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How Do You Handle a Critic?

Have you ever had someone curse you out, disrespect you, and throw stones at you?  David did!  In 2 Samuel 16:5–14; 19:18–23, David experienced criticism in the highest degree.  His son Absalom overtook Jerusalem and sought to overthrow David and become king.  This caused David to run for his life.  As David and his loyal administration were fleeing, Shimei walked alongside them, cursed them out and hurled dirt and stones at them.  Have you ever had anyone try and kick you when you were down?  One of David’s guards (and nephew), Abishai, asked to silence Shimei by cutting off his head.  Have you ever been tempted to silence a critic in an un-Christlike way? While tempting, it wasn’t God’s way of handling it.  Retaliation may be our first inclination but it never helps the situation.  David knew God would deal with Shimei and responded wisely.

David was confident his identity and security came from God alone.  No lie, insult, or accusation from Shimei would shake him.  David also knew God was sovereign and would handle the situation.  David also desired to please God by doing what was right even if Shimei didn’t.  Knee-jerk reactions, retaliation, and emotionalism should not be what control us.  We should be led by God’s spirit.  If God is for us, who can be against us (Romans 8:31)?  God convicted Shimei of his wrongdoing and he eventually repented.  Perhaps a wrong response from David would have prolonged or prevented Shimei from getting himself right with God?

A wise person takes constructive criticism well.  Constructive criticism isn’t slander, gossip, strife, divisive talk, or lying.  It isn’t mean-spirited.  Constructive criticism is well thought out, prayed through, Biblically based, and respectfully presented privately, face-to-face, gently, and lovingly.  Do you react wisely when someone criticizes you or you hear about something they have said?  Proverbs 9:8-9 says, “Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you.  Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.” A wise man is humble and has a teachable spirit.  A “know-it-all” rarely repents, never admits fault, and is typically defensive in justification of their actions and words.  When a wise man is approached on ways to improve, he graciously listens and makes the appropriate changes.  Wise men welcome constructive criticism as it makes them more efficient, effective, and like Christ.

There will always be those who say negative and false things against you.  Let your character and fruit silence their accusations.  While Christians shouldn’t listen to and should correct gossips, liars, divisive people, and slanders not every mountain is worth dying on.  Don’t let their actions stop you from God’s plan for your life.  You can get so caught up combating a critic you lose sight of doing God’s will.  1 Peter 3 tells us,  “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”  We should love our enemies and bless those who curse, hate, use, and persecute us (Matthew 5:42).  We should also remember everyone must give an account for their idle words (Matthew 12:36) – even us!

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Stephen and his wife Haley have called Arkansas home all of their lives. Stephen has served in several ministry roles over the last 25 years and as a lead pastor for the last 8 years. Stephen attended Williams Baptist College and earned a BA in Biblical Studies from Ouachita Baptist University, an MA, MDiv, and DMin in Christian Leadership and Pastoral Ministries from Liberty University. When not pastoring, Stephen enjoys running, cycling, reading, writing, camping, fishing, and spending time with his family.

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