10. The Poison of Criticism

Note: These scenarios are not gender-specific. Depending on the sex of the person reading this, male and female roles can be switched.

You are part of a tight-knit community group that meets regularly for fellowship and support. During one of the meetings, you share a personal struggle you've been facing, seeking advice and encouragement from the group. Later, you overhear one of the members criticizing your situation and questioning your faith in handling the challenge. This criticism deeply hurts you. This is what you do:

a. You confront the person angrily, criticizing their own shortcomings and questioning their right to judge you.

b. You start avoiding the group meetings, feeling embarrassed and unwilling to share anymore.

c. You gossip about the person's critical nature to other members of the group, seeking to damage their reputation.

d. You approach the person privately and express how their words made you feel, seeking to understand and reconcile.

Criticism, whether given or received, can be a destructive force in relationships and communities. While constructive feedback given in love can be helpful for growth, harsh criticism rooted in judgment and superiority can leave deep wounds and create division.

The Bible cautions us against engaging in harmful criticism. Ephesians 4:29 instructs, "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." Our words have the power to tear down or build up, and we are called to use them wisely.

When we face criticism from others, it can be tempting to respond in kind, lashing out in hurt and anger. However, Scripture calls us to a higher standard. In Romans 12:17-18, we are encouraged, "Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone."

It's important to remember that criticism often stems from the other person's own insecurities, fears, or past hurts. While their words may be hurtful, we can choose to respond with grace and compassion, seeking to understand their perspective and offering forgiveness.

At the same time, we must also guard against becoming critical ourselves. Matthew 7:1-2 warns, "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." By focusing on our own growth and extending grace to others, we can create an environment of love and support.

Option (d) represents the most mature and biblical response to the situation. By approaching the person privately and expressing your feelings, you create an opportunity for understanding, reconciliation, and growth. This response aligns with Jesus' teaching in Matthew 18:15, "If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you."

Options (a), (b), and (c) may feel justified in the moment but ultimately perpetuate a cycle of hurt and division. Responding with anger, avoidance, or gossip will only deepen the wounds and hinder the possibility of restoration.


  1. Pause and pray: When faced with criticism, take a moment to pause and pray before responding. Ask God for wisdom, discernment, and a heart of compassion.
  2. Seek to understand: Approach the person who criticized you with a desire to understand their perspective. Listen actively and ask questions to gain clarity on their intent and the root of their criticism.
  3. Express your feelings: Share how the criticism made you feel using "I" statements, focusing on your own experience rather than attacking the other person's character.
  4. Offer forgiveness: Choose to forgive the person who criticized you, releasing them from the offense and entrusting the situation to God.
  5. Examine your own heart: Reflect on your own tendencies towards criticism and judgment. Ask God to reveal any areas where you need to grow in grace and love towards others.
  6. Cultivate a culture of encouragement: Be proactive in building others up and creating an environment where people feel safe to share their struggles and receive support.

The poison of criticism can cause deep wounds and create division in relationships and communities. As followers of Christ, we are called to respond to criticism with grace, seeking to understand and reconcile with those who have hurt us. At the same time, we must guard against becoming critical ourselves, choosing instead to focus on building others up and extending the same grace and love that Christ has shown us. By cultivating a culture of encouragement and support, we can create an environment where people feel safe to share their struggles and find healing in the midst of life's challenges.