Responding Well To Criticism



“Criticism, like rain, should be gentle enough to nourish a man’s growth without destroying his roots.” Frank A. Clark

How can we respond well to criticism?

After being on the receiving end of some criticism at the end of last week, which I initially found very difficult to take, I’ve been considering this question.

It’s never going to be easy but I think there are some steps we can take to help us respond well.

Be aware of how you instinctively react to criticism- We all have different natural responses- for example, I know that my first response is often to get defensive and emotional or just to shut down.  I need to step away from the situation and have time and space to process things.  Then I will react in a healthier way, but I need the time and space in order to be able to reach that point.

Separate where you are reacting to the current situation from where you are reacting to something else- I realised that my reaction was partly towards the present situation but that it was also tied up in bad experiences of a very critical environment in the past, a struggle with a feeling of worthlessness that has been a constant battle lately and the fact that I was over-tired.  I needed to separate that out in my mind to be able to look at the situation more objectively.

Take it to God- It helps to be honest about what has been said and how we feel, and to seek God’s perspective.  It’s important to be reminded that, whether the criticism is fair or not, our value comes from our identity in Christ, not from other people’s opinion or reaching a certain standard.

Weigh up the criticism- It may only be one person’s opinion after all.  As I considered the criticism I received, a few things stood out to me.  Some of it was relating to areas that I have really worked hard on- where I know I have made a lot of progress.  That is one reason why the criticism hurt so much.  I know there is still a lot of work to be done but it discouraged me and triggered my insecurities to be criticised when I know I have made such an effort and improved so much.  I knew the person criticising me was not aware of this though and would probably have dealt with the situation differently if he had been.  As I reflected I also felt that parts of the criticism were unfair- not intentionally, but that some comments were made without full knowledge of the situation.

Learn from it– Even when criticism is given in an unhelpful way and parts of it may be unfair, there can still be truth in it.  It is easy to be blinded by the emotion and the feeling of injustice and to lose the fact that parts of it might actually be true and there may be things we should change.  We all have our blind spots where we can’t see things that are glaringly obvious to others, and we do need to take their feedback and perspective on board in order to learn and grow.

See the heart behind the criticism- I know that the person criticising me had good intentions.  Our personalities are polar opposites and because of that we often struggle to understand one another.  Almost the only thing we have in common is our faith in Jesus, which definitely helps, but doesn’t make it easy.  He is the sort of person who thrives on criticism and actively seeks it, whereas I need encouragement.  I don’t do well in an environment where there is criticism without there also being encouragement, and that was part of the problem- it felt like my strengths were being completely ignored and my weaknesses highlighted.  But I also know that it was mainly down to a difference in style and personality rather than it being intentional.

Remember that criticism can be a positive thing- If it is constructive and we can find a godly perspective on it and take action, it can be a useful tool to help us grow and develop.

As Matthew Gray Gubler put it: “Take criticism, smash it into dust. Add color and use it to paint breathtaking images of unicorns frolicking through endless fields of greatness.” 😀

But let’s give the final words on the topic to Solomon:

Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.” (Proverbs 27:6)

“If you listen to constructive criticism, you will be at home among the wise.”  (Proverbs 15:31)


I also wanted to let you know not to be alarmed if my blogging is a bit more sporadic over the next couple of months.  I will be away with work a bit, and I also need some more time for journalling and processing as part of an online book study I am doing.  I am not planning to take a break as such, but realistically I may not have quite so much time to spend on blogging or visiting others’ posts.  Unless I am away, I plan to at least post each week for Five Minute Friday.

>        Holly Barrett   


22 thoughts on “Responding Well To Criticism

  1. Such wise insights, Carly. Thank you. It’s hard for me to accept criticism, especially when it’s not constructive criticism. I get so easily wounded and fall back into feeling rejected. This is something for me to remember – “our value comes from our identity in Christ, not from other people’s opinion or reaching a certain standard.” Thank you. Blessings and hugs to you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Trudy. I find it hard too and it is easy to let feelings take over. It’s always important to hang on to and be reminded of our value in Christ. I constantly need to remind myself of this. Blessings and hugs!


  2. Fantastic photos you have here on your site! Such valid points about responding to criticism too. Thank you for these valuable reminders. I struggle in this aspect of my life. I am praying that God will continue to transform my heart so I can handle it better going forward. Thank you again for sharing. May God bless you and yours in all your endeavors!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Horace. I’m glad you found it helpful. It is definitely not an area that I find easy either, though I’m learning. Praying with you that God will help you in this. Blessings!


  3. These are really good suggestions. It’s so easy to be put on the defensive and take all criticism personally. I think one that I have trouble with esp. is when I’m overtired or reflecting on something in the past that the criticism might bring up. Going to God first thing is really a great idea. He can give us wisdom and help us to step away a little before responding to the criticism or determining if it is valid. Thanks for sharing these with us. Blessings! I’m your neighbor at the #RaRaLinkup!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Gayl. I’m glad you found it helpful. It is easy to take criticism too personally, especially when it’s complicated by tiredness or things from the past but going to God can definitely help us get a better perspective and ultimately remember that our value is in him. Blessings!


  4. Great thoughts! The fear of criticism is paralyzing; second only to feeling unworthy. I have taken so many back steps in my calling as a writer because of the two. The sad part is that I haven’t really received any criticism to warrant the fear; but, I guess that’s the “success” of holding back. Thank you for the reminder that criticism isn’t fatal and there can be value in it. I am your neighbor today on Holley Gerth’s Coffee for your heart!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for visiting, Susan. I know what you mean- the fear of criticism can hold us back just as much as actually receiving criticism. It’s definitely not fatal- it can be difficult and painful but there can be value in it if we get the right perspective.


    1. Thanks, Elizabeth. It is really easy to let the past interfere with the present. I think that’s why I need the time and space to process, to sort it out in my mind before I respond.


  5. Hi Carly,
    I’m your neighbor at Coffee for your Heart today. Good words to ponder today as I’m not the greatest at taking criticism and focus on my hurt feelings rather than the truth and heart behind what’s being offered — thank you for these wise words and enjoyed my visit here!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Valerie, thanks for visiting and for your encouragement. It is easy to focus on our hurt feelings when we receive criticism. For me anyway I don’t take it well at first but with some time and space to reflect I can usually find a better perspective.


    1. Thanks, Ifeoma, and thanks for sharing the link to your post. Daniel is a great example of how to focus on pleasing God rather than people and how to respond well when under attack.


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