Across Pacific & Asia

Criticism Guidelines
by Bob and Yvonne Turnbull

   Rare is the person, whether single or married, male or female, young or old, who likes to receive criticism, but it's nonetheless necessary to receive in order for us to address certain areas of our lives that may need to be changed.

   In our family we have given each other permission to bring up things that are, yes, helpful to us, but also things that we believe are hurtful in our relationship.  But along with that permission we are both very careful in the 'way' we give criticism.  These are the three guidelines we use.


   Make sure it's done in private.  That also means you don't tell anybody else before you approach the one you want to talk to.  To do so opens the door for gossip to start running amuck.  Find a place away from the interruptions.  The timing of when you bring this up is important.  If either person is tired, stressed, ticked-off or hungry, well, guess what?  That's right, that causes anyone to not be a tuned-in listener.


   If you take pleasure in giving criticism, better hold your tongue.  All of us need to be prayed up prior to talking to the person.  Ask, "God, is this something I'm supposed to bring up or is this something You are going to handle apart from me?"  Yvonne used to feel that when she saw something in Bob that 'warranted her criticism' that she was supposed to immediately give it.  But as she started to check her motives by talking to the Lord first, oftentimes she had a strong leading that there were times she was to "let it go" and watch God take care of the situation in His perfect way and in His perfect timing.

   Thankfully the Lord helps us to look at our motives, helping us to ask ourselves, "Am I bringing this up just so I can prove the other person is wrong and that I'm right, or am I doing this to leave the person better than they were before?"  The latter is the motive God wants for us.

   In 1 Thess 2:3 it says, "For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you."

   Keep two things in mind.  First, it is always important to earn the right to be heard.  Secondly, have you successfully done what you are accusing the other person of failing to do?


   The words you choose and how you say them is important.  Choose your words carefully.  Emotionally charged words like the classic, "You always" and "You never" often overstate the facts.

   It's best to start out your conversation by
informing the person how their behavior affects you by using the "I" message.  A bad example would be, "You never take me out to dinner.  I don't think you really care about me anymore, you cheap klutz."  Unfortunately by the time the last few venomous words spew out the ears have tuned out the talker.  The "I" message would work like this: "I appreciate how good a job you do with our budget, but I have missed not being able to go out for dinner once in a while.  I enjoy getting to spend time with you alone.  Can we do something about this?"  By phrasing it this way the behavior not the person receives the criticism.

   When you are explaining what the problem is offer examples so they will better understand what you mean, as well as offer some alternatives.  A personal self-help would be for you to go over the scenario in your mind or even write everything down before you speak it.  At the end of the conversation always end with an encouragement - a smile - and a "Thanks."

   As Goethe, a German poet, once wrote: "Correction does much, but encouragement does more.  Encouragement after censure is as the sun after a shower."

Turnbull Ministries
PO Box 650518
Potomac Falls, VA 20165
Phone: 703.406.8787
Fax. 703.406.8876

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