One day a man met Charles Spurgeon, the famous London preacher, on the street, took off his hat and bowed, and said, “The Rev. Mr. Spurgeon—a great idiot!”
Spurgeon took off his hat and replied, “Thank you for the compliment. I am glad to hear that I am a great anything!”
Have you ever had a day, or even a season when people have criticized you?
Criticism can be hard to take. It can stir a huge range of emotions in us; it can make us defensive, angry, fearful and even bitter.
Of course, while we would prefer never to be criticized the likelihood is that we probably will be.
As Elbert Hubbard, author of A Message To Garcia said: to avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, be nothing!
And of course, we know that Jesus was criticized. A lot!
Just take Mark chapter 2 for example. Jesus is criticized four times in this chapter alone. Every story that Mark tells in this chapter has the Pharisees criticizing Jesus’ or Jesus’ disciples actions.
- Why does this fellow talk like that – v7?
- Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners? – v16
- How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting but yours not? V18
- Why are [your disciples] doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath? V24
For most of us, criticism can strike at the very heart of who we are. It can paralyze us; it can immobilize us – it can stop us from doing what we should be doing. We end up scared of being criticized so we do not do anything.
To get criticized does not mean what you are doing is necessarily wrong. Jesus is criticized four times in this passage – and he had not done, nor does he ever do anything wrong! To do something well, right and true does not mean we will avoid criticism!!
Criticism is always difficult to accept, but if we receive it with humility and a desire to improve our character it can be very helpful. As Proverbs says Only a fool does not profit when he is rebuked for his mistakes.
Several years ago I read a helpful article on this subject. It stated that when we are criticized we ought to ask ourselves whether the criticism contains any truth even when it is not given with the right motivation and in the right spirit.
The article offered these four, helpful suggestions as to what to do when someone criticizes us:
(1) Commit the matter instantly to God, asking Him to remove all resentment or counter-criticism on your part and ask the Holy Spirit to teach you any needed lessons in the criticism
(2) Remember that we are all great sinners and that the one who has criticized us does not know the worst about us.
(3) If you have made a mistake or committed a sin, humbly and frankly confess it to God and to anyone you may have injured.
(4) Be willing to learn afresh that you are not infallible and that you need God’s grace and wisdom every moment of the day to keep on the straight path.
When we are criticized, even when the delivery of that criticism is mean spirited and unfair, let us accept what is true and act upon it; reject what is not true and then commit to the Lord.
Even our Lord was criticized. How we deal with criticism is a sign of our maturity and growth in the Lord.