Editors Note: This article is written by BCC Counselor, Dr. Donna Hart as part of our series on Relational Health. In this series, our counselors are sharing biblical principles to strengthen and improve all kinds of relationships.
None of us look forward to the experience of criticism. Criticism can tear us down, and over time it can cause us to think we are unlikeable failures. Feedback is received well when someone says they think we are doing good in one area but see where we could improve.
The text of Ephesians 4:25-32 gives us some clear rules for governing our communication. One of the rules, from Ephesians 4:29, is “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, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” The essential lesson of this verse is to resolve a problem rather than attack a person with words.
Criticism is never useful. It usually causes a person to become defensive and strive to justify themselves. Dale Carnegie once said, “Criticism is dangerous; because it wounds a person’s precious pride, hurts his sense of importance, and arouses resentment.”
B.F. Skinner, the well-known psychologist, proved through his experiments that an animal rewarded for good behavior will learn much more rapidly and retain what it learns far more effectively than an animal punished for bad behavior. Continuing research has shown that the same applies to humans. Criticism does not help a person to make changes and often causes resentment instead.
It is important to remember that when we criticize a person or attack them with words they are most likely going to attempt to justify and defend their position. After they have defended and justified themselves, they will often turn around to condemn us in return. Defending will always escalate the conflict and keep people disconnected from each other.
Do you know someone you would like to change, regulate, or improve? That is fine, but why not begin, with yourself?
From a purely selfish standpoint, this is a lot more profitable than trying to improve others and a lot less dangerous. When dealing with people it is important to remember that we are not dealing with creatures of pure logic. We are faced with creatures filled with emotions, prejudices, and motivated by selfish pride.
Instead of condemning people, it would be better to put ourselves in their shoes and try to understand. Let’s try to figure out why they do what they do. This is so much more profitable. This will breed sympathy, patience, kindness, and forgiveness in us enabling us to lead in a more productive discussion.
May our speech be as, (Proverbs 16:24), “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”
When have you found pleasant words healing for you? Are you a person who builds others up with your words, or are you a person who tears others down with criticism? May our heart intentions always give glory to God as we seek to build up one another.