In 2 Kings 10:28-33 Jehu, King of Israel, is praised for doing well in “carrying out what is right” in God’s eyes. But he is also criticized because he “was not careful to walk in the law of the Lord” in which he caused Israel to sin. In the praise God told Jehu that his family would sit on the throne of Israel for four generations (v.30). In the criticism God began to allow parts of Israel to be cut off by other invading nations (v.32-33). Both praise and criticism at the same time! Also at the same time were the consequences, for both being praised and being criticized.
That got me thinking about both praise and criticism in my own life and how they often come to me at the same time, over the same issue, sometimes by the same people. It is not uncommon after preaching to hear both praise and criticism about the same sermon. It is not uncommon in counseling to hear on the same day praise for the encouragement I may have offered someone, but then criticism for not being helpful enough. Praise and criticism at the same time! What do we do when both praise and criticism come our way and when the consequences seem to encourage us and discourage us at the same time?
Learning to receive criticism is challenging enough but being gracious in response to praise is often even more difficult. For some, humility becomes self-deprecation; instead of learning to accept the praise, they shirk it and insist they don't deserve it. And for others pride becomes defensiveness from which they reject even helpful and constructive criticism.
You see - praise and criticism are often reflections of each other. Why? Because they both have the potential to keep us focused on ourselves rather than on God. Either one can destroy our effectiveness, ruin our relationships and keep us from trusting in God. It is essential to persevere in the face of criticism, but it is equally important to not let praise consume you either.
Dealing with both praise and criticism in an effective manner can make your relationships stronger, your behavior more effective and your God-confidence more secure. How you handle praise and/or criticism can actually be more important than the praise or criticism itself.
Praise should be received as simply an act of kindness and goodness and should be perceived as a source of encouragement to excel in good deeds and virtues (Eph. 2:10). It is not really about us but rather about God in us. God and His Word should always be the ultimate reference point on which we are evaluated. We should always acknowledge, complement and praise good works and encourage one another to build stronger members in the body of Christ.
Criticism, on the other hand, should be evaluated and perceived for elements of constructive truth that likewise encourages us to excel in good deeds and virtues. Criticism should be received with a calm and objective attitude and not with an overly offensive or exaggerated defensive attitude. Ignoring criticism may lead to uncontrollable and ultimately dangerous situations. We should always be open to and willing to hear constructive criticism.
“And whatever you do,” including receiving praise and accepting criticism, “in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Col. 3:17)