Compliments and Criticism—The Difference May Surprise You

Compliments and Criticism—The Difference May Surprise You

by Wayne Stiles

The trouble with most of us,” someone once said, “is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.”That’s really true. Go ahead, ruin me.

vivozoom 67575961 w 2 Compliments and Criticism—The Difference May Surprise You

(Photo by diego_cervo, via Vivozoom )

The truth is, we can work ruin by either extreme:

  1. Give nothing but compliments.
  2. Offer only criticism.

Words that compliment and words of criticism both strike like arrows, and they seldom miss their mark.

But the huge difference between them can be surprising.

A compliment-only person ruins by flattery.

Here we see the truth of the Bible fleshed out:

“A man who flatters his neighbor is spreading a net for his steps.”—Proverbs 29:5

Often we mean well, but we need more courage to speak the truth in love.

  • By avoiding the negative and only mentioning the positive, we can actually contribute to the ruin of another.
  • Affirmation is great! But our silence toward a friend in error contributes to their error, and ultimately, to their loss.

But then there’s the other extreme.

A critical person disregards timing and tone.

Because the motive of the critic is self, the best time to share is always now. Boy, we struggle with this, don’t we?

  • Our manner is usually unkind, and occasionally, even rude.
  • When we are critical all the time, we ARE trying to improve others—but not because we actually give a rip—but in order to remove what we perceive as irritating.
  • It’s all about self.

A concerned person balances compliments, criticisms, timing, and tone.

True concern wants to see the other person grow in character and influence. That’s why we share from a motive of love. Two examples:

  1. Consider our children. We affirm the behavior we see in them that we desire, but we also discipline them when we see what we don’t desire. Both are essential. But so is the motive—and so is the timing. If there’s nothing but harsh and angry criticism we break their spirit—and we invite their rebellion (mark that well). If there’s nothing but praise they never learn to tame their selfishness. Because King David “never crossed [his son] at any time by asking, ‘Why have you done so?’” David was partly to blame for this son’s tragic death (1 Kings 1:6).
  2. Consider our spouses or close friends. Words of affirmationshould be the normal environment for close relationships (Song of Songs 1:3). But honesty about weaknesses also needs addressing.

If you truly care for someone, you will address a repeated fault with kindness and concern. Proper timing and tone are essential. Prepare your heart with prayer. Speak the truth in love.

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend.”—Proverbs 27:6

It is not love to silently watch a friend or family member drown in alcohol or destructive behavior. Love doesn’t sit idly by while someone wastes life away.

Love will intervene, but then, love will also commit it to prayer. Even the truth spoken in love again and again can harden the heart of the hearer to it. Give them time to grow. We don’t want our words—be they compliments or criticisms—to get in the way.

For in the end, only God changes people.

Question: How do you balance the tension between compliments and criticism? 

About ptl2010

Jesus Christ is coming soon

6 Responses to Compliments and Criticism—The Difference May Surprise You

  1. ptl2010 says:

    Reblogged this on ChristianBlessings and commented:

    As we near our anniversary date, it is time for a review. It is my practice to conduct self reviews periodically. I would encourage those I work with to do likewise. A review conducted under the glare of The Holy Spirit is most helpful as He it is Who gives us wisdom and discernment to receive the true perspectives of any situation – we would accept what draws us closer to The Lord and put away what pulls us away from Himself. May The Lord help us with discernment and the will to glorify our Lord, to grow deeper and higher in the love of Jesus and to grow more fruitful together with all the rest here as we stand united against the enemy. Amen.

  2. Pingback: Compliments and Criticism—The Difference May Surprise You « Inspirational Christian Blogs

  3. Rob Barkman says:

    We can always find something good, or critical, about what others say or do. No one is perfect, nor totally incompetent. Whether to compliment or criticize someone must be decided on many different criteria…. one of which must be discerning the nature of the one to whom we are speaking.
    For some who constantly doubt themselves and are easily discouraged…. for the most part needs encouragement not criticism. The opposite is true for those who are heady and highminded.

    Lord bless.

  4. writinggomer says:

    Excellent article. It can be hard to balance these two out, and it can be hard to do the positive at all when one has very difficult children or a troubled relationship, or marriage. Thank you for a great article.


  5. As one who suffered mental abuse for the first 22 years of my life, I know first hand the power of constant criticism.

    As a worker in children’s and youth ministry for several decades, my one aim (apart from spiritual aims, that is) was to ‘add value’ to the child/teen. Of course, this can only be done with TRUTHFUL compliments and must be balanced with positive discipline. Spoiled (over-complimented) children were often harder to reach than the ones who had little self worth.

    As a mother, I always encouraged my five sons to do better. On all of their school books was the ditty: “Good, better, best. Never let it rest until your good is better, and your better is best” If their work wasn’t up to scratch, I let them know, but not in a way which was critical, but rather encouraging and asserting their abilities. Any criticism was always introduced with a compliment – a true compliment of course.

    I am so thankful that my amazing God always lets me know when I am not ‘up to scratch’ and He also lets me know when He is pleased.

  6. ptl2010 says:

    For in the end, only God changes people.
    Amen. For He alone truly sees our hearts and knows what is best for us. .

    O for that wisdom from above…to think, say, do what is right in God’ s sight – to God, others and self…just the right thing, words, time, balance to bless and not to curse. Lord please help us!

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