It is bound to happen. Any day, your once naive innocent little snow flake is going to come home from school, practice, a play date or from a family reunion with a broken heart. Their eyes will be opened to the meanness of words. Someone said something critical about them and it hurt.
- You’re fat.
- We don’t like you.
- You stink.
- You’re stupid.
- You’re gay.
- You’re not my type…
These hurtful phrases are only a sampling of the things said to and about our kids. If you’re like me, your first instinct will be to charter a plane with a banner putting the culprit in their place with a few phrases you have reserved for them! But after you come out of revenge phase and simmer down a bit, you can start to think logically about how you should deal with the wounded spirit of your child. Then you should quickly realize that this is an opportunity to raise your child in to a strong Godly man or woman.
FIRST: WHAT TYPE OF CRITICISM IS IT
You need to help your child determine what type of criticism they are receiving. True, criticism can cut both ways. It can make us better or worse. A helpful critic can point out blind spots in our craft, or our walk with Jesus. They are to be embraced. However, the first time some of us hear helpful criticism it may have hurt. It’s okay to affirm the critic if what they said was true and helpful for your child’s growth.
Then there are those “other” critics. The ones that use their words to cut, not to refine us, but to reduce us. Their words are usually hurtful and unproductive. When a harmful critic is done with you, you are usually left feeling wounded, unmotivated and anxious about your next step.
Corinthians is a good place to turn when it comes to talking to your kids about hurtful criticism.
This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. 3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. 4 For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God. – I Corinthians 4:1-5
The church in Corinth was a mess. They were divided amongst themselves and one of the people they were divided over was the Apostle Paul. So In I Corinthians, the Apostle Paul, spends many chapters dealing with his critics. In doing so he gives us some great insight in how to deal with unproductive criticism.
- MAKE YOUR LIFE ABOUT PLEASING JESUS
1 This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. – I Corinthians 4:1-2
When your child has been hurt by criticism, this is a great opportunity to teach them how to live for something bigger than other people. Remind them that their goal in life is not to please others. The fact is they will never please everyone. It’s impossible.
Our motive for life is as Paul says, to “be found faithful” to Jesus.
So how do we follow Jesus? How can we be faithful to Him so our lives are protected from harmful critics? We follow Jesus be following His word. The Bible. People won’t agree with you, but who cares, it is more important to please Jesus. And as we will see it is easier to please Jesus than it is other people!
- TEACH COMPASSION (1-5)
3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself.
The word “judged” here is translated ‘anakrino’ a compound word meaning to “criticize, express disapproval.” It is clear these critics are not being helpful and Paul says, he could care less!
Another reason Paul doesn’t care about the words of these critics is because he knows them. The letter of I Corinthians reveals what a mess these people are. They sue each other. They don’t know how to love. They don’t understand basic doctrines. They are having sex with temple prostitutes. These are not the cream of the crop Christians here! So when they criticize Paul, it’s ridiculous!
This is a great opportunity for your kids to gain some emotional intelligence. To see past the hurtful words into the hurt souls of the person offending them.
In ministry my wife and I have a phrase we often repeat when someone has been hurtful to us, “Hurting people hurt people.” It’s true. Talk about, generally, with your child why they think someone would say such a thing. Give them compassion for their offender and then take to time to pray for the person who said the mean things.
- TEACH GRACE (3b-5)
In fact, I do not even judge myself. 4 For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart…
As I said earlier, critics will never be pleased. Jesus is already pleased. Jesus loves your son or daughter.
Hurtful criticism is a great opportunity to teach your child about the unconditional love of Jesus.
Remind them that they will make mistakes, but in the end, because of Jesus they are loved and forgiven. As the Apostle Paul says, he is already being judged by Someone, Someone who’s opinion matters more than anyone else. And He has already forgiven Paul and you too, if you are in Christ.
FINALLY, AFFIRM THEM
Finally I would end with affirming them. When your children are young there is not many things more powerful than a parent’s words. Craft a beautiful memorable statement to your child right before bed. Remind them that you love them and are so very proud of them no matter what.
Thanks for reading,