Criticizing Those You Love


Sometimes those closest to us seem to receive more criticism—and criticism of a less-than-constructive quality.

Sometimes those closest to us seem to receive more criticism—and criticism of a less-than-constructive quality. Unfortunately, we may unwittingly take advantage of the close relationship because we know the person so well.

As a result, we may unfairly employ our fault-finding magnifying glass. Because we have a connection to the person we may become less concerned with tact, diplomacy, or courtesy; and our careful reflective process that we use before criticizing a stranger or co-worker is not considered to be as important. Of course, this is a mistake.We sometimes believe that we have carte blanche to “correct” those we love the most.

However, this misguided approach can lead to resentment, hurt feelings, and emotional separation. Surely, those whom we know and love the most deserve at least the same consideration we offer to relative strangers before we offer criticism.

Interestingly we seem to hurt the ones we love the most; because they love us, we do not expect them to change their feelings for us merely because we offer some “needed” criticism. A quick peek at the schedules of marriage counselors and divorce attorneys might suggest otherwise. The considerations for offering criticism to a spouse are no less important than when we offer criticism to an employee, student, artist, athlete, and so forth.

Perhaps of equal or greater importance is when offering criticism to our children—especially those who are very young and impressionable. Misguided correction and criticism spoken out of anger rather than reflection can leave psychological scars that can be difficult to heal. Remember the goal of offering productive criticism is to help someone grow, recover, improve, prosper, or excel. Keep this goal in mind. Make sure you are mindful of the power of criticism to either harm or help.

When dealing with your children, as exasperated as you might become, the ultimate goal is to raise healthy, happy, competent, loving, and accepting children. The way you do that may require you to rethink your approach to giving criticism to those you love the most.

The apostle Paul stressed the importance of providing gentle correction. The question is not whether parents should criticize their children, but how. The idea is to address what went wrong without causing them to feel terrible and crater their self-esteem. Perhaps saying something like, “You did this, it would be better if you didn’t do that; we make mistakes, let’s work on this so as not to do it again in the future.”

Before you offer criticism to a loved one, take a moment and examine your own heart. What is motivating you to offer this criticism? If it is anger or frustration, you may wish to wait until the emotionality subsides so that you can address the real issue that created those emotions in the first place.

Before you criticize, consider what you want the outcome to be. In healthy relationships the goal is to strengthen the bonds that tie, not to bind them. Before you speak, try to ensure your words are well chosen and come from a compassionate, loving heart. Effectively providing criticism is not easy or efficient; and it can be all the more difficult when you are dealing with the extra emotional connections of those you know and love.

What are some effective ways to criticize your spouse or children?

Written by Randy Garner

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