Everyone experiences criticism. People offer their opinions of your work, your decisions and even your relationships. It can be easy to give in to the thoughts of others and make choices to meet their expectations. Or, you may become so overwhelmed by criticisms that you completely disregard others’ feedback and live only as you see fit.
It’s important that you find a middle ground between these two extremes. While there are many places to look for advice, the Bible offers considerable insights into how to handle criticism. In Proverbs we are instructed to “listen to advice and accept discipline” (19:20). Yet, the Psalms say to not fear what man can do and that “it is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man” (118:6, 8). So, how are we to deal with others’ opinions of us?
Here are three practical ways to begin responding to criticism.
1. Consider what others have to say.
It is important that you carefully consider the critiques being offered. Your peers may see something that you can’t and may have valuable insight that can help you grow.
Don’t immediately assume others are trying to be hurtful. Instead, look for ways to improve and ask what you can do better next time. People will respect you for hearing their thoughts and being open to suggestions. Remember that you are not perfect and neither are they: you are learning and growing together.
2. Listen to your mentors.
You may feel isolated and discouraged when being critiqued. It can be easy to become defensive or feel beaten down by negative comments, and as a result, you may be unable to see the positives or opportunities for growth.
It’s important that you share these thoughts with people you trust. Their insights can help you see the truth in the critiques and think of ways you can improve. Your mentors can also help you not take negative criticism to heart, but instead, find ways to see yourself in an honest, but not self-deprecating light.
3. Remember where your identity comes from.
While you should carefully consider others’ opinions and feedback, you need to remember where your identity comes from. You can’t build your self-image entirely off of what other people say about you. Likewise, you can’t always rely on your own opinion of yourself.
The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 6:19 to 20 that “you are not your own; you were bought at a price.” Ephesians 2:10 reminds us that “we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Because you belong to Christ, you must trust his opinion of you first and foremost. Spend time reading God’s Word and in prayer to discern how Christ sees you. The more you understand your identity in Christ, the better you can respond to others and love them as Christ does.
Responding to criticism well can be challenging at first. But the more you practice humility, the easier you will find it to listen to others, understand their feedback and love them as Christ does. Take time to talk with your mentors and prayerfully consider their advice and that of others. Your identity is not in how others view you or even in how you view yourself. You belong to Christ.