Four Ways to Control Criticism

Dennis Miller, Senior Pastor | Ginghamsburg Church

Growing up, I loved to play the game “Operation” by Milton Bradley. Do you remember playing this game? Surely countless medical careers have been launched because of it. The game featured Sam the patient, lying atop a red plastic “operating table” with 12 body cavities exposed. Players would perform highly skilled procedures with a pair of tweezers such as removing a “broken heart” or “butterflies in the stomach.”

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These surgeries required a steady hand! Players could not touch the metal lining of the cavity, or they would set off the buzzer and make Sam’s nose light up. One had to be very careful playing the game!

In Matthew 7, Jesus compared criticism to a minor operation of taking the speck out of somebody else’s eye. And although there is a touch of humor in Jesus’ statement, “How are you going to take a speck out of someone else’s eye when you have a plank hanging out of your own eye?” What he talked about was dead serious.

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:1-5

Now what was Jesus forbidding here?

Jesus didn’t say, “You hypocrite, take that 2 by 4 out of your eye and then leave your brother alone.” No, he said, “You take the 2 by 4 out of your eye, so that you can see clear to perform this sensitive operation to correct your brother.”

Jesus was prohibiting the sin of hyper-criticismthe habit of searching for the little thing wrong in the other person and actually delighting in condemning them; Putting the worst possible twist on their motives and their thoughts.

  • I think Jesus is talking about the husband who ignores the fact that his wife is a loving mother, a talented worker, and has a wonderful personality, and he’s just always picking away all the time that she is overweight.
  • I think he is talking about the single person who demands such perfection in others that he or she never has any close relationships because of an unrealistic standard.
  • I think he is talking about the church member who goes to church and never really worships because they are too busy picking away at the misspelled word on the screen or a grammatical error in the sermon. And they go home, never having worshiped because they’re focusing on the negative.

John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, was preaching one day and he was wearing a big bow tie with two long streamers. And there was a dear saint in the congregation who couldn’t hear anything he said because that tie offended her. So after the service, she came up to him and said, “Brother Wesley, would you permit a word of criticism? Your tie is too long. It’s evidence of worldliness to me.”

Wesley said, “Does anyone here have a pair scissors?” Someone handed him a pair of scissors and he gave them to the woman and said, “Well, why don’t you just cut it off?” She took the scissors and reached over and cut off several inches off both sides. Wesley then said, “May I now have those scissors?” He said, Madam, Would you stick out your tongue. It’s entirely too long to me. It’s a sign of worldliness to me. I’d like to cut it down.

Now, we must admit there are times when our tongue is too long. There are times when we hurt people by our tongues.

Why was Jesus so stern against hyper-criticism? The answer is because it is so harmful to the person being criticized. Reputations are ruined by criticism. Leaders are discouraged by criticism. Businesses are ruined by criticism.

“The entire law is summed up in this single command, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out, or you’ll be destroyed by each other.” Galatians 5:14-15

Not only will it destroy others, but it will hurt your witness for Christ, because other people start turning you off, because they get tired of hearing it. Nobody wants to be around somebody that is negative all the time.

You may get attention being critical. But over time, people lose respect for you. People get tired of hearing it and they turn you off.

Well, the big question is, “How Do We Control Criticism?”


Four Steps To Control Criticism.

1. Acknowledge the Wickedness of It and Repent.

We often rationalize and say, “I’m a perfectionist, you know.” Well, it’s one thing to demand perfection in yourself, but it’s another thing to demand it in someone else. Or we say things like, “Well, I’ve got the gift of criticism.” Hey, that’s not in the Bible. That’s not one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

To control criticism, we need to repent – to go in the opposite direction. Instead of looking for something to find fault with, you look for someone to built up. The word encourage comes from two words, “instilling courage” Give them courage by looking for the positive.

“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on these things.” Philippians 4:8

2. Before You Criticize Someone, Put Yourself in Their Place, Then Pray for Them.

The prophet Ezekiel said, “I sat where they sat.” Put yourself in their place. We don’t always know what shapes other people’s actions. We have such partial knowledge of other people. You don’t know the whole story. We are not capable of judging them. Only God knows.

So simply pray for them. Is it any wonder that Jesus was so quick to reinstate Simon Peter after he denied him? Jesus had prayed for him. Have you really prayed for that person you’re critical of? You know, when you pray for the success of another person, it’s hard to be hyper-critical.

3. Rather Than Criticize A Person Behind Their Back, Go To Them And Confront Them In Love

“If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you.” Matthew 18:15

If it is really a problem, deal with it. Go to that person. Don’t go talk to somebody that can’t do anything about it.

And if you go to correct that person, you need to make sure that you first examine yourself. Do you really care for that person? Or are you looking for some way to cut them down. Are you wanting to help them or are you seeking revenge?

Somebody once boasted to John Wesley, “I never forget a man who sins against me!” And Wesley said, “Well, then sir, I hope you never sin!”

Jesus said, when you pray, pray “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” So, when you stand before God on judgment day, if you want him to be merciful to you, you better have expressed some mercy to people on the earth.

4. Be Flexible!

Do you know that the people who have the most trouble playing the game Operation are older people because as we get older our hands begin to tremble and it is hard to pick up that little bone out of that body without touching the sides. And our eyesight is not as good.

In my experience, the people who have the hardest time with criticism, are those of us who have been in the church for a long time. Because we have so much to compare it with. And it is hard to keep the big picture. It’s hard to be flexible. But the most attractive people in the world to me are people who become more gracious, more loving with the passing of time.

“In everything, do to others what you would have them to do to you.” Matthew 7:12

The golden rule. That’s what Jesus did for us. He saw every one of our faults. But rather than condemning us, he went to the cross to forgive. And now he looks beyond our faults and meets our need.