Critics are a dime a dozen, some should be heard but many are self-appointed sounding brass. The internet and anonymity empowers them. I’ve had my share is covert critics, and generally they are the same—intentionally deceptive and gifted at distortion.
One thing is consistent, they NEVER contact me to get the truth. Truth would nullify their game.
More than a decade ago I determined some guidelines regarding “who’s criticism I would hear.” Giving a “hearing to a critic is like giving the key to your spirit. You are not obligated to hear every random cynic. You are not under biblical mandate to account to those whom God has not appointed in your life.
Should you listen to some critics? Of course. Should you ignore some critics? You MUST if you intend to EVER follow Jesus. They key is deciding which ones to hear and which ones to ignore. Only YOU can decide who influences you. You distribute the keys to the critics. You can empower them or neutralize them.
So here my litmus test—these are the critics I will hear:
1. Listen to the critic who knows you—The wounds you choose to receive should be from those closest to you. You have no obligation to the trolls who merely throw grenades from an indiscriminate distance. Malicious critics are driven by internal character flaws which they project onto you. They presume you think as they do. They assume your motives, your behavior, your integrity is what theirs would be in your circumstances—and so they attack you by projecting their own ways onto you. This is what the pharisees did to Jesus. The critic you should listen to is the one who knows your heart, not the one who projects their heart onto you.
Proverbs 27:6 “6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.”
2. Listen to the critic who loves you—Those who have a relationship, who have demonstrated Christ-like love towards you, have earned a voice. Others have not. They have no right to their attempt to “pull you off the wall.” Those who love you deserve a place on the platform of your heart, and their words will always flow from a heart of love with your best interest at heart.
Proverbs 17:17 “17 A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”
3. Listen to the critic you know—There is nothing you can reasonably do with anonymous criticism—which usually amounts to conjecture based upon a partial picture (ie: someone who doesn’t know you doesn’t have the information they need to properly assess you from their distance.) Anonymous criticism is purely cowardice. If someone isn’t courageous and comfortable enough with their opinion to approach you in person, their agenda is not noble. Anonymous attacks are valueless and in-actionable, and they are delivered by people who prefer controversy over resolution. Press the “MUTE” button and move on.
Matthew 18:15 “15 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.”
Proverbs 27:9 “9 Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: so doth the sweetness of a man’s friend by hearty counsel.”
4. Listen to the critic that has a gracious spirit—A wise critic will approach you with humility and kindness—friendship. Even when you disagree, the spirit will be right. Behind-the-back commentary, public online attacks, 140 character assaults—this stuff is cowardly, fruitless, and WAY too common. It’s the undeniable evidence of ulterior motive and deception. It’s sad. The guy who will come to you as a friend—he’s a rare gem! Listen to that guy! Block out the rest.
Ecclesiastes 10:12 “12 The words of a wise man’s mouth are gracious; but the lips of a fool will swallow up himself.”
5. Listen to the critic who is wise—The Christian world is full of people who speak first and think later (or never). They fling words into cyberspace without seeking truth or understanding. Answering these people is futile. They don’t want answers. They want banter. The relish the conjecture, and they have lots of time for it.
In contrast, a truly wise man is a rare treasure. Wise men choose their words carefully. They pray. They know God. When they speak, their words are VERY MUCH worth hearing. I have a short list of very wise men in my life, and I can’t get enough of them! I’ll take all the criticism they want to give me. Because of their wisdom, their criticism is always true, always a help, always loving, and always tends toward growth.
Proverbs 29:11 “11 A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards.”
Proverbs 13:20 “20 He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.”
6. Listen to the critic who has biblical support—Opinions and preferences are a dime a dozen. Wise critics truly know God’s Word, and handle it honestly. Also a wise critic knows not to stretch truth or impose preference onto God’s Word. God has placed men like this into my life, and I can tell you for sure, I listen to them!
Job 5:17 “17 Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth: therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty…”
7. Listen to the critic who rejoices with you—Malicious critics are unhappy when things go well for others—often this is driven by irrational envy. They secretly await the misfortune of those they criticize—in fact, the very intent of the malicious critic is to speed along the misfortune. For that’s when they will be proven “right” and they will be validated. A listen-worthy critic harbors no such malice or ill-will. The gracious critic will genuinely rejoice with you.
Romans 12:15 “15 Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.”
8. Listen to the critic who has nothing to gain—If your critic is selling materials, building a tribe, or in any way profiting from the “fight” just close the door and give the key to the guy with nothing to gain. Personal agenda makes criticism unreliable. Just ask, “What does my critic have to gain or lose?”
John 15:13 “13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
9. Listen to the critic who has a good name—Some people are known for being pathological critics. Criticism is their “calling.” They live to find and point out the faults of others. Run as fast as you can from this type of imbalanced person. This “disorder” is extremely contagious and will kill your heart for Jesus and hurt a healthy church. In contrast, listen to the critic who has a spiritual reputation—a good name of integrity, maturity, wisdom, and Spirit-filling.
Psalms 141:5 “5 Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness: and let him reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head…”
10. Listen to the critic who comes to you personally—The guy that just spreads “stuff” is not honoring biblical principle. The guy that comes to you personally and humbly—that’s the guy you want to listen to. If the critic won’t come to you personally, he doesn’t want truth and his heart is impure.
Proverbs 16:28 “28 A froward man soweth strife: and a whisperer separateth chief friends.”
11. Listen to the critic who is rational—Gotta love the critics who deliberately misconstrue your words, twist the obvious context, and then refute the “new meaning” which they’ve imposed. This sort of irrational social bullying comes from someone who just isn’t all there. They logic in circles and no matter what—they never lose. Don’t be taunted into a fabricated fight and distracted from something of real value. Don’t let someone else’s delusional imagination define you. In contrast, listen to the critic who won’t maliciously twist your words.
Proverbs 26:24 “24 He that hateth dissembleth with his lips, and layeth up deceit within him;”
12. Listen to the critic who tells the truth—I have a critic has repeatedly lied about me and never one time sought truth. I can appreciate someone honestly disagreeing with me, but I have not obligation to someone who fabricates information. When someone uses pure conjecture to support their disagreement, they discredit themselves. I appreciate and hear critics who sincerely and honestly disagree without deception. Sadly, that’s rare.
Proverbs 26:20 “20 Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth.”
13. Listen to the critic whom God has placed in your life—Most likely God has already placed spiritual leaders and a multitude of godly counselors in your life. You owe nothing to those who attempt to impose themselves into your life. Look for the God-given influencers who will seek to encourage, edify, and equip you. Listen to those whom God has providentially provided, not those who butt in.
Jeremiah 3:15 “15 And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.”
Critics I will hear must pass this test. All others will need to find another kid on the playground to bully. The platform of criticism in my life is only accessible to those with the highest of integrity and purest of motives.
One final word. To those who pass this test—I thank you for your role in the molding of my life. You know who you are, because we know each other well! Thank you for caring enough to influence me with your wisdom and Christ-like spirit.