How Can I Deal With Criticism?
“My mother seemed like a police detective—always looking for areas where I failed. Before I had time to finish my chores, she would inspect my work, looking for mistakes.”—Craig.
“My parents were always lecturing me about something. They said I just couldn’t seem to get my act together. School, home, congregation—they just wouldn’t give me a break.”—James.
DOES it seem as though nothing you do is ever good enough for your parents? Do you feel that your every move is being examined under a microscope—that you’re always being watched and constantly critiqued but you never pass inspection?
Which of the following do you hear most often?
□ Your room is always a mess.
□ You watch too much TV.
□ You stay up too late.
□ You never get up on time.
On the following line, write the parental reminder or criticism that bothers you the most.
True, commands and criticism may get on your nerves. But consider the alternative: If you never received counsel or discipline, wouldn’t you wonder if your parents cared about you? (Hebrews 12:8) Really, discipline is evidence of your parents’ love. The Bible says that a father will reprove “a son in whom he finds pleasure.”—Proverbs 3:12.
You can be grateful, then, that your parents care enough about you to set you straight! After all, you’re young and relatively inexperienced. Sooner or later, correction will be in order. Without guidance, you could easily be overpowered by “the desires incidental to youth.”—2 Timothy 2:22.
But It Hurts!
Of course, “no discipline seems for the present to be joyous, but grievous.” (Hebrews 12:11) This is particularly so when you’re young. And no wonder! Your personality is in its developing stages. You’re still growing up and discovering who you are. So criticism—even when carefully thought out and delivered in a kind way—may trigger resentment.
This reaction is understandable, because the value you place on yourself can easily be influenced by what others say about you. And your parents’ opinion in particular greatly affects your sense of self-worth. So when a parent corrects you or complains about the way you do something, it can be devastating.
Should you conclude that nothing you do is ever good enough or that you’re a complete failure simply because your parents have pointed out a few of your flaws? No. All humans fall woefully short of perfection. (Ecclesiastes 7:20) And making mistakes is part of the learning process. (Job 6:24) What, though, if your parents seem to have a lot to say when you do something wrong but little to say when you do something right? That can hurt. Still, it hardly means you’re a total failure.
Behind the Criticism
Sometimes a parent might seem overly critical, not because of any particular failing on your part, but simply because he or she is in a bad mood. Has your mom had a hard day? Is she struggling with an illness? Then she might be more prone than usual to pick on you if your room isn’t in tip-top shape. Is your dad angry and frustrated over family finances? Then he might speak thoughtlessly “as with the stabs of a sword.” (Proverbs 12:18) Granted, such unfair criticism is irritating. But instead of dwelling on the injustice—which will only make you more upset—try to overlook your parents’ faults. Remember: “We all stumble many times. If anyone does not stumble in word, this one is a perfect man.”—James 3:2.
As imperfect humans, parents too can be afflicted with feelings of inadequacy. In fact, failure on your part can make them feel as if they have failed. For example, a mother might criticize her daughter when she brings home a poor report card from school. But what the mother might actually be thinking is, ‘I’m afraid that I’m failing as a mother because I’m not motivating my daughter to succeed.’
Keeping Cool When Under Fire
Whatever is behind the criticism, the question is, How can you cope with it? First, be careful not to lash out. Proverbs 17:27 says: “Anyone holding back his sayings is possessed of knowledge, and a man of discernment is cool of spirit.” How can you remain “cool of spirit” when under fire? Try the following:
Listen. Rather than being quick to justify your actions or protest your innocence, try to hold back your emotions and absorb what your parents have to say. The disciple James told Christians to be “swift about hearing, slow about speaking, slow about wrath.” (James 1:19) If you angrily interrupt while your parents are talking to you, they’ll think that you aren’t listening. This will frustrate them and inevitably lead to more counsel, not less.
Focus. At times, you may feel that your parents’ counsel was delivered in a less-than-kind manner. Rather than dwell on the way they spoke to you, though, focus on what was said. Ask yourself: ‘What part of this criticism do I know to be true? Have I heard my parents complain about this matter before? What would it cost me to comply with their wishes?’ Remember, despite how it may seem at the moment, your parents’ concern is motivated by love. If they really did hate you, they wouldn’t discipline you at all.—Proverbs 13:24.
Rephrase. If you rephrase your parents’ counsel and repeat it back to them in a respectful manner, you reassure them that you heard what they said. For example, a parent might say: “You always leave your room in a mess. If you don’t clean it up, you’re grounded!” Now, your room may look just fine to you. But expressing that thought will hardly be helpful. Try to look at things from your parents’ viewpoint. It would be better to say, without sarcasm, something like this: “You’re right. My room is messy. Would you like me to clean it right now or after dinner?” When you acknowledge your parents’ concerns in this way, the tension is more likely to ease. Of course, you then need to follow through on your parents’ direction.—Ephesians 6:1.
Wait. Save any justification until after you’ve complied with your parents’ wishes. “The one keeping his lips in check is acting discreetly,” says the Bible. (Proverbs 10:19) Once your parents see that you really were listening to them, they’ll be far more inclined to listen to you.
Write here which of the above four steps you need to work on most. ․․․․․
Why It’s Worth the Effort
Would you be willing to endure some physical hardship to discover a fortune in gold? Well, the Bible says that wisdom is worth far more than any treasure. (Proverbs 3:13, 14) How do you become wise? Proverbs 19:20 says: “Listen to counsel and accept discipline, in order that you may become wise in your future.” True, counsel and discipline may cause some discomfort. But if you find and apply the nuggets of wisdom in any criticism you receive, you’ll gain a treasure worth more than gold.
Let’s face it: Criticism is part of life. You already have to cope with it from your parents and teachers. In the future, you will no doubt have employers and others to deal with. Learn how to handle criticism at home, and you’ll become a progressive student, a valued employee, and a more confident person in general. Surely, it’s worth enduring a little criticism to gain those results!
Hemmed in by house rules? Learn how to be content with the freedom you have—and even how you might gain more.
“A wise person will listen and take in more instruction.”—Proverbs 1:5.
To help you accept correction from your parents
● Appreciate any commendation that you receive with the criticism.
● Ask for clarification if you’re not clear about the problem or the expected solution.
DID YOU KNOW . . . ?
Some dads and moms find it difficult to deal lovingly with their children because they didn’t receive adequate love and understanding from their own parents.
The next time my parents criticize me, I will ․․․․․
If I feel that my parents are being overly critical, I will ․․․․․
What I would like to ask my parent(s) about this subject is ․․․․․
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
● Why might you find it hard to accept criticism?
● What may prompt your parents to be critical of you?
● How can you make the most of any counsel you receive?
[Blurb on page 177]
“All my life it was my mother yelling and me answering her back. But now I try to put into practice what God’s Word says. It works. Mom’s attitude has started to change. By applying the Bible, I came to understand her better. Our relationship improved.”—Marleen
[Picture on page 180]
If you sift out the nuggets of wisdom in any criticism you receive, you’ll gain a treasure worth more than gold