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06/22/2011 / Kaitlin Zhang

How to Deal with Critical People

Criticism hurts you.  I understand how you feel.

Criticism is often a subconscious means to elevate our self-image.  People who are critical are often insecure about themselves and their relationship with God.  It can be caused by the spirits of anger, jealousy and fear.  Put-downs, making-fun-of, criticism, sarcasm are the world’s ways of reacting to the faults of people.

The Biblical story of Michal and King David tells us about the sinfulness of having a critical spirit.  For the whole story see 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel.

Michal was a woman who lived a privileged life, but destroyed her marriage with King Daivd because of her critical spirit.

One day, David was worshipping God by dancing and praising.  Michal greets David with scornful criticism for his act of worship.  Has anyone ever done that to you?

Michal’s father, King Saul, who failed to walk with God, left no example of a Godly marriage.  Her relationship with her father taught her to be critical rather than encouraging.

The Critical Spirit:

  • destroys
  • sends a warring signal
  • tear people down
  • speaks without thinking or reflecting
  • does not apply the same level of scrutiny to itself
  • exaggerates fault
  • is distant, aloof and judgmental

The Discerning Spirit:

  • protects
  • sends a warning signal
  • build up people
  • choose the right time and location
  • focus on acceptance and empathy
  • is secure in the Father’s grace

Ways to Deal with Critical People:

  1. Don’t be critical ourselves. Avoid all negativity and gossip.
  2. Forgive critical people.
  3. Pray for them.
  4. Avoid conversation topics that spark criticism. (e.g. work)
  5. Don’t agree with people’s criticisms (whether they are right or not).
  6. Don’t react with anger to criticism that are directed at you.  Don’t take it personally. It’s NOT about you.
  7. Respond in a respectful manner.
  8. Confront the person about how their critical spirit is bothering you.
  9. Communicate with love, respect, sincerity and honesty.
  10. Limit communication. (e.g. emails only). Set boundaries.
  11. Last resort is to avoid the person entirely by phasing slowly out of their lives. But keep praying for them.

If you have more problems, a really good book to read is Boundaires by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. Townsend.  Remember that criticism doesn’t just come from people! Mass media indirectly criticizes us well. “You are not , beautiful enough, rich enough, good enough” etc. Don’t buy into that crap. God thinks you are perfect!

“Live creatively, friends.  If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day’s out.” – Gal 6:1

– Most of this post is borrowed from Sermon “Michal and the Dancing King” May 22, 2011 by Pastor David Koop of Coastal Church.

A note to parents:

Don’t be critical to your children.  First, identify the seriousness of the fault.  Absolutely, do not talk about your children’s faults with other people (it is a form of gossiping and talking behind people’s back).  Then, you may discuss your children’s faults with your spouse (or teacher etc) to help your child.  Use a discerning spirit.  Your comments help shape your child’s self-worth, self-esteem and confidence.  Pray that God will help you be good parents.

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7 Comments

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  1. Spoiledchica2 / Aug 26 2012 9:16 pm

    What would you say if you are still living with a parent who is like this? How do you handle this biblically without harboring even more bitterness? I’m trying to be more Christlike in my response to his apparent issues..even as he claims to know God and renounces my relationship with God.

    • K Zhang / Aug 31 2012 9:58 am

      Hi. Thank you for your comment. Actually when I was writing this post, I was thinking about my parent as well. One thing I keep telling myself is that I can’t change other people, but I can change how I react to them. And I will never lie to my parents, or say hurtful things to them, or raise my voice or do anything Jesus wouldn’t do. I always speak the truth and God’s truth to my parents, but sometimes it’s right to hold my tongue.

      In the end of the day, you are God’s child first before you are your parent’s child. Your loyalty lies with God. And if your parent is renouncing your relationship with God… you should take caution and have a mature Christian walk through the issues. (like a youth pastor or your pastor)

      Here is a book that REALLY helped me. http://www.amazon.com/Setting-Boundaries%C2%AE-Your-Aging-Parents/dp/0736926747

      Don’t let bitterness take root in your heart. We are to bless our enemies, so how can we not bless and pray for our own parents?

      I will pray for you.

  2. Carol / Jan 14 2016 3:16 pm

    Last paragraph before the sub heading The Critical Spirit should say “taught” her instead of “thought.”

  3. Carol / Jan 14 2016 3:20 pm

    Good advice! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  4. Aria / Nov 22 2016 9:16 pm

    I came across this while searching for how to deal with critical people in a Godly way. The post makes a lot of sense and confirms what I feel God has been telling me. But what do you do when the critical person is your mother and she is a widow living alone in another city? Every encounter with my mother upsets me; she is judgmental and mean and critical and all in the name of God. I am pregnant and had a fall the other day and she told me it was cos I was not praying enough and that it was Godly judgment! I would have thought that the fact that I had a fall just a few weeks away from my due date and suffered no injury was God’s faithfulness toward me! That’s just one instance. It’s impossible to have a decent 10 minute conversation with her without her getting my spirits down and heavy either by criticising me or my husband or my in laws or her neighbours or my dead father or my lifestyle. It seems that however hard I try I simply can’t win her approval. I have tried moving on and had cut off for one month but got in touch with her again and happened to mention my fall and then she told me that. It has now been about 3-4 days since I spoke to her. One part of me tells me I should not call her and wilfully disrupt my peace but another part of me feels so heavy because at the end of the day she is old, alone and my mother. What do I do?

    • K Zhang / Jan 23 2017 2:51 am

      Sorry for the late reply. I totally understand what you are going through. I recommend a book called “Boundaries” and “The Mom Factor” by the same authors Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. Praying for you.

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