You have about 3 seconds to think and process before you respond to receiving personal criticism, perhaps three seconds from saying something thoroughly fleshly or saying something that is soaked in Christ's righteousness.
The period between the criticism and your response is too short of a time to come to a deep and biblical understanding of this tricky situation, thus, we ought to be prepared, in order that we can respond biblically.
In these kinds of situations, our tendency is to become defensive. What are we defending? What are the underlying motives for this kind of self-preservation?
As Christians we have been cleansed of all unrighteousness, however, we still continue to battle with sinful faulty perceptions and motives. When God created man and woman, He gave them a deep and all-satisfying relationship with Him. There was no need for this kind of defensiveness because their sense of self was intrinsically connected to who God is. However, as a result of their sin, they lost that intrinsic connection. Very soon after this event, Adam and Eve went into self-defense mode when God asked them what they had done.
We, like Adam and Eve, have lost our intrinsic connection to God and thus we feel the need to self-defense, but why? When our connection to God was broken, we no longer found our identity in God, instead, we began to seek to have our own identity apart from God, which we vehemently defended. When we come to repentance and faith in Jesus, our identity was directly connected to the character of God. If we truly believe this to be the case, then we should not need to regard our identity apart from Christ worth defending.
Ok, that's the setup.
In order that we respond not in self-defense, but in gracious love, here is some practical advice when receiving personal criticism.
1. Discern criticism vs. correction
God has hopefully placed people in your life that can speak into it with biblical insight, in that, they can give you correction. However, correction is not the same thing as criticism. Correction is a guiding hand directing you toward a thoroughly Christ-honoring life. In contrast, criticism is a stern voice saying you've gone off the path in some way. Though we should respond graciously in regard to criticism or correction, there is a differentiation between how much weight we put on it based on whether we are given criticism or correction. I do issue a slight caveat, in that, God can work in your life both through criticism and correction.
For whom the LORD loves He reproves, Even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights. Proverbs 3:12
Correct me, O LORD, but with justice; Not with Your anger, or You will bring me to nothing. Jeremiah 10:24
Criticism- They repay my love with accusations, but I continue to pray. Psalm 109:4
2. Combat unfounded criticism in gracious love according to the grace you have been given
Often we are quick to deal harshly with those who present unfounded criticism upon us. We see God's truth as of most importance as we combat criticism, however, we are less inclined to direct God's love toward the person who has criticised us, whether on false grounds or correctly. If the criticism is unfounded, exemplify to the fullest extent the graciousness that God has shown you to the other person. However, often it is not clear at the beginning whether the criticism is unfounded, thus a second biblical tool should be used.
3. Seek the Lord, ask Him to search your heart
You are not a perfect person, but you already knew that. In fact, you not even close to perfect, but hopefully you already knew that. That being the case, we are often not aware of all that we do and the motives that are involved. Receiving personal criticism then is an opportunity to ask God to search your heart, and for self-introspection. God can use people around you to get you to come to a better understanding of the sin in your life and the motives that accompany your action to help you grow in greater sanctification.
Receiving personal criticism is a complex issue, but if you have your identity fastened in God and are clothed in His love, by God's grace you can respond in a gracious, life-giving manner!
I like to add a little something for you to listen to in each blog post. Sometimes its related to the blog, sometimes not.
Song of the Day- The Gray Havens - Ghost Of A King
Leave a comment down below about how you try to respond to personal criticism!