“In the midst of misunderstanding, you can ask three questions to understand the accuser. The first is, ‘Who?’ In other words, consider the source!”
Some people are just never satisfied unless they’re tearing others apart, and the bewildering irony is they still generally won’t be satisfied, as they set about mauling another person and then another and so on—okay, it’s a worst-case scenario there!
Some, it’s fair, are just simply critical in their general outlook on life without being so overt about cruelling people.
The Trouble for the Criticiser
The issues burning often well beneath the criticiser—highlighting their annoyance—are so often many levels beneath and too low to be identified. They possibly don’t care anyway.
The core principle of criticism is this: those that ‘criticise,’ i.e. those who use a harsh-spirited approach at aggressively stating the issue of their annoyance, generally only ever undermine themselves in the process of attacking people.
Considering the Source, Why and What Can Be Learned
Here is a relatively simple principle we only need to be more aware of.
If the ‘criticism’ we’re getting is at any point constructive—i.e. it’s intended to build us up, developing us—we’ll probably be receiving it from someone who cares about us and our development.
If, however, the criticism feels like criticism—i.e. it cuts like a knife and leaves us stinging and openly wounded—we would do well to consider, as Swindoll continues, ‘why’ this is coming our way (the second question) and ‘what’ can be learned from it (the third).
The person being critical, by virtue of the activity and motive of their criticism, is probably not centred in objectivity, and probably doesn’t have our best in mind and at heart. The ‘why’ question then is answered—the person has their own problems.
It’s perhaps not really about us at all, or perhaps only in a minor way.
And what can be learned from this ordeal? It is to be as objective as possible whilst still protecting our own hearts from the excess hurt we can feel. Doing this will help us in forgiving our transgressor.
Whatever we’ve done we probably didn’t intend bad of it, and even if we did, we don’t truly deserve—from the Christian viewpoint—to be condemned anyway. Sure, we may have blown the trust of another, but forgiveness should be given if they know God.
When the Source is Someone Important to Us
Feeling criticised is one thing. It is the criticism from someone we really esteem that cuts hard; that’s another matter.
We need to have the courage to explore with this person the feelings we have because of their feedback. We alone must own our feelings. At least we can explore how we’ve felt with them as a point of understanding, if nothing else.
This will obviously require courage and trust from us, a.k.a. faith.
At its most rudimentary we should be striving to learn something about ourselves—and how we can improve—from the ordeal; God never wastes a hurt if we approach criticism this way.
© 2010 S. J. Wickham.
 Chuck Swindoll, “Getting Through the Tough Stuff: It’s Always Something” in Christian Book Summaries (Vol. 3, Issue 5) – book by W Publishing Group: