Criticism says more about the criticizer than the person receiving it. It still hurts though, so this is all about how to overcome criticism.
Recently, I was reading the book of Matthew and came across the verses that spoke to how unsatisfied and critical people can be sometimes; especially when they don’t understand your calling or assignment.
Specifically, Matthew was writing about how people criticized John the Baptist for doing one thing and then criticized Jesus for doing the opposite.
John the Baptist lived an ascetic, strict lifestyle. Most people today would probably call him weird. He dressed different. His preaching style was confrontational. His diet was limiting. He ate locusts and wild honey and didn’t drink wine or liquor. He was just a very different man.
Then, on top of that, he also spent most of life in the wilderness. The wilderness back then, and now is considered to be a place of preparation and development for what God is planning to do. You may feel like you’re in the wilderness now and that you’re in a space where God is developing you.
But John the Baptist was in the wilderness both figuratively and literally for a purpose.
His purpose was to prepare people for Jesus’ arrival. The prophet Isaiah referred to John the baptist as the person who would prepare the way for the Messiah. OK? That’s his purpose.
So he was out in the wilderness, baptizing tons of people in the Jordan River.
John was doing his best to fulfill his calling. He was encouraging people to confess their sins, repent, and be baptized and he was committed. Yet, at the same time, people were criticizing him because of his strict diet and because he didn’t drink wine and liquor.
Then, sometime later, Jesus pops up on the scene, right? And He’s out here eating, drinking wine, chilling with sinners, and people criticized Him. They called Him a glutton and a drunkard.
This just goes to show that some people will never be pleased. While Jesus is talking about all of this in chapter 11 of Matthew, He points out that wisdom is shown by what people do. It’s shown by their actions.
In other words, the critics of Him and John the Baptist proved that they lacked wisdom. They were completely off when they criticized both John the Baptist and Jesus. They lacked the ability to apply spiritual truth to situations. That’s what wisdom is.
Since they lacked wisdom, they criticized these two people who were walking in their purpose. Some people will do the same to you. Your actions in pursuit of purpose won’t make sense to them.
Before we dive into why people do this and how to overcome criticism, let’s define criticism.
What is Criticism?
We can’t have a discussion about how to overcome criticism without defining the word. Criticism is the act of finding fault and pointing out the faults of others. It’s a form of judgment.
I’ve learned that criticism is an addiction. In fact, it’s highly addictive behavior. The truth is, people don’t even realize they’re doing it. They just have this compulsion to critique every little thing they see.
To further explore how to overcome criticism, I want to break down why people decide to criticize. A great example is the criticism of John the Baptist. Those who criticized John the Baptist and Jesus showed that they ultimately lacked wisdom. They not only lacked the ability to make spiritually informed decisions for themselves, but they also lacked the ability to discern when others are making spiritually informed decisions.
The same applies to your critics. Those who criticize your pursuit and journey in purpose, lack wisdom. They are not wise.
Here are some other reasons why people criticize:
It has nothing to do with you. In fact, When people criticize something or someone, it usually doesn’t have anything to do with what they’re criticizing. “Criticism is an easy form of ego defense. We don’t criticize because we disagree with a behavior or an attitude. We criticize because we somehow feel devalued by the behavior or attitude. Critical people tend to be easily insulted and especially in need of ego defense.”
Sometimes people are too close to you to really SEE you. Remember when Jesus said, “A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his relatives and his own family.” He was speaking from experience. Jesus went to his neighborhood and people literally scoffed at him. I’m sure they were probably like, “oh He’s just a carpenter.” They were deeply offended that Jesus tried to preach to them and they refused to believe in Him. The thing is, they were too familiar with Him to respect Him.
The final reason I’m discussing in this post of why people criticize is actually projection. People criticize what they are afraid of and what makes them insecure. Let’s tackle these one at a time, starting with insecurities.
- Insecurities – if someone is insecure about their physical appearance, then they will tend to nitpick at the appearance of others. They’ll say things like, “So and so’s hair is a mess, they shouldn’t have worn those colors together, etc.”
- Fear – As for projection of fears, we can use Jay-Z’s uncle as an example. In the clip, Jay-Z spoke about how his uncle said Jay-Z would never sell a million records. Jay-Z added it as a line in one of his songs on Magna Carta Holy Grail and said, “my uncle said I’ll never sell a million records, I sold a million records like a million times.” Jay-Z has sold over 50 million albums and 75 million singles sold worldwide. He has won 23 Grammy Awards, which is the most by any rapper, and holds the record for the most number-one albums by a solo artist on the Billboard 200, with 14. There is no way his uncle could have seen that coming. I heard Myleik say the other day, “when you start telling people what you plan to do, you will meet their fears.” This is a prime example of that.
How to Overcome Criticism
If you want to know how to overcome criticism, then here are some tools I recommend:
- Ignore it. Remember that criticism is often a reflection of who the critic is, not who you are, and you don’t have to accept it. If the criticism isn’t coming in a constructive manner from a trusted or reliable source, then ignore it. Oh, and if the criticism is contrary to what you heard from God, then you definitely need to ignore it.
- Empathize with them. Most people think that empathy means putting yourself in someone else’s situation, but what it really is, is appreciating where the person who is criticizing you is coming from, taking their context into consideration and understanding why they say and do the things they say and do.
- Don’t explain. The last tip I have for overcoming criticism is to not defend your actions. Just because someone doesn’t understand your purpose or what God has told you to do, that does not mean it’s your job to defend it. You don’t have to and quite frankly, you shouldn’t defend something God has told you. He didn’t tell them, He told you. Your critics will eventually catch up. In the meantime, it’s your responsibility to press forward with what you are supposed to do.
That wraps up this episode of how to overcome criticism. I hope this has been helpful.
If you enjoyed this episode about how to overcome criticism, then you may also enjoy the episode of the show about trusting God’s plan or this episode detailing how to overcome distractions to your purpose.
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