The Finesse of Giving and Receiving Constructive Criticism

Proverbs 15:31-32(NLT) tells us, “If you listen to constructive criticism, you will be at home among the wise. If you reject discipline, you only harm yourself; but if you listen to correction, you grow in understanding.” God’s wisdom is golden, and it will never fail, but many of us single believers find the first sentence in this passage challenging. When it comes to accepting the good counsel of others in the area of dating and relationships, some of us turn a deaf ear. We even get angry and think, “Who does she think she is? She’s not perfect and is in no position to be criticizing me!” When it comes to the world, we will accept counsel from all manner of individuals; we’ll even pay for it, and yet many of these individuals are not Godly. So, a person doesn’t have to be perfect to give useful counsel. Of course, a healthy dose of discernment in this area is biblical and beneficial, but this discernment shouldn’t exclude hearing sound wisdom from someone who tells it like it is. Sometimes we need to hear criticism, no matter the delivery. We need to try it on for size, and allow the Holy Spirit to confirm whether or not it fits.

We all have habit patterns that we’ve developed over our lifetimes. Some of these are very entrenched. When this happens, it’s like we have on blinders. We can’t see where we may be going wrong, and we can’t tell when we’ve veered off the path God would have us to be on. In short, we can’t detect when we, ourselves, are the root cause of why we’re not receiving the blessing we desire most. We can’t see that something within us is blocking our blessing. In this state, very often we have to be shocked into paying attention.

What does this look like? Well, sometimes people will bluntly blurt out a criticism at us, and we are appalled by their audacity. It’s cutting! They come at us sideways, and we’re immediately offended to the point of anger. Sometimes this is the only way we will pay attention to the truth we need to hear. We haven’t dealt with ourselves honestly in areas that are integral to further growth in Christ and to attaining the blessing we’ve been praying to receive. God has designed life to hurl wake-up alarms when we’re in this state, and sometimes, those alarms are anything but subtle.

Even mature Christians have a hard time with constructive criticism, because it means you’re pointing out to them an error they’ve not confronted. People continue with poor or bad behavior because no one has pointed it out or confronted them in a way that gets their attention. It is not unusual for pain of some kind to be connected to their refusal to confront their stuff. As Christians, we have to be aware of this because the wisdom of Proverbs 29:1 (NLT) tells us, “Whoever stubbornly refuses to accept criticism will suddenly be destroyed beyond recovery.”

Constructive criticism stings, but it’s good for us, and we would do well to stop reacting adversely and impetuously to it, and instead examine ourselves. This is the spiritually mature way to handle things. When you develop an understanding of how those little stings of constructive criticism from others help you to grow as a person, your level of compassion expands. You learn to be a person who can dole out constructive criticism yourself, and you’re more careful to do it in the most loving way possible. This is a discipline that will help us in our future marriages. When our hearts are stamped with the memory of what it feels like to be cut, we will learn to think before we speak and to be careful with our words.

Ephesians 4:29(NLT) tells us, “Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” Godly finesse teaches us that every situation must be handled differently, depending on the person, because not everyone reacts the same to criticism. When you’re dealing with a loved one, emotions can sometimes run high, so before giving constructive criticism, we should make sure to take the situation to God in prayer first. Our commitment to humble ourselves before Him and to be led by the Holy Spirit regarding what to say will ensure that our intention is in the right place. We will add a benefit instead of sabotaging the opportunity to be helpful.

For ourselves, we would do well to remember that when we hear the truth from someone who lacks finesse about it, it may land harshly, but it does so because we have probably refused or neglected to hear it before. It may be our final opportunity to confront some baggage without facing a drastic consequence. When it comes to giving constructive criticism, we must make sure it’s in alignment with God’s Word, so that the wisdom we give will be sound and delivered with love. Whether we’re on the receiving or giving end of things, the piece of wisdom all of us must acknowledge is that failure is imminent if we veer off the path God has set for us. We can’t be stubborn or arrogant. Receiving constructive criticism or delivering it to others requires the finesse of spiritual maturity. We must let the Holy Spirit have the final word so a productive outcome is achieved for all concerned.

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.

“The Finesse of Giving and Receiving Constructive Criticism”, written for Copyright©2020. All rights reserved. All done to the glory of God through Jesus Christ, our Lord!

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