I was watching the movie The Incredibles and was amused by a scene where his boss criticized Mr. Incredible. In the scene, he then throws his boss through several walls and, of course, ends up being fired. The scene reminds me that both criticism and our dislike for being criticized are common. In fact, I don’t know anyone who likes being criticized. While it is true that a positive type of criticism exists – one that we refer to as “constructive-criticism” – most of us are much better acquainted with the negative version of criticism. This is the type of criticism that is meant to hurt, damage, belittle or tear down another person. When delivered, it is often accompanied by negative tone and attitude. Perhaps this is the type of criticism with which you are all too familiar. The question I want you to consider today is, how should a Christ-follower handle criticism?
While thinking over this issue, I came across a poem that was reportedly found hanging on the wall in the orphanage founded by Mother Theresa. I think it captures idea of handling criticism with graceful balance.
People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centered;
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
People may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you've got anyway.
You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God;
It is never between you and them anyway.
I love the line in the poem “it’s between you and God” because, in the end, so much of life boils down to that truth. Sure, we can desire to get along with everyone and have everyone like us in return. We know by our own experiences, however, that life just doesn’t work that way. For any number of reasons, people can react to us negatively with criticism. When people are critical of us, we need to remember the truth of the Scripture that we belong to the Lord – and our responses to life’s situations boil down to living life to please the Lord. So, when someone criticizes you, see if there is some nugget of truth in the criticism. If there is, own up to it and address it in your life and with the person who brought it to light. If not, move on, continuing to do the best you can to live your life in a way that honors God. Ultimately, this is the most important measurement of our lives and the means by which we can handle and survive the criticisms that come our way.
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1. How do you normally react to criticism?
2. Recognize that so much of living life boils down to “it is between you and God.” How can that make a difference in how you handle criticism?
Romans 14:7-8; 1 Peter 3:13-17
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