Critics.  Sometimes they’re as thick as flees on a farm dog.  And they jump on you when you least expect it.

Terry was a friend and a student at the Bible College.  He was asked to fill the pulpit at a small country church hidden in a holler in southern Ohio.  The faithful few at the Wednesday night service gathered to hear what brother Terry was going to bring. 

He was a novice, but he ascended the platform in faith.  With a quiver in his voice, he made his first major point.  Just then, a man in the congregation stood, pulled a ball cap from his back pocket, snapped it open and put it on. 

He made a fist with his thumb up and then swept it over his shoulder.  Yes – the self-appointed umpire just called the preacher out!

Terry was stunned.  He hesitated and mentally retraced his words wondering, “What kind of heresy did I just spout?” 

Then his critic silently removed his hat, tucked it in his pocket and sat down.  

Terry scanned the flock to see their reaction – but there was none.  Those who were not asleep were in a daze. Terry wondered if this was not the church of the Twilight Zone. 

He found his place and resumed his oratory.  A short time later, the ump made another call – Out again?  No way!  Terry began to sweat.  The count was two outs.  Would another preacher take the field after three? 

And there it was – another out.  Terry was ready to kick some dirt on the ump, except on the next call, with palms down, he snapped his arms out to either side – Safe!  “Thank You, Jesus!”

And that’s how it went the entire message.   Terry was soon longing for the 7th inning stretch. 

He learned afterwards that the man was mentally impaired, and it was his custom to umpire every service.  (Hey at least he was listening).  The congregation loved him and just learned to ignore his antics.    

I am sure you have your critics too!  – The boss who edits your reports; the mother-in-law who gives you cooking tips; the wife who looks at your outfit with a sneer.   So, how should we handle those who criticize?

The book of Proverbs has some sound advice except it uses words like “rebuke” and reprove” in place of criticism.

If a criticism is not shared with you face-to-face reject it.  If a person chooses to talk about you rather than to you, they are a gossip – not a critic.  Scripture says, “Better is an open (criticism) rebuke than hidden love.”  (27:5) Do not receive a criticism unless it comes from the person standing in front of you.

Consider the source.   Is your critic a friend or foe?  “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are excessive.”  (27:6) Listen to the criticism of a friend and treat with suspicion the words of a foe.

Listen and evaluate.  God uses critics to help us with blind spots.  “Like an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold is a wise (critic) reprover to a listening ear.”   (25:12) It’s painful but profitable to hear criticism when it is on the mark. 

Is the opinion shared?  One way to measure the validity of a criticism is to find if other people have the same perception.   What if Terry would have had 6 people stand and call him out?  Send in a pinch hitter Coach!

Don’t let your self-worth get in the way. We tend to shy away from criticism because we allow it to eat away at our self-esteem.   That’s not the way God sees it.  “Do not (criticize) reprove a mocker or he will hate you; (criticize) reprove a wise person and he will love you.”  (9:8)   Did you catch that? The one who rejects criticism is a fool, whereas the one who considers appropriate criticism is deemed wise.  To be criticized is not a cause for shame – to reject it is. 

Adjust and Finish.  If the criticism is on the mark – do something about it.  “The one who stiffens his neck after numerous (criticisms) rebukes will suddenly be destroyed without remedy.” (29:1) When we ignore the God directed critics in our lives, we travel a destructive path.  So, adjust and then finish the course.  Terry didn’t shut his Bible and slink out the side door in defeat.  He stayed and finished.  Don’t let criticism curtail you either. Adjust and finish.

We may never bat 1,000 in life but we can win the game, if we handle our critics wisely.

All Biblical references are from the book of Proverbs from the NETBible ®