How do you respond to criticism? Some are extremely sensitive to the slightest bit of criticism and they respond very negatively to it; others couldn’t care less what people say of them. Some world leaders are keenly aware of the press, and when the news media criticize them they vindictively lash out, deeply hurt – or they seek revenge. Others, though, take the attitude of Frederick the Great, who was asked how he felt about the sharp criticism that he had drawn. He replied, “I go through my appointed daily stage, and I care not for the curs who bark at me along the road.” Most of us do not have quite as thick a hide as did Frederick the Great. We do care what others are saying, and down in our hearts, we often care a great deal more than we are willing to admit.
What can you do when you are criticized? I see at least five clear responses. There are many variations, but five choices confront you.
First, you can resent the criticism.
You can say that you were not deserving of the criticism and that the person is entirely wrong. You can say that his motives were not right. And you may be correct, but letting your hatred turn to poison in your heart brings only suffering to YOU, and, accordingly, YOU are the one who has been hurt.
There is a second choice: You can lash out at the one who criticized you.
It is easy to do—you feel that you have been hurt. However, answering your critics is seldom the thing to do. If you believe that you were right, your actions need no defense; let them speak for themselves. To answer your critics may look as if you were wrong and are now trying to find reasons to buttress what you did. Truth needs no defense. Lives of great men indicate that they seldom stooped to the level of their critics. They knew what they were doing, and resolutely, but firmly, they kept at their task and did not lose time by answering criticism.
This, though, does not mean that you are indifferent to criticism, so…
Let all things be done unto edifying. 1 Corinthians 14:26, KJV
The third choice that is open to you is to analyze the criticism.
Look at it carefully, and try to sift out the personal bias. It is probably true that what your critics may have said was said out of a wrong spirit—a vindictive attempt to hurt you. Look at it carefully, and try to determine what is bias and what is truth.
Again, it is possible that the criticism was meant to be constructive, and you can profit a great deal from that situation which leads us to the fourth choice:
Learn from the criticism.
Regardless of how it was offered, is there something that you can learn from it? Perhaps you are in the wrong! Look at the criticism carefully. If you were wrong, it takes a big person to acknowledge it, but you will want to do it.
The fifth choice that is open is simply to forget the criticism and put it behind you.
There are times when this is by far the best course of action. If you know you were right, forget it and do not let it be a weight that hangs around your neck. Do not let criticism make you vindictive; do not let it be a poison that blights your outlook on life. There are times when others may not understand you; but if you are right, commit that criticism to God, and keep on keeping on.
Travelers in the northern lanes of ocean traffic have often seen icebergs moving in one direction when the winds were ferociously blowing in the opposite direction. The explanation is simple: Eight-ninths of their hulk is underwater, and the current deep in the ocean was moving it forward—no matter which way the wind was blowing.
Be sure that you are right. Let God’s Word, the Bible, provide the guideline for your life, and then, regardless of which way the winds of criticism may blow, stay with your convictions. Do not retaliate! Just analyze and profit from criticism, then forget it.
Resource reading: Proverbs 15:26-33