Mar 182014 9 Responses

Three Reasons People Criticize You

Critics. We’ve all got ’em.

Rare is the occurrence in which there isn’t at least one person who thinks you could be a better employee, spouse, parent, or citizen.

For many, the critics whisper. They talk behind our backs or make passive aggressive comments. They critique an action or attitude.

For a few, the critics scream—coaches, pastors, CEOs, and several other professions are in positions in which critics feel a right to express their every opinion.

One of the most surprising aspects of the pastorate is the amount of criticism which I receive. And I’m in a good situation. I can’t imagine being in a church where criticism is the norm or to walk into a new situation where I wouldn’t have a lengthy track record to lean on. (See: Top 10 Communication Posts your Co-workers Should Read)

Criticism is a part of life. The only way to avoid criticism is to do nothing. Yet doing nothing is rarely a good option. Instead of trying to avoid criticism, we all need to learn to receive criticism. Much of this depends on our ability to have humility. Yet it also depends on our ability to view the critic in the proper lens.

Generally speaking, most critics fall into one of three categories:

1. Someone who is insecure. A good amount of criticism is poured out of insecurity. When someone is not comfortable with themselves, they point out the faults and flaws of others. They attempt to make themselves feel better by making others feel worse. Many times criticism says more about the person doing the criticizing than the person to whom the critic is aimed.

2. Someone with something to hide. Early in the pastorate I watched someone deal with a very public mistake. Most people were extremely gracious, but one person was very harsh. A few years went by and it was revealed that the harsh person was guilty of a very similar sin. What I thought was an odd coincidence has turned into a pattern. Often times the loudest critic is hiding a secret sin. They treat others in a harsh manner because they are ashamed of themselves. I often tell someone who is facing criticism to act kindly toward their harshest critic and wait. Time often reveals they aren’t as perfect as they would seem.

3. Someone who is most like you. My friend Steve Brawner made this brilliant connection when he said, “a parent’s greatest critic is someone raising their child in almost the same way.” The key point is “almost.” The small difference is the point where the strong criticism is raised. Maybe the commonality raises expectations to a level which can’t be met, but the nuanced differences can become points of deep contention. We recognize this in other places—the more like us a child is, the more prone they are to irritate us. We probably have the most contention with the parent who is most like us. Friends and co-workers irritate us the more similar our personalities.

Whenever we receive criticism, we should not first consider which of these three characteristics our critic posseses. Instead, we should listen and consider the criticism. Yet after it is heard and evaluated, it is fair to consider the intent of the person who is doing the criticizing. We can take what they say within the context of one or more of these characteristics.

Yet the most important byproduct of knowing the three main categories of those who criticize is we can use it to ask a key question: whenever I criticize someone, is my criticism born from any of these three characteristics? Am I truly critiquing a situation or am I speaking from insecurity, trying to cover something up, or simply frustrated because someone who seems totally like me is just a little bit like me?

For more, see:

Criticism: How to Listen When Others Speak

Criticism: How to Speak so Others will Listen

9 Responses to Three Reasons People Criticize You
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  3. […] 3. Insecurity. While humility is life-giving, pride is exhausting. An often overlooked aspect of pri...

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