Correction Vs. Criticism

Many of us have experienced it.

That moment when you want to crawl in a hole after being “slapped on the hand” at work or in ministry, or maybe even in a friendship.

Recently, I was corrected by my boss for something I had overlooked in one of my job responsibilities. Thankfully, it was handled well, and I walked away from our conversation encouraged. However, many years ago, I was criticized by my leadership in a ministry position.

I walked away from that conversation completely broken and hurt. 2 situations handled 2 different ways. One life-giving; the other one crippling.

Discipline can be difficult to maneuver, whether you are giving it or receiving it.

Hebrews 12:11 says, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained in it.”

As followers of Christ, we are called to gently correct (2 Timothy 2:25) and gently restore (Galatians 6:1); we are not called to criticize and accuse. Harsh criticism is destructive; gentle correction is empowering.

Here are some ways to offer discipline gently:

1. Check your motives.

Phil 2:3 says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.”  Is your motive to discipline someone self-serving or team-affirming? Is it to make you look good, and prove that you’re the leader and they’re not? Is it to prove you’re “Parent of the Year” by disciplining your kid in the middle of a meltdown at the grocery store, or is it to help shape your child’s heart and character? Before we correct someone, let's make sure it's to help shape their success and not simply to expose their faults.

2. Come from a place of humility.

Proverbs 22:4 says, “Humility and the fear of the Lord bring wealth and honor and life.” The best leaders don’t lead from pride of a title, they lead from humility of a servant’s heart. Phrase your words in a way that makes the other person feel encouraged, not discouraged.

3. Change if needed.

Proverbs 12:18 says, “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Are the results of your discipline positive or negative? If the person you disciplined seems like the wind has been knocked out of them…find out why and improve the situation. If they seem like they have fresh wind in their sails…you did it well. When I discipline my children with anger and accusations, they walk away defeated with temporary behavior modification. When I discipline my children in love, they walk away with good attitudes and a true heart change. The same applies in the workplace, ministry, and relationships. Let's be wise and kind, not reckless and mean.

If you’ve been broken or hurt from being disciplined harshly, I am so sorry. Here are some ways to turn that criticism into something positive:

1. Choose to not carry offense.

 (I know; easier said than done.)

Proverbs 12:1 says, “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid.” Even if you were incorrectly or unjustly criticized, choosing forgiveness allows healing and restoration. Turn the harshness that was meant to destroy you into a platform designed to empower you. 

2. Choose flexibility.

Proverbs 19:20 says, “Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise.” If someone flags an area where you can improve, listen and take action. Redirect the destructive comments against you into constructive results for you.

3. Choose to learn from it.

Proverbs 15:32 says, “Whoever ignores instruction despises himself, but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence.” Improve your leadership skills by not repeating your mistakes.

Mishandling discipline by either criticizing or carrying offense can cripple our purpose and calling. Let’s be leaders that create and foster healthy environments versus toxic ones. Let’s be leaders that encourage and challenge others to be the best they can be. Ultimately, it’s all for the advancement of God’s kingdom and the demonstration of His love through our lives, relationships, careers, and ministries.

Karen Harmon

Karen Harmon is a wife, homeschooling mother, and physical therapist. She is active in her church serving in worship, small groups, and media. You can connect with Karen on her website, Instagram, or Facebook.


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