"The tongue of the wise adorns knowledge but the mouth of the fool gushes folly." Proverbs 15:2 (NIV)
It was one of those voicemails that left me rubbing the sides of my head wondering, "Why me? Why today?" I was blindsided by the criticism and felt this would be the perfect time to find a hole and crawl into it.
Criticism hurts. No matter who you are, how many people are encouraging you, and how happy you felt before you got "that call" or "that email," one drop of critical yuck spreads fast and furious.
Oh how I wish I had a little "criticism antidote" to make it all better. I don't. But I do have a little sermonette I preach to myself when criticized.
When someone criticizes, I've got to quickly discern if they are trying to help me or hurt me.
No criticism is fun, but it can be helpful if it is from a wise person speaking words that are truly intended to help us. Proverbs 15:2a says, "The tongue of the wise adorns knowledge ..." To me, a wise person is someone who:
• Cares enough about me to get their facts straight and isn't speaking out of assumption.
• Has talked to God and reflects a gentle, caring tone in their communication.
• And wraps their criticism with grace and humility.
This kind of criticism is given with the intent of sharing helpful wisdom that is constructive rather destructive.
If the criticism is destructive and hurtful, I must remember the second part of Proverbs 15:2b, "... but the mouth of the fool gushes folly." The definition of folly is a "lack of understanding or sense."
We need to remember this kind of harsh and unnecessary criticism says a lot more about their insecurities than our inadequacies.
We can't fix whatever hurt caused them to lash out. But we can decide to stay calm and not compound the hurt. "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." (Proverbs 15:1 NIV)
No matter what kind of criticism we get—helpful or hurtful—it still stings. And we might not feel like being calm at first. When I returned the call that left my heart racing and my head pounding, I didn't feel like being calm. I had to choose to be calm despite my feelings. I'm learning that staying calm is as much of a gift to myself as it is to the one criticizing me.
Dear Lord, I know You are not a God of condemnation and criticism. Teach me to hold my tongue and trust in You when I am hurt by those around me. I want to be able to take the criticism that is helpful and leave the criticism that is hurtful, but I know that only through You can I do this without the weight of condemnation. Thank You for Your gentle conviction and patience with me. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Reflect and Respond:
What criticism is God calling you to lay aside right now? If you are criticizing others, how is God calling you be an encourager instead of a criticizer?
"Staying calm is as much of a gift to myself as it is to the one criticizing me."
Romans 15:4, "For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope." (NKJV)
Proverbs 15:1, "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." (NIV)