How to give criticisms the right way



Check your motive

We will not be able to criticize the right way and get the right response from others if our motives are not right. On the other hand, if we criticize out of love, he will sense it and be prepared to listen. But if we criticize out of a spirit of condemnation, the person being criticized will quickly become defensive or hostile.

We can use the following checklist to check our motives.

Would I criticize if this were not a personal matter?
Am I criticizing to make myself look better?
Does this criticism bring pain or pleasure to me?

Make sure the issue is worthy of criticism

(Mat 7:3 NIV)  “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?

Jesus correctly pointed out that we have the tendency to pay attention to even the small faults of others. If we criticize someone for every small thing, it will build up hostility and defensiveness such that when there is a need to confront a big issue, you can’t penetrate the defensiveness.

Let’s be gracious to overlook small faults of others and concentrate only on big issues.

Be specific

When you give an all-encompassing criticism, it is impossible for the person to change. However, if we are specific in the areas we point out, that person knows exactly what he has to do.

When Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman and pointed to her her faults, He was very specific. So specific that she immediately knew she was talking to a prophet.

(John 4:16-18 NIV)  He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” {17} “I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. {18} The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

When you criticize, avoid sweeping statements like “You never…” or “You always….”.

Build up before you tear down

Even though we don’t like to think of it that way, criticisms tend to have the effect of tearing a person down. That is why it is important to build up before we tear down.

Always start criticisms with praises. For example, “John, you have done a good job in this project but would you allow me to point out one or two areas that you can perhaps improve upon?”

When God points out the mistakes of the churches during the last days, this is how He would do it.

(Rev 2:1-4 NIV)  “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands: {2} I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. {3} You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. {4} Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.

Don’t just criticize, give solutions

Plain criticisms make a person feel helpless. It also builds hostility as the person thinks that you criticize even though you don’t understand the difficulty of his situation. That is why we should combine criticisms with solutions.

Don’t just mention a problem, do something practical about it.

When God speaks His judgment on the people, He does not stop there. He points out how they can have a solution to their problems.

(Hag 1:3-8 NIV)  Then the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai: {4} “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?” {5} Now this is what the LORD Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. {6} You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.” {7} This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. {8} Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,” says the LORD.

Attack the problem, not the person

Attacking a person only makes him more defensive. If you attack the problem instead, it helps him to focus on the problem area and how he can change it.

The passage we examined earlier serves as an example of criticizing actions rather than character. It also includes what remedial actions are necessary.

(Hag 1:3-8 NIV)  Then the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai: {4} “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?” {5} Now this is what the LORD Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. {6} You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.” {7} This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. {8} Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,” says the LORD.

Having said that, at times it may be necessary to confront a person about his character if that is why you hope to change. However, many times we just want a person to change his actions but we enter instead into a discussion of his character.

What is the right time to criticize

You should not point out a person’s mistakes long after he has committed it. People feel resentful to have something they have done long ago brought out again.

When Jesus found something wrong about His disciples, He would correct them quickly.

(Mark 14:37 NIV)  Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour?

However, we have to balance the need to correct someone promptly and the need to not embarrass someone. Jesus always corrects His group in privacy. His intention was not to embarrass them in public.

Look at yourself before criticizing

Nobody will listen to our correction if they think we are guilty of the same thing we are trying to correct them for. That is why the Bible tells us to look at ourselves first before we even try to correct others.

(Mat 7:3-5 NIV)  “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? {4} How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? {5} You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

When we want to criticize someone, we need to ask ourselves if we are guilty of the same thing. If we are, we are in position to correct him unless we have first corrected ourselves.

By acknowledging that we too are guilty of the same problem, it helps us to understand the problem better. Why are we doing the same thing? Perhaps there is a good reason and we should not criticize him for it.

If we fail to look at ourselves, we are also not sympathetic to the other person’s situation.

End the criticism with encouragement

Criticism has the tendency to make a person discouraged. If we do not end a session of criticism with encouragement, we leave that person in a dejected position.

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