How to Handle Criticism
Criticism is a reality in our lives. No matter what we do or where we go, we will face criticism. If you are following your God-given dream and if you are following Jesus you may face even more criticism!
Criticism can hurt. It can leave scars. It can damage relationships. It is not pleasant to deal with. But criticism can help you. It can strengthen you and build you up! What do you do to make criticism work for you? Here are some keys:
Humility – When you face critics your natural response is to become defensive. That response will keep you from benefiting from the criticism. You must accept the reality that you can improve and get better. There are flaws in your life that can be corrected. When you cultivate humility you open yourself up to massive improvement in your life. Being humble means simply that you don’t have it all figured out yet. You are not where you want to be or will be some day. The worst thing you can do to help you be humble is to look around at other people! Just look at your own life and look to Jesus. He will help keep you humble and grounded.
Silence – When we argue, when we verbally defend ourselves, our emotions can cloud our perceptions and our hearing. Listening, really listening, to what is being said allows you to better hear any truth contained in the criticism. It is hard to be silent but so helpful in handling criticism.
Transparency – When you are humble, you can be transparent. That doesn’t mean you air all your faults and failures, it means you admit you have faults and failures. You are genuine in your relationships and don’t put on a false face. The opposite of transparency is hypocrisy. No one likes a hypocrite!
Openness – When you are open, you are willing to listen and be taught. To grow you need to be teachable. You must have a desire to learn. While criticism can feel harsh, your openness in facing it overcomes a huge barrier to learning from it. If you constantly seek improvement in your life, you will find criticism helpful and will be open to it.
Analysis – Not all criticism feels constructive or is constructive. Occasionally people will criticize you just to make themselves feel better. But it is important to listen to all criticism and seek out kernels of truth. Even mean-spirited criticism can have truth at its core.
Once you have calmed yourself from the emotions of being criticized, think about what the critic said. See what might have motivated it. Examine your life. Ask the question: am I really like that? Think about the issues raised and how you might reasonably respond to them.
Quiet and calm analysis will allow you to identify valid criticism. Then you must take action.
Change – When you have finally analyzed the criticism, you can decide what changes you need to make. Maybe you need to lay out an action plan to overcome a weakness, fault or flaw. Maybe you need to simply make a decision.
Many years ago a trusted friend gave me a strong criticism that was spot-on! His words stung a little but when I realized what I was doing, I immediately changed to eliminate a very bad and hurtful habit I had developed. That response made me a better follower (and a better leader).
While we may never rush towards criticism, we can learn to embrace a process for handling it so that we might grow and develop into much better people!