Everyone has different opinions about how things should be in this world, and how others should think, feel, and act. That is why I would say that every adult living today has faced some criticism at some point in his or her life. Some of this criticism may have no basis in truth, and therefore, we should not internalize it because the criticism given is only meant to hurt us. The Bible speaks against those who wrongfully criticize others, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers” (Ephesians 4:29).
However, there is such a thing as “constructive criticism” which is designed to help a person grow rather than hurt you. Constructive criticism is given to a person who is doing wrong in an attempt to help that person see the error of his/her way and grow. Christians may see fellow Christians doing something wrong in the Sight of God, and try to teach that person better. It might also be given to someone who is doing right, but who could do even better. We are commanded to help one another grow spiritually, and that can sometimes involve giving one another constructive criticism. “Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.” (Luke 17:3). “This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith;” (Titus 1:13).
Have you ever received constructive criticism from a fellow Christian? That person may have seen something that you were doing which was spiritually wrong, and you may have thought you were doing the right thing. How did you handle the criticism? We are to receive constructive criticism, and apply it to our learning and spiritual growth, even though we might perceive it as hurtful at first. “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.” (Hebrews 12:11).
There are 3 ways that most people handle constructive criticism. See if you know someone who falls into one of these categories:
Instead of becoming angry with the messenger, many people who heard the preaching of the Gospel were pricked in their hearts, and asked Peter what they needed to do to be saved (v. 37). Unlike those who stoned Stephen, who were said to be “cut to the heart” (Acts 7:54), and then proceeded to gnash on him with their teeth and stone him, these people of Acts 2 were cut or pricked to the heart, and responded appropriately by asking what to do to be saved. Peter replied with the following: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (v.38).
These people had humbled themselves and allowed themselves to hear Peter’s message from God which meant that they were spiritually wrong. They “that gladly received his word were baptized,” and 3,000 souls were baptized that day (v. 41). Consider how many souls would be saved today and how many faithful Christians there would be if everyone was as open to the Truth as these people!
To grow spiritually, we have to be open to constructive criticism, even though it may not feel good to us in the beginning. We do not always see the error of our ways, and we can learn from the wisdom of others, “A reproof entereth more into a wise man than an hundred stripes into a fool.” (Proverbs 17:10). We can also learn from daily Bible reading: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:” (I Timothy 3:16, Psalm 1:2, II Timothy 2:15).
Likewise, if we are the ones giving constructive criticism to an erring brother or sister in Christ, we should be mindful of the 3 reactions we may get in return and prepare ourselves to handle them accordingly. Remember, too, that sometimes constructive criticism is given to those who are doing right, but who could do even better. If we can focus on being the best Christians we can be, and help others do the same, then we all can spend an eternity in Heaven together!