How to Criticize Behavior, Not Character

how to criticize behavior not attack a person

Criticizing should always focus on the what, not the who. Who someone is isn’t the same as what they have done. Everyone falls short. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” There’s always something that can be improved, but that doesn’t define the whole person or the whole family or entity. Evaluate character to see whether it lines up with God’s Word, but if you must give criticism, criticize the behavior, don’t attack the person.

Do I care More about the Person or the Problem? | Your Home For God

Do I care More about the Person or the Problem?

Series on “How to Give and Receive Criticism Like God would want”

“Evaluate character to see whether it lines up with God’s Word, but if you must give criticism, criticize the behavior, don’t attack the person.” Wendy Gunn 2020

One of the reasons people resist critical feedback is how personal it feels. Having someone criticize you, your family, or your business can be downright painful. Inexperienced or mean-spirited people don’t always filter their feedback and might deliver it in harsh ways that attack people rather than problems. This only creates defensiveness and shame.

Criticizing behavior–a child’s, a mom’s, a family’s or a business’s–rather than attacking a person or entity—makes it possible to share negative feedback while preserving respect between you. That’s a win-win.

Do I Criticize my Kids too Harshly so They Feel Attacked? | Your Home For God

Do I Criticize My Kids Too Harshly So They Feel Attacked?

Do’s and don’ts for how to criticize behavior without attacking the person

Here are some do’s and don’ts for critiquing behavior without attacking the person.

  • DO- Think about how you would want to be treated. (Remember the Golden Rule.)
  • DO- Consider your motivation before criticizing. Go to God first, and make sure you have a clean heart.
  • DO- Have a goal to preserve the relationship. Pursue peace with all men whenever possible.
  • DON’T- Hide behind anonymous criticism. No matter how you give it, or whether they know it’s you, God knows. Always keep a clear conscience, and act in such a way that God will be honored, and so that, even if the world knows, you retain your good name and God’s. 
  • DON’T- Criticize when you are emotional. We tend to say things we don’t mean when we’re upset. Wait till you cool down.
  • DON’T- Forget to ask for questions. If you go in, and dump your avalanche of criticism on someone’s head, without letting them speak, that’s not right. Give them a chance to respond or reply, and to ask questions.

Have I praised or criticized more this week? | Your Home For God

Have I praised or criticized more this week?

Think about how you want to be criticized. (Well, think about how you would like to receive feedback.) We are all going to receive some. Think about how you want people to approach you and act accordingly. What you put out will come back to you. “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.” (Matthew 5:7) And, “…he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.” (James 2:13) Holding your tongue and offering criticism that is helpful, not hurtful, matters. The more you have praised character when you could, and not criticized, the more likely the person is to listen when you do have to say something negative.

Consider why you want to criticize. Are you angry? Dissatisfied? Worried? Consider your motives and make sure your goal is to improve the situation, not some other reason. Spend time in prayer, talk to God about the problem, ask for His heart and mind on the situation. Ask forgiveness and get a clear conscience. Wait 24 hours. Wait longer, if possible.

Do I care More about the Person or the Problem? | Your Home For God

Do I care More about the Person or the Problem?

Focus on the relationship rather than the issue

Yes, there may be something to complain about but focus on the relationship when bringing up the issue. The relationship should be the main thing and the issue subordinate to it. Keep the main thing the main thing and criticize the behavior with a kind heart. Always care about the person more than the problem.

Never criticize anonymously

There’s something about anonymous criticism that makes people think they can be harsher than they should be. This is especially true on Social media. If you aren’t willing to criticize and let them know who you are, there is no obligation for someone to receive it. And, besides, God sees. And, He knows. “Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.” (Hebrews 4:13) and “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good.” (Proverbs 15:13) It matters not what others think of me, if God is displeased.

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Wait until you’ve cooled off to criticize

Delivering criticism when you’re mad isn’t a good idea. Wait until you aren’t so heated to offer criticism. Get together with the LORD, first, and quiet your heart and mind before Him. Spend time in God’s Word, and see what He thinks about the situation. You may be the one who is in the wrong. Your anger may be indicative that you have a problem or sin that you need to confess and you overreacted because of it. Get right with God, and then, if you still need to say something, you’ll deliver higher quality feedback.

Perhaps you don’t have all the facts or information. Make sure you engage in a conversation, if you must criticize, and don’t attack a person.

Wendy Gunn

Do I Criticize my Kids too Harshly so They Feel Attacked? | Your Home For God

Do I Criticize My Kids Too Harshly So They Feel Attacked?

Engage in a conversation, don’t attack a person

Giving critical information should be a conversation. It’s important to allow someone to ask questions and share their perspective, too. Your criticism might feel valid, but there is a chance you don’t have all the facts or information.

Critiques are about issues, not people. Be sure to put your emphasis on the what, not the who, when you are delivering critical feedback. Care more about the person than the problem, and criticize the behavior without attacking the person.

Series on “How to Give and Receive Criticism Like God would want”

Get your Pretty Printable Scripture cards | Your Home For God

Click to Get Your Free Pretty Printable Scripture Cards. Use them all over your house to draw your family closer to the Lord!

Hope you’re having a Great Week Making Your Home For God!

P.S. Check out the resources at Christian Marriage Adventures for better communication and a stronger marriage today! 

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