How to Give Criticism Well

It can be difficult to receive criticism well, but what about offering criticism? This can be just as difficult! Jeff shares some advice and encouragement on how to give criticism well.

Snippet from the Show
There is a difference between judging and correcting.


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Basic Considerations for Offering Criticism

What is my relationship with the person? Is this your business?

You must take into consideration the closeness of the relationship with the content of the criticism. There are a lot of people that God has not called me to offer criticism, most people. 
The closer the person, the more transparent you can be. You must remember that criticism takes into consideration the heart of the person, their intent, their history, and several other variables. Has the person given you permission?
You need to determine if what you are going to tell them is a rumor or here say, bringing up rumors can be very destructive. I don’t go there, in fact, I would talk to the one who was spreading rumors. 
Ask yourself, is this the type of thing that could be better addressed in a letter or face to face?
The more serious the matter, face to face is more effective. The time that goes by between a letter and face to face conversation can be agonizing.

Do you have some authority or responsibility in the relationship?

In other words, are you in a role of responsibility, like a parent, employer, pastor, principal, counselor? It can be very uncomfortable to give criticism to someone who is older than you in the Lord or years. Paul had to do this with Peter, about eating pork.

Do Your Homework!

Be certain of what you know to be wrong. Did you hear or see correctly? Go to the Bible and the Catechism and learn a little about the topic so you have something positive to give them. 

Express your thoughts in love and gentleness. 

There is a difference between judging and correcting.
“Judge not, that you be not judged.” Matt 7:1

Once you have made your point, turn it into a conversation. 

Ask them what they think. Give them the opportunity to respond. Do not escalate to an argument or debate, you have done your job. Allow room for the Holy Spirit to work in their life. Not everything is done in one conversation.

Process for Giving Criticism

  1. Before you even begin your preparation, pray. Pray that God will give you the love, the words and insight that would be helpful for your friend. 
    Matthew 18:15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.”
    This is the gold standard if someone has hurt you. Not Twitter, not Facebook, not a prayer intention in a group of ten people, but alone. 
  1. Ask “Can I share something with you that I think will help you?” Remember that the purpose of criticism is to draw people closer to the Lord, not to satisfy yourself. Ask permission. When people just start off telling the person what they think, naturally people are going to be on the defense. 
    James 5:19-20 “My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.”
    Galatians 6:1″Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.”
  1. Start with the positive, followed by the critique. 
    Take for example, the church in Ephesus.
    Revelations 2:1-4 “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands. I know your works, your toil, and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear evil men but have tested those who call themselves apostles but are not and found them to be false; I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.’”
    Separate the comment or the action from the person. You are not attacking a person; you are helping them on the road to holiness. 
    2 Thessalonians 3:15 “Do not regard him as an enemy but warn him as a brother.”
    Use your life as an example, maybe a story when you did the same thing, or a quote from someone that helped you. 
  1. Either in writing or speech, articulate the critique in a succinct way, don’t meander.
    The fewer the words, the better, stay on track. Talk briefly about the results of what may happen if they don’t change. Suggest a better way that is consistent with the message of Jesus. Show them what has helped you from the Bible or Catechism. Don’t come with a lesson prepared. Instead, show them what has helped you.
  1. Pray with them or let them know that you are praying for them. Let them know that you love them.
  1. Keep it to yourself and assure them that it will stay between the two of you. This is important.
  2. Follow up with encouragement.
    If it was sensitive in terms of content, call them or meet with them again.


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Meet Your Host: Jeff Cavins

Jeff Cavins is passionate about helping people understand Scripture and become disciples of Jesus Christ. Though he was born Catholic, Jeff went to Bible school and served as a protestant minister for twelve years before reverting to the Catholic Faith. Jeff then received his MA in Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville. Since then, he has become a leading Catholic evangelist and author.

Jeff created The Bible Timeline learning system, which revolutionized Catholic Bible Study for millions of Catholics. Since its introduction, Jeff has developed The Great Adventure series of Bible studies to help people better understand Sacred Scripture and its meaning for their lives. 

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