FIRST-PERSON: Responding to criticism

GRAPEVINE, Texas (BP) -- In life, there are two things we can't avoid: death and taxes. Let's add criticism as another unavoidable part of life.

Criticism can come from our all sorts of people -- our spouse, our boss, a friend or enemy, a church member or a complete stranger. When someone tells us of our perceived faults or mistakes, we don't always respond well, especially if it hits us when we least expect it.

Although, we can't control how criticism comes our way, we can control how we respond to it in a healthy way and not lay down in defeat, doubt or discouragement. Here is a threefold strategy that will help us know how to respond to criticism.

Test it

There are times we'll be convicted by the Holy Spirit knowing that we're in the wrong, with the wrong attitude, with the wrong motivation, and God is showing us grace by speaking to us through someone else. There will be other times when we will know immediately that someone is operating in the flesh and/or being used by the enemy to speak to us with ill intentions. However, most of the time it's not so easy to know the proper response to criticism. So, how do we “test” criticism?

When criticism comes our way, the first thing to do is take it to God in prayer. Ask Him to reveal truth in those critical moments, to bring comfort when we need protection from the enemy and to convict us when people need protection from our misguided ways.

Second, test it with Scripture. God is not going to speak through someone in a way that is contrary to His Word.

Third, seek wise counsel. People who you love and trust can help protect you from harmful words but also tell you when you're in the wrong and need to change.

Own it

Let's face it. Some of us as Christians tend to wear our feelings on our sleeves. We don't enjoy being challenged, questioned or criticized. However, each of us needs to own up to a very important truth every day: You are not perfect!

We all make mistakes, a lot of them. There are moments in our lives when we're just not operating in the Spirit but rather walking in the flesh and making a mess. What the Lord spoke through the prophet Haggai remains crucial for us today: "Think carefully about your ways" (Haggai 1:7).

For those times when we need to flat-out "own it," it's time to consider our ways, then change them. We cannot arrogantly assume that every word of criticism is coming from someone being used by the enemy. In fact, sometimes those challenging statements are coming from someone being used by God because we need to hear them.

Chuck it

As a Christian, one thing never to forget is that you are in a spiritual warfare. You're not wrestling "against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 6:12). While, ultimately, we may not be fighting against flesh and blood, the enemy sure does use the flesh of red-blooded people to discourage and dissuade us from following the will of God.

You can be sure that wherever God is moving, Satan will be attacking. It's in moments like these that we need to discern the wiles of the enemy through criticism and "chuck it"!

"Be sober-minded; be watchful," the Bible tells us. "Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour" (1 Peter 5:8). Don't be devoured by criticism.

Aristotle once said, "Criticism is something we can avoid easily by saying nothing, doing nothing and being nothing." Always remember, if you're doing anything of substance and meaning, criticism will come your way. It can't be avoided but it can be advantageous if you respond properly.

Shane Pruitt (@shane_pruitt78) is director of evangelism for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. This column first appeared at his website, shanepruitt.com.
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