How to Handle Criticism

Criticism will help us to grow and improve if we can learn from it.

C.H. Spurgeon deals with Ecclesiastes 7:21–22 quite helpfully in a chapter from his Lectures to My Students titled “The Blind Eye and the Deaf Ear.” Spurgeon says, “You cannot stop people’s tongues, and therefore the best thing is to stop your own ears and never mind what is spoken.” When false accusations and destructive criticism come our way, he says, we should refuse to hear them; we should give them—or at least the destructive elements within them—our “blind eye” and our “deaf ear.”

 

Anyone who has ever served in leadership will know that death and taxes are not the only two certainties in life. There is at least one other that we can add to the list: criticism. Leadership and criticism go hand in hand. The more public our leadership role, the more frequent, unfair, and unpleasant that criticism will be. It is, after all, the soldiers who lead the charge in battle who take not only the bulk of the enemy’s fire but its greatest intensity as well.

With that in mind, the question we need to answer is not, How can we avoid criticism?—because we cannot avoid it and still be faithful in serving the Lord with the gifts and abilities He has given us; rather, we should ask, How can we prepare ourselves for the criticism that will come? In this way, when it does come, we will know how to respond and how to keep it from destroying us and the work God has given us to do. I have personally found help in answering this question from Ecclesiastes 7:21–22: “Do not take to heart all the things that people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you. Your heart knows that many times you have yourself cursed others.” This passage has helped me to see three things in particular.

First, we should “not take to heart all the things that people say” (emphasis added). Some of the criticism we receive needs to be ignored entirely. False accusations and malicious gossip fall into this category. We should not take these kinds of criticisms to heart, not even for a moment.

In saying this, I do not mean to suggest that we ought never respond to false accusations.

Read More