How To Receive Criticism Like A Champ

I don’t love to be criticized or critiqued.  I must admit, I don’t love “input.”

I think this goes back to my Intro to Design class in college.  One day Dr. Grinchwold (named changed) walked past my desk, looked disdainfully at my project, a 3-dimensional paper fly (which was brilliant, by the way), and muttered something.  “Excuse me, what did you say?” I asked.  To which he replied for the whole class to hear, “I said, ‘Do you have a match?’  Because you should burn that thing.”  I was stunned, mortified and humiliated.  I wanted to say, “If I had a match I’d light your pants on fire,” but I didn’t.

Or maybe it goes back to when I was a teenager and my Dad criticized my taste in music – “Sounds like somebody pounding on a bunch of pots and pans!”  Tactful.  He actually came to like a few of the Beatles’ songs years later.  But his comments didn’t cause me to listen to more of the Glenn Miller Orchestra.

My wife is very encouraging, but graciously confronts me about my sin at times. (There’s a lot more she could confront me about but doesn’t).  After all these years I still don’t love to be corrected.  My initial instinct when she asks, “Can we talk about something?” is to want to say, “Didn’t we just talk about something 12 years ago when the kids were little?” But I always don my teachable face and say, “Sure, honey” while thinking on the inside, “Now what?  Can’t you just let me watch ‘My Strange Paranormal Wedding Storage Unit’ in peace?”

And after 31 years as a pastor, though I should be used to feedback, I still squirm when told my opening preaching illustration was lame or my counsel didn’t part the clouds and cause angels to sing.  I want to be like the pastor in “The Andy Griffith Show” and stand outside my church every Sunday, shaking people’s hands as they leave and they say, “Wonderful message, pastor!”  And I reply, “Why thank you, Bee.  You take care of Andy and Opie this week, y’hear?”

David actually prayed for God to people to correct him.

Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head;
let my head not refuse it. (Psalm 141:5)

I don’t remember the last time I asked God to send people to rebuke me.  But if David prayed for it, it must be good.

So how should we receive criticism?  Here are 5 suggestions:

-If it comes from a believer, view it as a kindness – oil for your head – an act of love.  Ask God to help you receive it and not refuse it.  Or start openly crying, which is embarrassing.  Be a man – be like David – “Let a righteous man strike me; it is a kindness.”

–Make it easy for people to bring stuff to you. It’s not easy to talk to someone about their sin or weakness.  Thank them and assure them you’re glad they’d share with you.  (And pray that you really would be glad!)  Then you can hit the trapdoor button to drop them into the cellar.

–Remember you’re a sinner. Hate to break it to you, but you will actually blow it from time to time.  Last I checked, none of us have been completely sanctified yet.  Except for my sister, who I think may have sinned once in her entire lifetime.  But the rest of us will sin.  We’ll blow it.  We don’t do everything perfect.  And even if I’m criticized unjustly for something, there’s plenty of other things I should be criticized and judged for, but won’t be, for Jesus paid for all my sins and failures.

There’s almost always some truth in every criticism, even if it’s inaccurate or given poorly. There may still be something valuable for you to learn.  There’s some reason they are perceiving things this way.  Though Professor Grinchwold did humiliate me, my 3-d fly was kind of dumb.

– Don’t be wise in your own eyes. Assume people see things you can’t. We all have blind spots.  There could be something you’re missing.

Now if you need to give someone criticism today, try to find a tactful way to put it.  Try to be gentle and kind.  For example if you’re critiquing a blog post like this one you might say, “Got a match?”

To be continued…

  • Kim

    As always, a spoonful of honey humor makes the Scriptural medicine go down easier. Thanks, Mark!

    • Mark Altrogge

      Thank you, Kim! Yeah, just trying to keep it fun…..

  • Vince

    No tips on ducking and diving, bobbing and weaving Mark, or is that in part 2?

    Seriously – thanks!

    • Mark Altrogge

      Hey Vince, maybe I should address those issues… I know I’ve done them all…

  • Elaine

    Great encouragement, Mark! Thank you!

    Oh, and just a little "input," if you were a pastor from the South, like Aunt Bee's, you would have said, "Well, bless your heart!" at least once. :-)

    • MarkAltrogge

      Thanks for the tip, Elaine! Bless your heart!

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  • Ajay

    Thanks so much for this, it’s an area that I really have a hard time with and need to grow in

    • MarkAltrogge

      Thanks Ajay! I\’ll let you join my club then – Jesus has helped me a lot over the years and I know he\’ll help you. And one of the ways he helps us grow is by bringing more criticism into our lives… be prepared!

  • Erin

    Wonderful message, pastor!

    • MarkAltrogge

      Thanks Erin!

  • Mark Snyder

    But….God gave me this song!

    • Mark Altrogge

      Hey, where have I heard that before?

  • Mike

    I'm glad to know you are dealing with your problem, Mark! Seriously, this is such a struggle for me. I understand it with my head, but my mouth tells me my heart doesn't get it. Thanks for the counsel.

    • Mark Altrogge

      Sure Mike! Welcome to the club. God is going to help you, just as he has helped me over the years. Though I still don't "love" it, I value correction much more than I used to. And I think deep down I love it because I know it's from God.

  • Caroline

    Yeah..I do squirm a lot when someone needs to rebuke me.. But later( when I get over myself;) I am always thankful for the people who do it:)

    • Mark Altrogge

      Yep – squirming followed by gratitude. That's good Caroline!

  • Ashish

    I won't bother asking for a match – seeing that your post is already on fire! ;) Thanks so much for the clear message!

    • Mark Altrogge

      Thanks Ashish! Feel free to pull up the post then throw your laptop into the trash burner.

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  • Richard

    “none of us have been completely sanctified yet.”

    As a Nazarene, you’ve challenged my ability to accept criticism. My response: excellent and helpful advice. Thanks.

    • Mark Altrogge

      Thanks Richard! I'm not sure I understand what you mean by the Nazarene reference, but I'll take your word for it. Thanks again.

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  • Andrew Kelley

    Killer post. I like to act like I am totally open and ready for criticism, but actually, I dread it. When I get criticized, my first reaction is to either blow it off because the person is dumb, or over-react and become convinced that I am the worst kind of failure. I guess I'm sort of a two way switch. Your five points are helpful for me to process criticism in a less drastic way.

    • Mark Altrogge

      Hey Andrew,

      I think those are both common ways we can respond to criticism. I've done both too. Thanks for letting me know the post was helpful.

  • Richard

    [this bit got deleted off the last somehow]- I hope to be able to put your suggestions into practice!!

    • Mark Altrogge

      Thanks Richard! I hope to put up a few more thoughts on this maybe next week. I appreciate you letting me know…

  • Cindy Gooch

    Under the "Remember You're a Sinner" section – "We don’t do everything perfect." It should be perfectLY. And "… there’s plenty of other things I should be criticized and judged for…" should be "there are."

    • MarkAltrogge

      Excellent Cindy! Love it! You are so right. Missed em.

  • truthunites

    What a lame blog post! Who would think of citing the "Andy Griffith Show" from the ancient days of black-and-white tv as a decent sub-illustration?

    (Just kidding!) Awesome post.

    • MarkAltrogge

      I agree! Kind of shows my age….but you at least knew what I was talking about…..thanks!

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  • Carolyn

    EXCELLENT! Thanks for the reminder of how to receive "input." God's been working on me in this area lately and I'm excited! And thanks for the humor and personal application; it makes the reading more interesting, but also more encouraging knowing I'm not the only one…!

  • Andrew

    So true, no one ever prays for God to send someone to rebuke them.

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