How to Give Criticism

Dr. Steve Viars February 23, 2002 1 Peter 4:8

- tonight we're going to continue on in our study of handling criticism.
- many of us would say that this is an area that needs a lot of work…and my guess is for those who were here last week, you probably had some opportunities to work on the principles we discussed, and if like most of us, you'd probably say something like…there were mixed results…some progress, but some definite ways that plenty of improvement still needs to be made.
1.  Review
- last week we majored on the issue of how to receive criticism.
- and we made four major points…

I.  A Willingness to Receive Criticism is a Mark of the Wise.

A.  The wise man recognizes his own fallibility.
B.  The wise man avoids quarreling.
C.  The wise man listens quickly and carefully.

II.  The Wise and the Fool Reap According to their Ability to Receive Criticism.

A.  Fools pay for rejecting criticism, wise persons are rewarded for receiving it.
B.  Heeding criticism increases ones wisdom.
C.  Heeding criticism increases ones understanding.

III.  Learn to Accept Criticism through the Lens of the Cross.

A.  In Christ's cross, I agree with God's judgment of me.
B.  In Christ's cross, I agree with God's justification of me.
Poirier - In light of God's judgment and justification of the sinner in the cross of Christ, we can begin to discover how to deal with any and all criticism.  By agreeing with God's criticism of me in Christ's cross, I can face any criticism man may lay against me.  In other words, no one can criticize me more than the cross has.  And the most devastating criticism turns out to be the finest mercy.  If you thus know yourself as having been crucified with Christ, then you can respond to any criticism, even misplaced or hostile criticism, without bitterness, defensiveness, or blameshifting.  Such responses typically exacerbate and intensify conflict, and lead to the rupture of relationships.  You can learn to hear criticism as constructive and not condemnatory because God has justified you.

IV.  Learn to Apply these Principles to Both Just and Unjust Criticism.

A.  Just
1.  Repent quickly
2.  Rejoice in God's forgiveness and cleansing
3.  Take steps to change
4.  Thank God and your critic
B.  Unjust
1.  Look for the nugget of truth
2.  Speak honestly with your critic.
3.  Do not be overwhelmed or discouraged.  Focus on the imputed righteousness of Christ.
2.  Other resources
- all of this is posted on our web site, including the article that I have been using as the basis of these messages by Pastor Alfred Poirier.
- The Cross and Criticism by Alfred Poirier -
- recommend The Journal of Biblical Counseling

- it might be good for me to take a moment and address a question that I hear from time to time and that is…Do our pastors buy their sermons somewhere, or get some sort of book of sermons from the library?
- the answer to that is no…it's not like the sermons you hear are also being given at other places all over the country and someone writes them and sends them to us.
- however, the other side of that is, everything I know, I learned from someone else.
- [cf. being with Jay Adams or reading one of his books --- that's how I say that, I thought I came up with it]
- there are also times when something is so well written that we use it as a basis for the presentations we make.
- cf. Wiersbe on Proverbs

- if you were to read the criticism article, you'll see that what we did last week, and what we're going to do tonight is about half and half, and whenever we draw on something that heavily, we try to be sure to give credit to the original author and if possible, find a way to get the original resource into your hands…or at least recommend that you get it.

- since last week was on receiving criticism, it won't surprise you that tonight we're going to study the matter of giving criticism.
- it was interesting last week when I asked which category do you find harder, that the congregation was pretty evenly divided on that point [develop]

3.  Why is giving criticism a difficult thing to do?


4.  What are the extremes that we must avoid?

- INPUT - clamming up, never being willing to confront…
- and being hypercritical, where we are criticizing needlessly, endlessly, and viciously, etc.

- some people hate being critical or confrontational in any way, some people are criticism machines….there is a biblical balance in there somewhere that we are hoping to achieve.

- tonight we're looking for…Biblical Principles to Help Us Give Criticism Well

- we actually have ten of them that we'd like to talk about, so we'll move right along.
- let me encourage you as we go, to be looking for the one or two where you'd say, I really need to work on that one…[develop -- we can't change in 100 ways at once]

- with that in mind, let me invite you to open your Bible first to I Peter 4:8 - p. 182 in the back section of the pew Bibles.
- we won't be able to take time to look up each passage, so for some we'll just flash them on the screen for the sake of time.
- but this is a very good place to start our discussion…

- Read I Peter 4:8

- this is based on the OT principle in Proverbs 10:12 - Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all transgressions.

- now, the principle is obvious…

I.  Remember that Love Covers a Multitude of Sins.

- the reason we need to start there is because some people are hypercritical…
- it is amazing how often they have a criticism on their lips…
- sometimes it is a general approach to everyone and everything…
- at other times it's just when that particular topic comes up, or that particular event, or that particular person…

- but either way, love hasn't covered anyone's sin in quite some time.

- now, we can't read someone else's mind [the Bible says we even have trouble discerning our own motives…], but hypothetically….
INPUT - What "habits of the heart" might exist in the hypercritical person?

- develop….ungratefulness, pride, guilt [develop this one, especially as it relates to criticism in marriage]
- [if time, could use the CS Lewis quote on pride.]

INPUT - How do we know when love should cover a sin?

- now, for the next principle, let me state it, and then ask you where we learn it in the Scriptures…

II.  Avoid Clamming Up.

- INPUT - Where do we learn this in the Scriptures?

- Ephesians 4:26 - Be angry and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.

- now, I realize that you might say, PV, you're contradicting yourself.
- the bottom line is, we're arguing for biblical balance.

- INPUT - So how should a person apply/view these first two principles?  [or how should you get the most out of them?]
- answer is, ask which "ditch" you tend to lean toward…and if you have trouble answering that question, ask a friend or loved one to help…
- "honey, do you see me as a person who is hyper-critical [criticizes too often] or who clams up and doesn't share criticism as often as I should?"

- INPUT - How does clamming up affect the criticism process once the person does decide to speak?
- many times what is said is expressed unfairly, emotionally, and out of balance because it has been fermenting into bitterness.

- for the next principle, please turn to I Thessalonians 5:14 [p. 160 of the back section of the pew Bibles]
- this is a verse that also can provide some balance for us, but in an entirely different way.

- INPUT - what does that verse have to contribute to our discussion?  How does it apply to criticism?  How would you phrase the point?

III.  Develop a Variety of Approaches to Fit a Variety of Situations.

- a one-size fits all approach to ministry is not biblical.
- INPUT - Why is a "one size fits all approach to criticism" potentially ineffective?
- develop --- some need to be confronted firmly…
- confronting some people too firmly could needlessly harm the relationship - [cf. Prov. 18:21 - death and life are in the power of the tongue…]

IV.  Always Work at Building a Foundation of Encouragement and Commendation.

- I'm not so much speaking about what we say in that particular discussion, as the overall context of the relationship.
- Pastor Goode used to like to say that the parent who commends his child often will get a much better response when a criticism has to be given.
- some of us are better at being negative than we are at being positive.
- we're better at pointing out the weaknesses than we are the strengths.
- all of this is involved in the biblical concept of speaking edifying words.

- Someone mentioned last week the issue of a contentious person being like a dripping rain.
- I hadn't thought about that concept for some time so I looked the word up this week--it is used three times in the Bible…

- Proverbs 19:13 - A foolish son is destruction to his father, and the contentions of a wife are a constant dripping.

- Proverbs 27:15 - A constant dripping on a day of steady rain and a contentious woman are alike;

- Song of Solomon 5:13 - His cheeks are like a bed of balsam, banks of sweet-scented herbs; his lips are lilies, dripping with liquid myrrh.

- the reason, for some of us, that people don't respond better to our criticism is because we don't spend enough time commending the person for all they do that is right [could develop different ways this could be true in the family]

V.  Choose to View the Person as One for Whom Christ Died.

- I Corinthians 8:11 - For through your knowledge he who is weak is ruined, the brother for whose sake Christ died.

- INPUT - How does that principle factor into what we're saying?
- [sometimes we can speak to/about persons with such force that it appears we believe they are hopeless, unlovable, unworthy of compassionate treatment because they have ticked us off---Can you imagine what would have happened if God treated us the way we sometimes treat others?…Be ye kind, tenderhearted…]

VI.  Prepare Your Heart So That You Are Speaking Out of Proper Motives.

- Proverbs 16:2 - All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, but the LORD weighs the motives.

- Proverbs 15:28 - The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, But the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things.

- Proverbs 16:23 - The heart of the wise teaches his mouth, and adds persuasiveness to his lips.

- INPUT - Possible improper motives behind a person's criticism?

VII.  Examine Your Own Life and Confess Your Own Sin First.

- INPUT - Where do we learn about this principle?
[develop - Matthew 7:3]
- How does it fit into this discussion?

VIII.  Remember That You Come as an Equal, and as a Person Who Also Sins.

- Romans 3:9 - What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin;

- Romans 3:23 - for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

- INPUT - Characteristics of a person who comes this way, and a person who doesn't?

IX.  Be Sure that Your Goal is not to Condemn by Debating Points, but to Build Up Through Constructive Criticism.

Ephesians 4:29 - Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear.

- let me ask you to turn to one last passage, which is actually a gold mine of information on this subject…II Timothy 2:24-25 - READ

X.  Correct Your Brother/Sister Gently, in the Hope that God Will Grant Repentance.

[could spend some time putting this in the put off/put on format]

Dr. Steve Viars


Senior Pastor - Faith Church

Director - Faith Legacy Foundation


B.S.: Pre-Seminary & Bible, Baptist Bible College (Now Clarks Summit University)
M.Div.: Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min.: Biblical Counseling, Westminster Theological Seminary

Dr. Steve Viars has served at Faith Church in Lafayette, IN since 1987. Pastor Viars leads and equips Faith Church as Senior Pastor with a focus on preaching and teaching God’s Word and using his organizational skills in guiding the implementation of the Faith Church mission and vision. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith Church ministries. Dr. Viars serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation. Steve is the author, co-author, or contributor to six books and numerous booklets. He and his wife, Kris, were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and three grandchildren.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video