Many of us spend too much time trying to make ourselves immune from criticism. Maybe you use filters on your social media photos because you’re afraid people will judge your real looks. Maybe you’re a “yes” man or woman who’s trying to shield your insecurities.
Our culture is increasingly trying to “protect” people from even healthy criticism by labeling it as “hate.” Pointing out that overeating is unhealthy is now “fatphobia.” Even daring to think there are only two genders is “transphobia.”
We have news for you: Criticism is part of life, whether you like it or not. That being said, not all criticism is healthy.
The goal is not to escape all criticism, but to determine which is worth your time and energy.
Here are some tips for handling the criticism that will inevitably come your way.
1. Keep yourself open to healthy criticism.
The virtue of humility helps you realize that you are an imperfect creature who doesn’t have it all figured out. And the virtue of gratitude makes you thankful when someone kindly points out where you can improve.
The key is not to take such criticism personally. Goodhearted people offer you feedback not to hurt you, but to help you become the best version of yourself. Isn’t that what we all want?
2. It’s okay to ignore some criticism.
Humility doesn’t require you to accept or even listen to all criticism. This is especially true if someone is criticizing you out of malice. There’s nothing unchristian about blocking a troll who verbally abuses you on social media.
You also don’t have to pay attention to excessive criticism. Take the YouTube comments section as an example. Many people simply don’t have the time or mental energy to go through and ponder every legitimate critique offered there.
Criticism may also be poorly timed. In his autobiography, C.S. Lewis notes that we are often judged for our real faults, but not at the right time. In such cases, legitimate feedback may do more harm than good.
3. Discern whose criticism is worth your while.
Who’s criticizing you? The answer to this question is key to sifting through the feedback you receive.
Close friends, family members, or a spiritual director are among those you should definitely prioritize. That’s not to say they’re infallible or that you have to listen to everything they say. But you normally should give more weight to their advice.
On the other hand, strangers on the internet shouldn’t consume as much of your time. What do you gain by arguing with a troll who just wants to destroy you?
4. In every case, pray.
Prayer is essential to handling criticism. Ask God to help you discern what feedback you should listen to and which you should ignore. With prayer, even bad criticism can bear fruit. You can offer your wounded pride to God as a sacrifice. It’s also a good occasion to pray for the person who hurt you.
We are broken creatures journeying to heaven. We need a certain amount of criticism to keep us on track. We also need to throw aside criticism that blocks our way.
The good news is that we won’t have to worry about criticism in heaven. What’s more, we’ll finally see and appreciate how the healthy criticism we received in life helped us reach our ultimate union with God.