3 Keys to Criticizing Constructively

August 21, 2012 — Leave a comment

Last Sunday, I shared lessons we can learn about criticism from Nehemiah’s interaction with Sanballat’s criticism.

Here’s a sample of what I shared:

It’s not a sin to criticize someone.  In fact, sometimes it’s our responsibility to keep them from sinning, stumbling, or shaming the name of Jesus, but there are a few things that are crucial to criticizing constructively.

1) Truth

Before you criticize someone, make sure you have your facts straight.

Either Sanballat was lying about Nehemiah or ignorant.  Either way, what he was saying about Nehemiah was not true.

If you are criticizing someone and it’s a lie, you are bearing false witness and sinning.

Nehemiah is accused of being power hungry, yet he left a very influential position at Artaxerxes right hand, refused to exploit his position as governor and get wealthy from the people, and he even refused to accept the allotment of food that was set aside for him.

This is why criticism hurts so bad sometimes: you know that the critic is lying or has no idea what he/she is talking about.

Being accused of the very thing you’re striving not to do, hurts.

2) Timing

Another key to criticizing constructively is timing.  If you have your facts straight, offer your criticism at a time when you and the person you are criticizing can talk about it.

Yes, talk about it.  Face to face is always the best way to share a criticism.

Letters don’t have the benefit of facial expressions and tone of voice, so they are easily misinterpreted.

Anonymous letters are cowardly.  If you write me a critical letter and don’t sign it, I don’t read it and throw it away.  Why?  I can’t trust the source.  And, I don’t have any reason to believe the source has a right to be critical.  If I don’t know who you are, then I’m not going to expose myself to your hurtful words.

Sanballat sends his criticism just as Nehemiah is trying to finish the great work.

Timing is critical if we want to criticize constructively.

Don’t greet your husband or wife at the door with a long list of criticisms.

Don’t criticize your wife as she’s trying to put the kids to bed.

Don’t criticize your kids as they are heading out the door for school.

Don’t criticize your kids in front of their friends.

Don’t criticize your spouse in front of your friends, or your parents.

Don’t criticize your spouse all the way home from church.

Don’t criticize your preacher 5 minutes before he’s supposed to preach.

Is there a time for criticism?  Yes.

Is anyone above being criticized? No.

Do we want to hear your criticisms? Yes.  I will always make time for you, just show us the grace of not sharing a lot of negative criticism with me or my staff on while we’re preparing to minister on Sundays.

3) Temperament

Attitude is crucial to criticizing constructively.

Nehemiah didn’t lash out.  He simply prayed that God would give him the strength to finish the work.

 “O God, strengthen my hands.”

I get criticized a lot and it’s ok.

When you talk as much as I do, you’re eventually going to say something wrong or something that offends or hurts someone.

I always appreciate when a critic is nice.

The key to criticizing with the proper temperament is this: What is your goal?  Victory or understanding.

If you want to defeat me, I’m probably not going to enjoy that experience.

If you want me to understand where you are coming from, that’s perfect.

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