This is part three of a three-part series on constructive criticism. On part one, “How Do You Handle Constructive Criticism?” I talked about how valuable constructive criticism can be in a marriage if it is handled properly. I shared an eye-opening experience I had in my own marriage. And I shared from our experience of ministering to other couples how valuable it is to properly handle constructive criticism.
Then on part two, “Confront Your Spouse with Love” I went into more depth on how to give constructive criticism without doing damage to your spouse and your marriage. I talked about some very important guidelines of what to do, and what not to do when presenting your grievance to your spouse.
Now on this final post, I want to talk about two steps of allowing grace to help and empower you to receive criticism without taking offense. And what you must do once you have listened to what your spouse has to say.
1) You need the grace to listen and consider criticism
All of us have our own inner defense lawyers ready to step in the minute we hear criticism. It’s not an easy thing to hear when your spouse is not happy about something. So it comes naturally to go into a self-protective mode. We will make excuses for our bad behavior. We will try to divert the attention to some other issue in order to take the heat off ourselves. And worst of all we will blame shift, accusing our spouse to be the source of all the wrong that we do.
And this is where we need the grace to step in. It takes the grace of God operating in our lives to be humble enough to shut down our inner defense mechanism and to simply allow some truth to penetrate our false perception of ourselves.
So, here are three keys for receiving criticism with grace.
First be humble enough to listen. Don’t argue and fight back the minute your spouse starts sharing what they have to say. And don’t overpower your spouse with words in an attempt to shut down what they have to say. Also, don’t walk away or use any other form of body language to disrupt what is being said.
Then be willing to really hear what your spouse is saying. Put yourself in their position and allow your spouse to say everything that needs to be said. Keep your mind quiet from everything your inner lawyer wants to say. And keep your attention focused on allowing your spouse to speak freely.
And finally, settle your heart. Don’t allow your spouse’s criticism to be seen as an attack against you. Be big enough to allow what your spouse has to say to be a tool to help you grow into the person God wants you to be. Allow your spouse’s voice to be an instrument of God to bring about change in your life. Or you can say as I often say, “sometimes the voice of the Holy Spirit sounds just like my spouse.”
Next, what you must do once you have listened to what your spouse has to say.
2) It takes grace to confess when you are wrong
Acknowledging your faults is the most vital part of this exchange. Your spouse may not know how to approach the subject with the best of tactfulness. Their words may come across with a bit of a bite or sting. But the important thing is to not react to how they deliver the message, but to acknowledge the legitimacy of the message.
And the way you acknowledge what they have to say is legit is by your own confession of wrongdoing. Simply put you apologize and say you’re sorry with no rebuttals, no defense, and no excuses. And then with prayer before the Lord, make every attempt to change the behavior you need to change.
The act of confessing wrongs should be developed as a regular commitment in every marriage. All of us have faults. We all fail in many ways. It is part of our fallen sinful nature. So instead of trying to always cover our faults as if they don’t exist, we should routinely confess our faults one to another and allow change and growth to take place in our marriages.
Question: Do you struggle with hearing criticism from your spouse? Feel free to share your comments, we love to hear from you.
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