Allow me to introduce you to a nerve-racking reality. No matter what you decide to do with your life, you will receive criticism.
Join a sports team? Your coach will critique aspects of your game that need to be improved. Get married? Your spouse will ask you to change things about you that drive him or her crazy. Get a job? Your boss will point out areas in which you need to perform better. Criticism is inevitable, but, if you know how to receive it well, it can be of great benefit to your life.
The following are 3 key ways to deal with criticism well:
1) Deal With Your Shame
To receive criticism well you need to deal with your shame. If you carry within yourself a sense that there’s something wrong or defective about you, it will be very hard for you to receive criticism because you will hear it as a confirmation of your perceived unworthiness. Your inner dialogue will be something along the lines of “I knew it, I suck. I am a worthless person.”
If you deal with your shame, then you will be able to receive criticism as an invitation to grow that has nothing to do with your worth or identity. Your inner dialogue will be something along the lines of “I’ve been told I can grow in “x” or “y” area. Great! Let’s get to work!”
I can’t think of a better way to deal with your shame than by believing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
How do you deal with your shame? I can’t think of a better way to deal with your shame than by believing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. You see, the Gospel deals shame a blow to it’s core because it acknowledges it as true while providing Christ as the answer to it.
If you believe the Gospel, if you are in Christ, his perfection is yours and your shame loses its power. You are a new creature. There’s nothing flawed about you anymore because your sin is gone. In Christ, you are lovable: loved by both God and his family.
2) Don’t Be Easily Offended
To receive criticism well, don’t play the victim role; don’t be easily offended. Such attitudes do not help you in any way. More often than not, playing the victim is a strategy used to manipulate a situation to one’s favor through a dramatic emotional response (“Don’t critique me or I’ll make a big scene…”) or by trying to avoid some sort of principle (“Those rules are unfair or unreasonable!”).
Instead of playing the victim role, objectively sift through the criticism. This takes us to point 3.
3) Allow Criticism from Trusted Friends to Grow You
Some of the criticism you’ll receive will be straight up garbage; it will have nothing of value to you. Don’t let that criticism offend you. Just let it bounce right off of you.
Good criticism can sow a bond of trust between people as they allow each other into their lives to, in love, call out the broken parts of one another.
Still, other times, when spoken out of love from trusted friends, it will have tremendous value to you. In these circumstances, listen carefully to what you are being told, be honest with yourself, and, as I mentioned before, receive it as an opportunity to grow. Trusted friends, co-workers or even bosses can help you get an honest picture of whether the criticism you’ve received is valid or empty.
Receiving criticism well opens the door to a strong, healthy community. By allowing people into our space and letting them help us, we show that we need them and value their opinion, thus strengthening the relationship. Good criticism can sow a bond of trust between people as they allow each other into their lives to, in love, call out the broken parts of one another.
If you allow criticism to help you grow and choose to be humble enough to accept that you aren’t perfect, you can strive to learn from people who have more experience than you or are gifted in other areas.
Apply these principles in the moment as you receive criticism and remember them in the future so that you can work better, live better and create better. Remember that you are secure in the Lord and you are worthy to Him: your worth does not lie in your earthly perfection or lack thereof.
Leandro Lozada is from Puebla, Mexico and is the Program Director at Love Thy Neighborhood. He is a graduate of Southern Seminary with an emphasis in Christian Ministry.