Tonight I just wanted to share a brief, but dense, passage from Tim Keller on criticism, and learning from those who may have something to say against you. I pray it blesses you.
The biggest danger of receiving criticism is not to your reputation, but to your heart. You feel the injustice of it and feel sorry for yourself, and it tempts you to despise not only the critic, but the entire group of people from which they come. ‘Those people…’ you mutter under your breath. All this can make you prouder over time. Newton writes: ‘Whatever…makes us trust in ourselves that we are comparatively wise or good, so as to treat those with contempt who do not subscribe to our doctrines, or follow our party, is a proof and fruit of a self-righteous spirit.’ He argues that whenever contempt and superiority accompany our thoughts, it is a sign that ‘the doctrines of grace’ are operating in our life ‘as mere notions and speculations’ with ‘no salutary influence upon [our] conduct.’
So how can you avoid this temptation? First, you should look to see if there is a kernel of truth in even the most exaggerated and unfair broadsides. There is usually such a kernel when the criticism comes from friends, and there is often such truth when the disapproval comes from people who actually know you. So even if the censure is partly or even largely mistaken, look for what you may indeed have done wrong. Perhaps you simply acted or spoke in a way that was not circumspect. Maybe the critic is partly right for the wrong reasons. Nevertheless, identify your own short-comings, repent in your own heart before the Lord for what you can, and let that humble you. It will then be possible to learn from the criticism and stay gracious to the critic even if you have to disagree with what he or she has said.