Q: I know I shouldn't get upset when people criticize me, but I just can't help it. Even when I know they're wrong, it still upsets me and sends me into an emotional tailspin. How can I learn to handle criticism? — Mrs. M.S.
A: I doubt if anyone likes to be criticized, particularly when they know it isn't deserved. (That's one reason, incidentally, why we should be very careful about criticizing others.) The Bible condemns those who have "tongues as sharp as a serpent's; the poison of vipers is on their lips" (Psalm 140:3).
But criticism is part of life, and the real question, as you say, is how to deal with it. Let me make two suggestions. First, ask God to help you become less sensitive to what others say. Some of what they say actually may not even be intended as criticism, but you take it as such.
Don't focus, however, on what others may or may not think of you. Focus instead on what God thinks of you — and rejoice in it. After all, when we commit our lives to Jesus Christ we become God's dearly loved children. Find your security and comfort in this great truth.
The Bible wisely says, "Do not pay attention to every word people say" (Ecclesiastes 7:21).
Second, ask God to help you be an encourager. Criticism tears people down; encouragement builds them up. Learning to encourage others won't only keep you from focusing on yourself, but it will help others. The Bible says, "The tongue of the wise brings healing" (Proverbs 12:18).
Remember: Jesus knew what it was to undergo unjust criticism. It even sent him to the cross. But he refused to let it get him down, continuing instead on the path God had set for him. May that be true of us.
Q: I've been an officer in our church for several years, but I've decided to resign. Recently, I realized that my only reason for being an officer was so people would admire me, and I know that's not right. But how should I explain this? — R. McK.
A: You don't say how you came to realize that your motives weren't right, but I'm thankful you did, because God doesn't bless us when we do things out of pride or only to bring glory to ourselves. God has said, "I will not yield my glory to another" (Isaiah 42:8).
But no matter how you came to understand this, I believe God was actually working behind the scenes to help you understand this about yourself. One of the tasks of the Holy Spirit is to convict us of sin, and this is what has happened to you.
But why did he do this for you? He did it not only so you'd realize your motives have been wrong, but so you would repent and put Christ, and not yourself, at the center of your life.
Instead of resigning, therefore, my prayer is that you will humble yourself before God, confessing your pride, and asking him to cleanse you and help you begin to serve Christ — and Christ alone. God has given you the gift of leadership. Otherwise you wouldn't have been elected to this office. Now ask him to help you use that gift for his glory.
The key is to let Jesus Christ be your example. He was God, but he humbled himself for our sake, even dying on the cross for our sins. The Bible says, "In your relationships with one another, have the same mind-set as Christ Jesus: Who ... made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant" (Philippians 2:5-7).
(Send your queries to "My Answer," c/o Billy Graham, Billy Graham Evangelistic Assn., 1 Billy Graham Parkway, Charlotte, N.C., 28201; call 1-(877) 2-GRAHAM, or visit the web site for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Assn.: http://www.billygraham.org.)