Skip to content

YOUNG PEOPLE ASK

How Should I Take Constructive Criticism?

 Test yourself

At times, we all need constructive criticism, meaning advice that can help us improve in our work or attitude. With that in mind, consider the following scenarios.

  1. Your teacher tells you that your last school project seemed to be rushed. “You need to put more time into research,” he says.

    How do you react to the constructive criticism?

    1. Reject it. (‘The teacher just doesn’t like me.’)

    2. Accept it. (‘I’ll take his advice for my next project.’)

  2. Your mother tells you that your room is a mess—even though you just cleaned it.

    How do you react to the constructive criticism?

    1. Reject it. (‘She’s never satisfied.’)

    2. Accept it. (‘I admit that I could have done a better job.’)

  3. Your younger sister tells you that she doesn’t like your bossy attitude.

    How do you react to the constructive criticism?

    1. Reject it. (‘Who is she to talk about being bossy?’)

    2. Accept it. (‘I guess I could treat her more kindly.’)

Some young people have been called teacups—so fragile that they shatter at the smallest dose of constructive criticism. Are you like that? If so, you’re missing out! Why? Because learning to take constructive criticism is an important skill that will serve you well both now and in adulthood.

Don’t reject what you need to hear just because you don’t want to hear it

 Why do I need constructive criticism?

  • Because you’re not perfect. The Bible says: “We all make mistakes many times.” (James 3:2, footnote) For that reason, everyone needs constructive feedback.

    “I try to remember that we are all imperfect and that making mistakes is a part of life. So when I receive correction, I try to learn from it and avoid repeating the mistake.”—David.

  • Because you can do better. The Bible says: “Share with a wise person, and he will become wiser.” (Proverbs 9:9) Constructive feedback can benefit you—if you accept it.

    “I used to have the wrong view of criticism. I thought it made me look bad. But now I accept it and even ask for it. I want to know how I can improve.”—Selena.

Of course, it’s one thing to ask for constructive criticism. But when it comes uninvited, that can be another story. “I was horrified and discouraged,” says Natalie, recalling a card she received that contained some unsolicited advice. “I was trying so hard, and all I got for it was counsel!”

Has something similar ever happened to you? If so, how can you deal with it?

 How can I accept constructive criticism?

  • Listen.

    The Bible says: “A man of knowledge restrains his words, and a discerning man will remain calm.” (Proverbs 17:27) Don’t interrupt the person who is talking to you. And don’t respond impulsively, saying something that you will regret later!

    “When I receive criticism, I’m inclined to get defensive. Instead, I should learn from the correction and do things better next time.”—Sara.

  • Focus on the message, not the messenger.

    You might be tempted to point out the flaws of your critic. But it’s far better to follow the Bible’s advice to “be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger.” (James 1:19) There is usually some truth to criticism. Don’t miss out on what you need to hear just because you don’t want to hear it.

    “I used to get angry and say, ‘I know, I know,’ when my parents gave me correction. But when I really listen to them and apply their advice, there are much better results.”—Edward.

  • Keep a balanced view of yourself.

    The fact that you received constructive criticism doesn’t make you a failure. It simply means that you have flaws, like everyone else. Even the person correcting you needs constructive criticism now and then. In fact, the Bible says: “There is no righteous man on earth who always does good.”—Ecclesiastes 7:20.

    “A friend gave me constructive criticism that I didn’t think I needed. I thanked her for her honesty, but I was offended. In time, though, I realized that her criticism had some truth to it. Thanks to her advice, I was able to see what I needed to work on—something I would otherwise have probably overlooked.”—Sophia.

  • Set a goal to improve.

    The Bible says that “a shrewd person accepts correction.” (Proverbs 15:5) Once you accept it, you will be able to bypass any hurt feelings and get busy improving in the area that was pointed out to you. Create an action plan to do so, and track your progress over the next few months.

    “Dealing with criticism is linked with honesty because you have to be honest with yourself to admit your mistakes, apologize for them, and learn how to improve.”—Emma.

The bottom line: The Bible says: “People learn from one another, just as iron sharpens iron.” (Proverbs 27:17, Good News Translation) Constructive criticism is a tool that can sharpen you, both now and when you become an adult.