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Ten Tips for Taking Criticism

1. Understand the difference between constructive and destructive criticism. You need to learn how to interpret criticism. Is it positive criticism to build you up or negative to tear you down? Someone once said that constructive criticism is when I criticise you; destructive criticism is when you criticise me.

2. Don’t take yourself too seriously. If you can develop the ability to laugh at yourself, you will be much more relaxed when given or giving criticism. We all do some stupid and silly things. Blessed is he who can enjoy his blunders. We are approved by God; we don’t have to win the approval of others and look good in their eyes. We are not perfect people. Too many of us take ourselves too seriously and God not seriously enough.  


3. Look beyond the criticism and see the critic. When someone comes to me with news about another person, I am more interested in the person who said it than what was said. In fact, that’s one of my first questions: Who said it? Who told you that? When I find out who the perpetrator is, I know whether or not to listen. I will either straighten up and take it seriously or I will think to myself, “There they go again.”

4. Watch your own attitude toward the critic. A negative attitude toward criticism can be more destructive than the criticism itself. Remember, a chip on the shoulder indicates wood higher up! The late Herman Hickman, great football coach at Tennessee, Army, and Yale, said, “When you are being run out of town, get to the head of the line and look as though you are leading the parade.”

5. Realize that good people get criticized. Jesus, whose motives were pure and character was spotless, was called a glutton (Matt. 11:19), a drunkard (Luke 7:34), a Samaritan (John 8:48), and a friend of sinners (Matt. 11:19 and Mark 2:16). If our lives are Christlike, we can expect criticism. In fact, there are times when we should see criticism from the world as verification that our lives have been changed. A person whose mind is polluted and whose vision is not clear cannot understand or interpret behavior based on obedience to God.

6. Keep physically and spiritually in shape. Physical exhaustion has a tremendous effect on the way we act and react; it distorts the way we see and handle life. It’s a simple fact of life: These minds and bodies need rest. Prophet Elijah succumbed to opposition when he was in a state of weariness.  

7. Don’t just see the critic; see if there’s a crowd. The following story illustrates this point. Mrs. Jones had invited a great and well-known violinist to entertain at her afternoon tea. When it was all over, everyone crowded around the musician. “I’ve got to be honest with you,” one of the guests said, “I think your performance was absolutely terrible.” Hearing his criticism, the hostess interposed: “Don’t pay any attention to him. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He only repeats what he hears everyone else say.”

8. Wait for a time to prove them wrong. Time is your best ally; it allows you to prove yourself right. Often, as events unfold, the cause for criticism is eliminated and you will be vindicated. You may be thinking, “Easy for you to say, Maxwell, you’re not where I am.” But I’ve been there many times. If you know your action or decision was right, hang in there. Time will prove you out.  

9. Surround yourself with positive people. When you have optional time, spend it with people who will build you up. Enough quality time with positive people will minimize the effect of negative criticism. It will also discourage you from being critical. When a hawk is attacked by crows, he does not counterattack. Instead, he soars higher and higher in ever widening circles until the pests leave him alone. Circle above your adversaries rather than battle with them. If your positive attitude has any effect on negative people, it will be because of your example, not your defensiveness. So rise above them. It really is hard to soar like an eagle if you identify with turkeys!  

10. Concentrate on your mission—change your mistakes. Most people do exactly the opposite—they change their mission and concentrate on their mistakes. If you run from your task each time you make a mistake, you will never accomplish anything. You will always be in a state of frustration and defeat. The only real mistakes in life are the mistakes from which we learn nothing. So instead of dwelling on them, count on making them, learning from them, and moving on to finish the job. There’s an Arabian proverb that says if you stop every time a dog barks, your road will never end. Don’t let your mistakes become roadblocks; make them building blocks.

The points are taken from 'Be A People Person : Effective Leadership through Relationship' by John C Maxwell. The actual points in the book are slightly longer (the book also has a section on giving criticism).  All of the above points are very sound. Number six definitely can do with more expansion on the "spiritual fitness" front. A key part of that is recognising that our worth is ultimately grounded in God as our loving Creator and in the Lord Jesus Christ's death and resurrection for us. He is big and loving enough for our flaws.

Copyright © Chola Mukanga 2013

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