Hmmm.... I figured, no one raised their hand. Well, actually, you're reading this on a computer screen, and I can't even see if you raised your hand or not. But... I'm guessing there would be very few people who would actually raise their hands. At least, I know I wouldn't. I certainly don't enjoy being criticized. Criticism goes against our proud human natures. We don't like admitting we're wrong, and criticism demands that response. Criticism can also discourage and humiliate. Yet, we've all been there. Whether from a parent, teacher, enemy, or even friend, we've all been criticized at some point in time.
Of course there's "constructive" criticism. That's supposed to be good. Right? Since, constructive criticism is supposed to be good, it makes us feel good about ourselves. Right? Wrong. Even so-called constructive criticism often discourages. The difference is that later on we realize that the criticism might have actually been helpful and even well intended by the one who gave it.
Think about this for a moment. What is your first reaction when someone criticizes you? Don't give the Christian 101 answer. Honestly look in your heart and think about how you really feel when you are criticized, both constructively and non-constructively. I can guarantee you that VERY FEW people actually respond to criticism properly. I would say that the majority of Christians respond to criticism initially in the flesh. We say (or think) things like:
"That person has NO IDEA what they are talking about."
"I NEVER did anything like they are saying. I DON'T act like that."
"They are SO wrong."
"If they really knew me, they wouldn't criticize me like that."
"They only know half the story. How DARE they make accusations like that?"
"I don't care what they think. I'm not changing, because I'm right."
I know people react to criticism like this, because that's exactly how I react. Ok... maybe I shouldn't judge the whole world based on my own reaction to criticism, but I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who feels these things! I'm not saying these reactions are right. Not at all!!! In fact, this is the most wrongest way to react to criticism (Did I really just say "most wrongest"?? Haha. The grammar police will be after me for that one, but I'm leaving it in anyways. You can criticize me for that if you like, but it won't change anything). In our natural selves we react to criticism by becoming defensive, regardless of if there's value in the criticism or not. Our pride is hurt by criticism, and most of us REALLY dislike having our pride hurt. It makes us feel bad. It humiliates us. In our minds, it some how degrades us. We're so proud. Too proud to admit a flaw.
Criticism can be unjust and it can be damaging, but so can our reaction to criticism. I'm not advocating tearing people up and putting people down just for the sake of it. Neither am I saying that one shouldn't defend themselves if unjustly criticized, but there must be balance. Often the defence goes way overboard and becomes just as bitter as the original criticism. Remember Proverbs 15:1? A soft answer turneth away wrath... Even if we're criticized unjustly does that mean we can't learn anything from it? Definitely not. I think I've learned more from unjust criticism than I have from justified criticism. Somehow it's the unjust criticism that makes me examine my own heart and motives more closely. Probably because it's so unexpected. Our reaction to criticism will determine whether it will be something that can be used for good in our lives, or something that will hinder us spiritually. Perhaps many Christians don't realize that criticism is even biblical. Proverbs 9:8 Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee: rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee. Rebuke and reproof are essentially the same things as criticism. Wise people understand the value in rebuke. Notice this verse doesn't say anything about whether or not the criticism was justified. It just says that a wise man will love those who rebuke him. Hmmm.... that's interesting.
Here's a couple more verses to think about.
Proverbs 28:23 He that rebuketh a man afterwards shall find more favour than he that flattereth with the tongue.
Proverbs 13:1 A wise son heareth his father's instruction: but a scorner heareth not rebuke.
Lately, I've read a few articles on Christian blogs along the topic of criticism. You may have read them too, or read something similar in the past. They go along the lines of criticism in a Christian context is bad, and should either never be engaged in or only engaged in with extreme caution. We shouldn't be negative. Negativity only tears down the body of Christ. Criticism doesn't edify. I guess these people have forgotten that "constructive" criticism is supposed to be good. I've noticed that these articles play heavily on the emotions of the reader. They seek to persuade the reader to sympathize with the one who was criticized. The Criticize-ee accuses the Criticize-er of negativity or sowing discord among the brethren or some such thing, and then uses that as a springboard to say that they should stop criticizing and just love and serve God and focus on winning souls to Christ. Of course that makes the Criticize-ee sound like he's much more righteous and holy than the Criticize-er. But, is he really? Is it possible that the criticism is warranted? Maybe... just maybe... the Criticize-er has some valid points.
I know criticism is good for me. If I know it's good for me, it's got to be good for others too. In fact, I think ALL criticism can be good, even the unjust, bitter criticism. It's often the hardest things in life that God uses to develop our character, and taking criticism is hard. Especially for people like me that have a lot of inherent pride and hate admitting they're (I'm) wrong. That's probably why God allowed (and still allows) me to be criticized a lot! I'm thankful for the criticism I've received in my life. The good and the bad. I think it's important for us Christians to realize we can learn from ALL situations. Just because we don't like something (being criticized) doesn't mean that it's not God's will for that to happen. It also doesn't mean that we're right and the other person is wrong.