Someone posted this quote on Facebook recently:
“Brother, if any man thinks ill of you, do not be angry with him; for you are worse than he thinks you to be. If he charges you falsely on some point, yet be satisfied, for if he knew you better he might change the accusation, and you would be no gainer by the correction. If you have your moral portrait painted, and it is ugly, be satisfied; for it only needs a few blacker touches, and it would be still nearer the truth.” Spurgeon
The first sentence especially resonated with me. I was just discussing with my son yesterday that the first response to any criticism should be to examine it to see if there is any truth to it. I’m amazed at people who can’t take the merest suggestion that they might be doing something not quite right without becoming defensive and blowing up, or, in opposite fashion, becoming wounded and closing in on themselves.
Yet I have to admit, my first response to criticism isn’t, “Thank you: you’ve give me something to think about.” I might not say so out loud, but my first thoughts are likely to be something like, “You don’t understand,” or, “How DARE you!” or, “Oh yeah? Well take a look at yourself and deal with your own faults!” Not very pretty, is it? My first response should probably be, “Yes, and you don’t know the half of it!”
It should be no surprise to us that we’re not perfect, and no surprise that someone else notices that fact from time to time. Proverbs has much to say about hearing reproof:
For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life. Proverbs 6:23.
He is in the way of life that keepeth instruction: but he that refuseth reproof erreth. Proverbs 10:17.
Poverty and shame shall be to him that refuseth instruction: but he that regardeth reproof shall be honoured. Proverbs 13:18.
The ear that heareth the reproof of life abideth among the wise. Proverbs 15:31.
He that refuseth instruction despiseth his own soul: but he that heareth reproof getteth understanding. Proverbs 15:32.
A reproof entereth more into a wise man than an hundred stripes into a fool. Proverbs 17:10.
We can take comfort in the fact that God sees believers through His Son, Jesus Christ, and that once we savingly believe on Him, His righteousness is transferred to our account because He took our sinfulness on His. Because of His amazing grace, those who have believed on Christ for salvation become God’s children, and will have a home with Him in heaven. Our eternal life begins NOW, not when we die.
Yet until we get to heaven, we have a sin nature to contend with, and we’re instructed to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (II Peter 3:18). II Timothy 3:16-17 tell us: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (ESV). Part of that growing, completion, equipping, is realizing those areas where we have a problem and then seeking God’s grace and relying on His Word to change us. So when we receive a criticism, instead of just brushing it off, we can see if God means to use it to show us something we need to know about ourselves.
There is only one perfect person in the universe, and as we behold Him, He changes us to be more like Himself: But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. II Corinthians 3:18.