It is impossible to navigate your way through this life without coming under criticism. Admittedly … sometimes we do stupid things and deserve a reproof, but more often than not, the words are unjustified, harsh and destructive.
As a writer, I’d love to tell you that I’ve learned to completely ignore all the negative, unkind comments about my writing, my heritage and my personhood. That would be a lie.
However, I have learned to weigh out the criticism in terms of content and source to help determine how much time I should spend on it, and this verse from Proverbs has those keys.
The Message renders the verse this way: Prayerful answers come from God-loyal people; the wicked are sewers of abuse. Let’s break this one down.
Consider the source of the criticism. Does it come from someone dedicated to a life that honors God and His commands? Does it come from someone who demonstrates love for other believers in general and you in particular? Do they seek to help you further your unique kingdom work? If the answer is “no” or “I don’t know,” then do the Frozen thing, and Let It Go.
Consider what preceded the criticism. Were the words weighed carefully, or spoken without thought? Are they words of God-sanctioned wisdom or are they filled with emotion?
Sewers of abuse
Wow, what a word picture. A sewer both channels and collects storm water … or worse. Some people both channel and collect abusive, hurtful words. Scripture rightly calls them wicked, and unfortunately, believers can behave just as wickedly as those who have never heard the name of Jesus.
Take note of those who criticize you. Do they constantly berate and belittle others? If so, they may be channeling and collecting what they hear about themselves. That doesn’t excuse their words against us, but it may help us respond with compassion.
None of this is to say that we are all above reproach and any words said against us are wicked and originate from rank sinners. A good rule of thumb is to weigh the criticism against how much the critic has demonstrated love for you. No love means that after the initial sting, you let the words go. Then wisdom would say that you give careful consideration to the words of someone who loves you deeply.
Furthermore, God’s words, even when they are challenging, get the most weight. They are always motivated by His great love for us and His desire for our Christlikeness.