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By Pr Dawn Tan

Some years ago, my friend had a fall out with a colleague, who wasted no time in responding with a nasty letter. The letter contained unpleasant, spiteful criticisms and accusations directed at her. My friend was obviously hurt and upset by it. Many are the victims of harsh criticisms and accusations. Some of these experiences take place even in the home and in the church. The perfect Man – Jesus – was often misunderstood too – and accused of being a glutton, a drunkard and a friend of sinners (Matt 11:19, Luke 7:34, Mark 2:16).

Many of us have had our share of such unpleasant experiences. How do we respond to exhausting criticisms and insensitive remarks by difficult people? Our first instinct may be to defend ourselves against the criticism. Or we may quietly suffer in fear or fall into despair. On the other hand, perhaps we are the critic who is making such careless remarks and causing distress in others!

Over the years I have learnt to respond by spending time with God and being guided by Him. When I receive criticism, I would quieten myself and reflect. If the criticisms are right, I have to humble myself, submit my heart to God, be thankful and pray for ways to change for the better. If the criticism is not right, I will cry out to God and trust Him to be the judge. Depending on the circumstances, I may or may not discuss the matter with the critic. I will submit to God knowing that He alone will vindicate.

Here are what I will do when criticisms set in
 spend time with God and have quiet recollection and reflection
 keep my ears open, paraphrase the complaints and try to understand what others are trying to convey
 discern and separate constructive criticism from bad criticism
 humble myself and change for the better
 submit the bad criticisms to God
 know that critics are not perfect and that no one is perfect including myself
 forgive those who have hurt me with their words
 accept the critic as I learn and understand more about him or her
 learn more about myself in the process of handling criticism
 be thankful that difficult people help me grow
 face the critic within me and learn to give praise instead
 be discerning and give constructive feedback to the person directly
 be compassionate and learn to affirm and encourage others

Thank God for His grace for He is the toughest and the most loving critic who know all about me and my imperfection, yet He loves and accepts me. I pray that I will submit to God, allow Him to judge my sinful ways, receive His corrections and forgiveness. Pray that I will also learn to accept and love others and look beyond their frailties just as God did to me.

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up,
just as you are doing. – 1 Thessalonians 5:11