Do you want to improve how you provide correction or criticism? Improve your communication skills today with these 7 sure-fire biblical strategies on how to provide effective criticism.
The word itself builds a wall of resentment, defensiveness, and bitterness. Thus, it is no wonder that most people consider criticism as something negative and should be avoided at all cost.
However, criticism, if done right, can lead to amazing positive change and personal development. It is not the criticism itself that’s bad, but the way it is delivered.
In the Bible, we can read a lot of stories and verses where God criticizes a person or a group of people. Even Yahshua or Jesus Christ criticized strongly the Pharisees for their hypocrisy (Matthew 23).
So, since criticism is needed to point out something that is wrong and help others change their lives for the better, the question now is, “How should we criticize?”
In this post, let us study the Bible and see for ourselves how God expects us to criticize other people.
No. 1: Get Familiar with the wrong type of criticism
One of my favorite authors, Dale Carnegie wrote in His book, How to Win Friends & Influence People, the following statement:
Criticism is futile because it puts a person on the defensive and usually makes him strive to justify himself. Criticism is dangerous, because it wounds a person’s precious pride, hurts, his sense of importance, and arouses resentment.
Being criticized is painful. We don’t want to admit we are wrong. If possible, we want to blame others as much as possible to escape accountability.
With this in mind, it is vital to use criticism the right way. It must not be done hastily because, if you are not careful, you will just worsen the situation. Most people are not taught how to express disagreements and criticisms in a proper way. You won’t even see this being taught in schools!
Thus, it is no wonder that corrections, rebuke, and criticisms almost always lead to futility.
Dale Carnegie continues:
When dealing with people, let us remember we are NOT dealing with creatures of logic. We are dealing with creatures of emotion, creatures bristling with prejudices and motivated by pride and vanity.
Here are a few points to remember to avoid the wrong type of criticism:
- Wrong criticism focuses on the problem instead of the solution.
- Wrong criticism attacks other people’s personality instead of
- Wrong criticism devalues others instead of encouraging them.
- Wrong criticism blames others instead of accepting responsibility.
- Wrong criticism wants to control others instead of guiding them to do the right thing.
- Wrong criticism promotes competition rather than cooperation.
Remember these points the next time you are tempted to criticize other people unfairly. You can’t possibly be able to understand the proper way of communication without the right wisdom. Thankfully, we can always come near to God and ask for wisdom. James 1:5-6 tells us:
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.”
No. 2: Judge yourself first
Before you rebuke, correct, or criticize other people, you must be sure that you are not committing the same mistake. You can’t possibly tell people to stop smoking while you puff a cigar in your mouth.
This is clearly explained by the Apostle Paul in Romans 2:1:
“Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.”
It would be better to be critical of yourself instead of other people. Look for your own faults and correct them.
This is supported by the very words of our Savior in Matthew 7:1-5:
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
(Read more: Here’s how to judge according to the Bible)
Essentially, Jesus is saying here that you need to correct yourself first before you can correct others. This will not only dramatically improve your credibility and reputation but also put you in a better position to help other people.
No. 3: Speak the truth in love
Love should be the motivating factor every time you want to correct other people. If your ulterior motive in criticizing is other than love, then you would certainly be sure that your correction will be taken in a bad taste.
Criticizing out of anger, insult, bitterness, cold-heartedness, and frustration won’t help. We read Paul’s instruction to the Ephesians:
“But, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ” (Ephesians 4:15).
Notice, we must not just be caring and genuinely loving, but we must be sure that what we speak is the truth. Often times, when we criticize, we based our words on what we feel instead of the facts. We must not be subjective, but objective.
The Pharisees are guilty of this. They criticize Jesus based on their faulty standards. Because the truth is not on their side, their criticism back-fired. Instead of embarrassing Christ, they ended up embarrassing themselves.
In contrast, Christ criticizes the Pharisees in truth. Christ used tough love to correct the Pharisees. The correction might be difficult to swallow, but since the Pharisees were blind to their own fault and have their conscience seared with a hot iron, Christ needed to strongly rebuke them of their wrongdoings.
Ultimately, Christ is being loving in this instance. He wanted to wake the Pharisees up and shake them to their core and let them see their faults.
Finally, don’t criticize based on gossips and unproven hearsays.
Proverbs 18:17 tells us:
The first one to plead his cause seems right, until his neighbor comes and examines him.
So, listen carefully to both sides. In the same way, explore the different sides of the argument before you give your criticism.
No. 4: Do not speak evil against one another
This is one of the toughest things to do. As humans, we are always critical of others. We tend to focus more on the negative side of a person rather than the positive ones. When a person has done us wrong, we easily forget about all the good things they have done for us.
Benjamin Franklin, best known for his diplomatic way of handling people said this:
“I will speak ill of no man and speak all the good I know of everybody.”
Wow! What a life rule to live by. Imagine if more and more people do this. I’m sure, we will be living in a more peaceful and harmonious world.
The Apostle James wrote:
“Do not speak evil of one another, brethren” (James 4:11).
Speaking evil of one another means that you are influencing other people to see that person in a bad light. You are destroying a person’s reputation and making other people hate them.
Now, when criticizing a person, you should not attack their personality. Instead, focus on their action or behavior. Like what we are always reminded of, “Hate the sin, not the sinner.”
Don’t say “You’re lazy, stubborn, and unreliable.” Instead say, “Can you help me do some chores in our house? I would really appreciate it.”
Attacking a person’s personality will only reinforce bad behavior and let them accepts them deeper in their inner self.
No. 5: Encourage instead of devaluing people
The primary reason people don’t like being criticized is that they feel being devalued. Now, you can change that if you are being more encouraging and positive.
Let me give you an example. A person who doesn’t know how to criticized properly would say, “You’re stupid. I think you don’t have what it takes to finish this task.”
Now, how would you feel if someone criticizes you with these words? The natural response is to be resentful and defensive. You don’t like being devalued, right?
But what if someone tells you this?
“I appreciate the hard work and time you are putting into this task. You’re almost there!”
(Read more: How to become encourage other people)
See, how easy words can bring about a different result? The Bible tells us in I Thessalonians 5:11:
“Therefore encourage one another and BUILD ONE ANOTHER UP, just as you are doing.”
You see, people are more receptive to criticism when they are packaged in a more encouraging and loving way. The criticism that directly attacks a person’s value will only lead to more problems.
No. 6: Use the sandwich approach
In our Spokesman Club, we refer to this as the KKK – kiss, kick, kiss. The sandwich approach basically means that when you’re providing a comment, suggestion, or criticism, it is always effective to start with the positive, then give your points of improvement, and finally end with another positive. This effectively “sandwiches” the negative with the positive.
Before you give any criticism, identify the things where the person had it right. No matter how small it is, appreciate the effort that was already been given. As much as possible, look for the things that you both agree with.
Once you have done that, you have set the stage for giving your criticism. Be SPECIFIC. Don’t say, “This is wrong.” Specifically explain what needs to be improved and changed.
Let me give you a good example of the sandwich approach.
“Hey, John, you know what I really like about you? It’s your determination and willingness to improve yourself. I believe you have contributed a lot to this project. I appreciate your skills and ability to make this thing happen.
By the way, I might be wrong, okay, but I need your opinion on this. Looking at your graph, I believe we can still improve it. I found a graph from this book which I think can be a great addition to our case study. What do you think?
But overall, I could see you made a great job. If we can improve a few things here, I’m sure this will become the best project of our team.”
Any criticism delivered in this line would surely have a positive effect! If we are trained to be more diplomatic in our approach, I’m sure that we can have better results.
II Timothy 2:24-25 tells us:
“And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be GENTLE TO ALL, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition.”
The Apostle Paul is a master of proper communication. We can certainly learn more from his letters if only we have the eyes to see and ears to hear.
No. 7: focus on cooperation and solution
Any fool can easily spot a problem. However, Christians are supposed to be more than just fault finders.
We DON’T criticize with the aim to put down people, highlight their mistakes, or discourage them from improving themselves. No, that’s not what Christianity is all about.
If you criticize, you must focus on cooperation and solution.
Instead of saying, “It’s your fault that we are having trouble with our finances.”
Say, “I believe we can work together to get out of this financial problem. What do you think?”
You see, if you seek cooperation instead of blaming and competing, you can find a better solution to your problem. It is not enough to identify the issue, but you must actively look for ways on how to solve your problem together.
Will your criticism build or destroy?
Communication is indeed a complicated topic to discuss. A simple wrong choice of word can easily start an argument that can lead to conflict. In fact, we have seen in history how words have led to wars and irreparable relationship quarrels.
James or Yacob was right when he said:
“See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity (James 3:5-6).”
So, there are more to know about this vital subject. You just read the 7 ways how you can provide an effective criticism. Now, that you know them, the question remains, “Will your criticism build up or destroy people?”
I believe the key here is to be more understanding, loving, and caring. Put yourself in the shoes of the other people. Always look at the positive. If you’re in the same situation, will you act differently? Determine why people do what they do.
I think if we stop and think first, we can provide an effective criticism to others that will build them up.
I hope we learn a lot from this article. If you find this post helpful, don’t hesitate to share it with your friends. Drop a comment below if you want to share other ways to provide an effective criticism. 🙂
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I highly recommend this book. Get your copy here.
3 thoughts on “7 Biblical Strategies on how to Give Effective Criticism”
Thank you Joshua for your article. It was very timely as I recently asked a fellow sister to stop a certain behaviour towards me. It didn’t go well. Now she ignores me at church and isolates me from the group.
The part that was so true was that criticism can create competition, as I have noticed that.
I am now feeling that I shouldn’t of said anything. Though I didn’t want to continue getting emotionally bullied.
It is a very hard subject.
Any thoughts of what I could do now?
I’m not completely familiar with your situation. However, from what you mentioned, getting bullied is something that should stop immediately. We must not tolerate such behavior. It is destructive and does not edify.
What I can recommend is to pray to God and ask for wisdom on how to deal with your sister. Be firm, but gentle. Set boundaries and let her know how you feel about getting bullied. If after talking to your sister about this and she still continues, then let God fight your battle. Surrender it to God.
I hope you things would go better for you, Dee.
Thank you! That is exactly what I have done- given it to God.