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Knowing When to Criticize

By March 10, 2012Encouragement

You see things you don’t agree with all the time:

    • The service at the restaurant was poor…
    • The way someone lives their life bothers you…
    • The leadership in a community isn’t what you’d hope for…
    • The pastor says something you didn’t agree with…
    • The next door neighbor gets on your nerves…again…

When do you criticize and when do you let it go?

That’s always a dilemma. We don’t want to be seen as critical, but not saying something may enable bad behavior.

I wouldn’t say it’s never right to criticize. I hope if I’m making major mistakes in my life I have friends who think beyond “To each his own” and step in to help me. The best-received criticism, in my opinion comes from a pre-established relationship with another person. How do we know though when to criticize and when to keep our mouth shut?

Here are a few suggestions of when to criticize:

  • When the offense is continual…
  • When it impacts more people than you…
  • When your conscience won’t let you move past it…
  • When you’re assigned a role to suggest improvement (mentor, supervisor, teacher)
  • When it’s against the law…
  • When it violates God’s written Word…

What else would you add to my list of reasons?

Even still, the way one criticizes often determines how well it is perceived. 

Remember: What you sow determines what you reap. If you pile criticism on to others, without legitimate reasons for doing so, you can probably expect to receive undue criticism in return. We shouldn’t avoid giving or receiving criticism, but we need to learn when and how to deliver it.

Question: Would a post on how to offer criticism be helpful?

(I’ve previously written how to respond to criticism and how not to HERE and HERE.)

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Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

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Join the discussion 16 Comments

  • Criticism as such may be good or bad depending on the way in which it is done. Criticism can be constructive and it can be destructive too. When we feel like criticising , it is important to analyse our motive behind that action. We can use criticism to build people or to demolish them. When we criticise out of jealousy to malign or tarnish the reputation of others, then, I think its condemnable. On the other hand, when we criticise in order to edify and build others, then such act is welcome.

  • Ron, I love your blog and your spirit.
    I remember Zig Ziglar saying "people don't care how much you know…until they know how much you care." I often think of him when I think about criticism. You know when someone has good intentions and your best interest at heart and when they don't. Turn it around and think this: if you don't have the person's best interest in mind, then don't criticize. Skip Prichard (@skipprichard)

    • ronedmondson says:

      That's awesome. Thank you. I interviewed Zig Ziglar last year. I'll never forget his continual statement to tell people the “Why”. He said you'll have less criticism if you help people understand the why. Great wisdom.

  • ronedmondson says:

    Thats a great point. Thank you.

  • Sure, a post on how to criticize properly would be worthwhile.
    I heard something recently about the desire to "correct" your spouse: Are you more concerned with your spouse changing so that you can be personally happy – or do you want your spouse to change so that they can bring God more glory. It kinda flips the situation around in my mind.
    I imagine the same is true for criticism. Do I just want to sound smart? Do I just want to be happy? Or do I want God to be glorified in some way or another?

  • Bryankr

    There are times when people will do or say things they were raised with, not realizing it is something people may take offense to. They aren’t trying to do anything, but fit in, be acceptd. To leave them in such a state would be an even greater offense, both to them and to society at large! In short: when it edifies, we need to step in.

  • @onepursuit says:

    Great post. I'd add one thing to you list of times when we should speak up: When others are in real danger.

    I hope you do write another post about how to offer criticism. We need to avoid being too critical, but we aren't really doing each other any favors when we don't (lovingly) point out areas where we need to improve. It's especially important for those in leadership to know how to confront appropriately. Leaders sometimes hide behind the excuse of "not wanting to hurt someone's feelings" when in reality they're just terrified of confrontation. Sometimes (and I'd argue it's more often than we think) the most loving thing we can do is to gently confront… especially if we're already not-so-gently criticizing behind the other person's back.

  • Kari Scare

    Yes, a post on how to criticize would be helpful. It’s hard to kniw when to do so but also to do so in a way that build up and doesn’t tear down. In a way that can save the relationship if possible.

  • Mark Cole says:

    That's a very relevant topic.. I'd love to hear your thoughts on how to offer criticism… as a musician & Worship Pastor.. criticism is a way of life.. from the early years with a teacher telling you what's good and bad about your playing….to a post-mordem on Worship services.
    People's ability to accept criticism and give it wisely speaks volumes about their maturity and security. Generally speaking, I think that criticism is better handled with kid gloves behind closed doors.. but in a music setting .. you have to be honest in a rehearsal. If someone is out of tune or time in a rehearsal.. you need to tell them on the spot.. there are always to many little things to fix to leave it for behind closed doors. I find if you don't put people down but communicate what needs to be fixed.. people respond well to that.