April 19, 2013
By Skip Heitzig
In other countries, car horns don’t mean what they mean in the U.S. In some foreign countries, honking your horn might mean “I’m here, look out for me,” or maybe just “Good morning!” Here, we honk when we’re angry, or when someone does something wrong, like running a light or cutting us off. It usually doesn’t do any good. They don’t slap their forehead, say “Sorry!” and repent. Usually they just get more angry. Those who break the law are scoffers, and rebuke or criticism doesn’t help.
Proverbs 9 has some good advice on giving and receiving a reprimand—because truth must be received as well as shared. First it warns about scoffers. “He who corrects a scoffer gets shame for himself, and he who rebukes a wicked man only harms himself. Do not correct a scoffer, lest he hate you” (vv. 7-8).
But the second part of verse 8 through verse 9 is beautiful: “Rebuke a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a just man, and he will increase in learning.”
Criticism can be a wonderful tool that God uses in our life—if you let it. You can take criticism too personally, or you can reject it, or ignore it. But then you might be what the Bible calls a fool! It all depends on the nature of the criticism, and the way you handle it. Criticism can be one of God’s best tools to shape us into the image of Jesus Christ. It can stop us from being self-centered, and make us sensitive to other people’s needs.
All of us have blind spots, and therefore we all need some kind of accountability. We can all benefit from criticism, if it’s constructive. Destructive criticism is meant to tear down, not to build up, and we shouldn’t listen to that. We need to recognize the difference. If you are a wise person, you will consider whether the criticism you receive is constructive, and you’ll walk away as a wiser person.
Of course, you have to be careful who you listen to—because if you listen to everybody’s criticism you’ll be a basket case! I think every Christian should have friends around them who they’ll receive criticism from. You’ll be wiser if you do. It’s part of God’s process of refining us.
Sometimes in response we can develop a tough skin, get bitter, or insensitive, or we can refuse to listen. If you do, in a sense you’re saying, “I don’t need to be molded by God.” The other extreme is “peace at any price.” This is where anytime somebody tells you something they don’t like about you, you just do whatever they ask to avoid confrontation; you pander to them. That’s equally wrong.
You should consider the criticism and then say, “Lord, if this is true, please confirm it in some way.” Go to someone who cares for you and will give you an honest answer, and say, “Is this true? Do I need to change in this area?” If it is, then make the change, asking God for His help. If it’s not, then throw it away. Not all honking horns need to be listened to!
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