it is from a wise person, listen to him/her.
Stay away from a fool, for you will not find knowledge on their lips.
Do not speak to fools, for they will scorn your prudent words.
Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him.
There are two kinds of fools I consider who is the critiques:
Ignorant fools. They don’t have all the information yet they just talk based on what they feel or hear without verifying the fact. They talk before they really draw conclusions on the subject. When someone tells them the fact they understand the situation and stop criticizing. You can correct an ignorant fool and they get close to a wise person. So talk to an ignorant fool.
Obstinate fool. Obstinate means stubbornly refusing to change one’s opinion. They do not want to listen to anybody’s views and are stubborn in their views. Wisdom is not something that they attain while reading the Word of God neither are they open to correction and always consider themselves right. If someone does not listen to them, they get into this criticism mode. Keep away from obstinate fools. You cannot correct them.
c. Evil People
Evil people are restless unless they’re making trouble; They can’t get a good night’s sleep unless they’ve made life miserable for somebody. Perversity is their food and drink, violence their drug of choice.
Perversity means a deliberate desire to behave in an unreasonable way. They are sinful people. People with evil intent who are out to get you or out to hurt you. Additionally, they are out to undermine the work of God as well.
Basically, they do not want to destroy the church or the people, but they do not realize what they are doing. But they have been hurt so badly, their ego is so much that they just lash out venom on others. They take pride or satisfaction in causing division.
So how do you deal with a person who is evil in their intent and wants to always hurl dirt upon you or someone else? You go into a protective mode or the safe mode.
10Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, they have nothing to do with them. 11You may be sure that such people are warped and sinful; they are self-condemned.
Divisive means tending to cause disagreement or hostility between people.
These are the trash talkers and they are the wall breakers. You can see them by the looks in their face, nothing pleases them, nothing meets their standards, and they actually like to go and make trouble in the lives of other people. And you are likely to face these people out there.
Critics are resentful of your success. They don’t want you to do well, because if you do well, it will make them look bad.
Critics are always present in each of our lives. They always huddle together and engage in groups, they feed off each other’s resentment. You have heard, “Birds of a feather flock together.” Evidently, critical people find each other and become a group of critiques. The problem is after a while they turn on each other too.
3. When You Are Criticized, Take It To The Lord In Prayer
Once Nehemiah received the criticism, he firstly, took it to the Lord in prayer.
4Hear us, our God, for we are despised. Turn their insults back on their own heads. Give them over as plunder in a land of captivity. 5Do not cover up their guilt or blot out their sins from your sight, for they have thrown insults in the face of the builders.
So what do you do when you are criticized? What do you do when you are attacked? Take it to the Lord in prayer.
For leading the Israelites, Moses received criticism.
1The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, traveling from place to place as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. 2So they quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” Moses replied, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the Lord to the test?” 3But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?” 4Then Moses cried out to the Lord, “What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.” He called on God and he prayed about it.
When a threatening letter arrived for King Hezekiah how did he respond?
1 Kings 19:14
Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went up to the temple of the Lord and spread it out before the Lord.
He laid it on the ground and prayed to God in the temple.
The best way to handle criticism is to get on your knees and seek the face of God in His Word and prayer. So when trouble comes your way, call out to God.
1 Peter 5:7
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
Be careful with two things: Criticism and Praise. Pass these both on to Jesus. Criticism can deflate you, so you pass it on to Jesus. Praise can inflate you, so you pass it onto Jesus.
Nehemiah could certainly see the fear in the eyes of the people because of the criticism. He says to them:
Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome….
Prayer changes our focus.
4. Don’t Give Up Because Of Criticism
Critique only thrives if you give up. The devil rejoices when you give up. Don’t give up because of criticism. Do not give up because someone is criticizing you. By saying that, don’t give up on your marriage, don’t give up on your ministry, basically don’t let the words of a critique affect you permanently.
Nehemiah prayed and he continued his work. Even so, he never gave up.
But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat.
Nehemiah did pray but he also prepared and reacted practically. The people on the wall prayed and they also were practical.
Therefore I stationed some of the people behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places, posting them by families, with their swords, spears, and bows.
16From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows, and armor. The officers posted themselves behind all the people of Judah 17who were building the wall. Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other, 18and each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked. But the man who sounded the trumpet stayed with me.
He sets up a system to deal with criticism and negativity.
Are you facing a lot of criticism today? Do people accuse you, isolate you and talk against you?
Firstly, see if there is something that you really need to change and see if the criticism is from wise believers in your good interest. Therefore, maybe there is something to learn from it, so be open.
Are you facing a criticism against your godly mission in your family or work or ministry? Take all your criticism to God and make a decision to continue your good work in the Lord. God will give you strength and enable you to complete the work he has started in you.
“If my life is fruitless, it doesn’t matter who praises me, and if my life is fruitful, it doesn’t matter who criticizes me.” – John Bunyan
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