Friday, February 19, 2010

Critical people

I could see it in her face and in the way she walked as she approached me - I was about to get it! Dear Ms. So and So had a complaint - she didn't like the way the kids got out of Sunday school early or she thought the music was too loud last week or she was surprised to find no bulletin this week. It was always something...

Maybe she's joined your church now... how do you handle criticism from people?

First, I would consider the source. It's important to understand who is doing the criticizing. Is this a person who is always criticizing or someone who rarely does?
I would treat what is said differently. If a chronic criticizer (CC for short) approaches me, I brace myself and take what she says with a grain of salt and try to let it roll off my back. Most CC's have their own problems and won't be happy anywhere. I listen and go on my way. I try not to take it personally. Saying a prayer for her couldn't hurt either.

Is this a person who is involved or someone who is an armchair quarterback? If this is someone who sits on the sidelines and criticizes the rest of us trying to do our best, I gently (and with one of my fake smiles) suggest that she get involved in being part of the solution. If she's complaining about the children running around the church, I suggest she think of a solution - maybe she could gather them together for a small snack between services, etc.

I've also used a similar tactic when people come to me complaining/feigning concern about other people. I immediately ask them, "I'm sure they need your prayers. Are you willing to commit to praying for them every day for the next month?" That usually shuts them up and I suggest that we pray together right then for that person.

CC's can wear you down if you let them (and believe me, it's hard not to). Limiting our time with them (besides not going to church) is wise.

CC's create a weariness that can make serving the Lord a chore. (If you can never do it right, why bother to try?!)

Oswald Chambers said,
"Our Lord's first obedience was to the will of His Father, not to the needs of men: His obedience brought the outcome of the saving of men. If I am devoted to the cause of humanity only, I will soon be exhausted and will soon come to the place where my love will falter; but if I love Jesus personally and passionately, I can serve humanity though men treat me as a doormat."

I find I can deal with people better when I'm closely walking with God. If I'm trying to do what He thinks is important (and this comes by spending time with Him to hear that), then I can deal with criticism better. (In my mind, I think, "I'm doing what God wants and if you don't like it, you can lump it! - does this show I have a long way to go?)

If we are doing what we are doing for HIM, then what others think will matter less. I've told myself this when I've done something for people and they didn't even say thank you. Ultimately, it is God we are trying to please; He sees and will reward accordingly.

Having said that, what if the criticism comes from someone I consider a godly person? Then I feel grateful - grateful that they felt close enough to confide their true feelings to me (people rarely do- they talk to other people behind your back). There is a kernel of truth in most of what is said. I can grow (and can help my church grow) if I can find that truth and see if there needs to be change.

Kind words heal and help; cutting words wound and maim.
(Proverbs 15:4 The Message)

Again, I would love to hear your stories or comments about how you deal with criticism.


  1. A picture is worth a thousand words

    I can usually overlook criticism but have to guard against developing a bad attitude toward them. I'm learning to distance myself from those who leave a negative trail and to cling to the friends who aren't afraid to change and who don't have to find something negative in everything

  2. Your advise is very wise, Sandy. I completely agree. Letting it roll off my back is something that comes very hard for me, as I am a "people-pleaser" by nature. It is very easy to take things personally, but taking your advice into account, I would add Philippians 4:8,

    " . . . whatsoever things are true, . . . honest, . . . just, . . . pure, . . . lovely, . . . of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."

    If I am tempted to meditate on critical words from someone else, this verse helps me re-adjust my focus. Like you said, it is God we are trying to please!

  3. Great thoughts!
    Especially about considering the source.