Responding to criticism with grace

I was serving my heart out with the best intensions in my church. I was on multiple rosters – kids church, the preaching roster, welcoming at the door, bringing meals for hospitality dinners, and hosting a home-group, amongst other things.  It seemed to all be going well… until it wasn’t! Disappointment was waiting for me just around the corner. Slowly, but surely, over a period of about a year, my relationship with the church leadership began to break down. The reason for the breakdown was that I had not met their unspoken expectations (and they had not met mine). 

After many and varied attempts to repair the fractured relationship, I met with the senior leader to discuss if and how we could still make things work… or so I thought. It was a very one-sided meeting. He used this last attempt at repairing our relationship as a platform to list all his grievances about me personally. It hurt to sit and listen to a long list of his complaints. I learned from this meeting that his perspective was clearly very different from mine in regards to several situations he addressed. I apologised for my part of the breakdown. He did not. I left feeling misunderstood, mis-judged and criticised.

So what did I do? How did I take it? At first, I was terribly upset and couldn’t stop thinking about it. My heart was beating so fast, I just needed to lie down. After the initial sting of criticism and rejection had dulled, I invited God into my pain and confusion. I took each point he raised to the Lord and asking Him if what He said was true. The Lord sees our hearts and knows all (1 Samuel 16:7). One by one, the Lord clarified where my church leader was out of line and speaking from his own place of hurt. God revealed to me that I simply needed to forgive him and let it go. He also showed me the areas that my leader had made a valid point and that I needed to repent and seek forgiveness for my part. 

‘Whoever stubbornly refuses to accept criticism will suddenly be destroyed beyond recovery’ Proverbs 29:1

 If you’ve been to theological college, or pursued other academic study, you will have been taught to ‘judge’ and ‘analyse’ for truth and accuracy. It is, however, also important to learn the difference between critiquing and criticising something or someone.

– Criticism finds fault / Critique finds what’s working

– Criticism condemns what it doesn’t understand / Critique asks for clarification

(Reference: Writing Alone, Writing Together: A Guide for Writers and Writing Groups by Judy Reeves)


So, how can we apply the same principles to people and our relationships?


How do you respond when given feedback by a friend, relative, colleague, or even a stranger? 

The next time you are receiving criticism, take notice of your physical, emotional and spiritual responses. Be aware of what is happening in. your body, your heart rate, and your spirit. Is your heart beating super fast? Are your hands shaking and sweating? Do you feel like a thousand daggers are piercing your heat? How you respond to criticism is an indication of how secure you are in your identity in Christ. 

Here are two examples of extreme reactions to criticism:

1. You take the criticism personally. You can’t stop thinking about it as it keeps gnawing at your brain. It has a deep, negative, impact on you. You judge yourself harshly, assuming what they said was true. This can appear over-sensitive and like a ‘victim’ to the other person.

2. You brush it off, ignoring it completely. You don’t listen to what is said and carry on, same as always, or respond with lost of justifications for your behaviour. This can often appear defensive or aloof to the other person. 

So, if not either of those 2 extremes, what would be a better response? Here are a few tips:

1. Hear the person out, then take it to the Lord in prayer. If the criticism was particularly cutting, give yourself some time and space to process the remarks.

2. Ask “Is what is being spoken truthful, in love and to help me? Or is it being said to to hurt?” Listen to the ‘spirit’ and intentions behind the words. 

3. If something resonates as true, repent, and ask for forgiveness. Remember, even when you may not have intended to offend or hurt the person, their perception and feelings may be valid.

4. Stay humble and open to feedback as this enables us to grow. This can be painful, but is ultimately a rewarding process. 

5. Remember: You know yourself better than anyone else. Do not crumble at the words of someone who hasn’t lived your life. Focus on your own voice. Focus on God’s voice. 

‘Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but trusting the LORD means safety.’ Proverbs 29:25

Growing through difficult situations and learning to use criticism is not an easy task. At Kingdom Leaders, we offer professional coaching and supervision to guide you through the storms of life, work and ministry. Our ministry leadership coaching and Christian life coaching can help you identify and navigate through difficult decisions, and relationships so you can fulfil God’s vision for your life and work. 

Book your FREE Discovery Call today!

[email protected]

1300 375 065

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *