Wednesday, October 12, 2022

How to Handle Criticism

I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.” – Acts 24:16

Two taxidermists stopped in front of a store window in which a great horned owl was on display. They immediately began to criticize the way it was mounted: “Its eyes don’t look natural. Its wings are out of proportion with its head. Its feathers are matted, and its feet could be improved.” When they had finished with their criticism, the old owl turned his head ... and winked at them.

Evidently, even an owl minding his own business is not above negative criticism. Sooner or later, you’re going to be criticized by a family member, friend, coworker or neighbor. And if you find yourself in a significant position of leadership, you’ll likely have criticism coming at you from all sides.

Sometimes the best response to criticism is no response at all. During the Civil War President Abe Lincoln told one of his military officers, “If I were to try to read, much less answer, all the attacks made on me, this shop might as well be closed for any other business. I do the very best I know how—the very best I can, and I mean to keep doing so until the end. If the end brings me out all right, what is said against me won’t amount to anything.” These words so impacted British Prime Minister Winston Churchill that he mounted them on his office wall.

Yes, there are times when we shouldn’t respond to criticism. But what about the times when we NEED to respond? In those cases, there is no better place to turn for advice than Acts 24. In the city of Caesarea, as the Apostle Paul stood in the courtroom of Governor Felix, he was given the opportunity to respond to the harsh criticism and accusations leveled against him by his critics. And he responded masterfully. We would do well to take note of and mirror Paul’s seven guidelines for responding to harsh criticism.

GUIDELINE #1: REFUSE TO BE CAUGHT UP IN THE EMOTION OF THE CRITICISM. As Paul begins his defense in verse 10, he doesn’t let his emotions take the lead. So, ask yourself: “When I am harshly criticized, do I tend to respond more like Dr. Spock from Star Trek or more like the Incredible Hulk? Do I respond to criticism with a level head, or do I tend to lose my head? Strive to respond to criticism like Paul … calmly and rationally.

GUIDELINE #2: STICK TO THE FACTS. In verses 11-13, Paul presents the facts of his case. He respectfully points out that there’s not a single eyewitness among his prosecutors. Their accusations and criticism are nothing other than speculation and hearsay. So, when responding to criticism, do what Paul does: Stick to the facts.

GUIDELINE #3: TELL THE TRUTH WITH A CLEAR CONSCIENCE. In verse 16, Paul mentions his efforts to maintain a clear conscience in the sight of both God and man. That’s significant! He wasn’t a religious snob who said, “To heck with man’s laws! I only pay attention to God’s laws!” On the other hand, he didn’t just do everything that was right by man but wrong by God. So, when you’re under attack, you may not think speaking the truth will pay off in the end, but it will. “The truth will set you free.”

GUIDELINE #4: IDENTIFY THE ORIGINAL SOURCE OF THE CRITICISM. Paul respectfully points out in verse 19 that those who had first made accusations against him in Jerusalem were nowhere to be found on court day. Where were they? Who knows? Criticism tends to come from people who are the least qualified to give it. So, when responding to criticism, it’s a good idea to identify the original source of the criticism. 

GUIDELINE #5: DON’T SURRENDER OR QUIT. Paul’s prison sentence in Caesarea lasts more than two years. Think about that for a moment. The charges against him are unsubstantiated hearsay. He’s never convicted of a crime. And we learn in verse 26 that Governor Felix leaves Paul in jail for a very selfish reason: He’s hoping Paul will offer him a bribe! No matter. Paul refuses to compromise his integrity by throwing in the towel and taking the easy way out. And it pays off in the end. Paul eventually makes it to Rome.

GUIDELINE #6: DON’T BECOME IMPATIENT OR GROW BITTER. Instead of growing bitter while under house arrest, Paul takes the opportunity to serve Jesus Christ right there. And it’s most likely during his two-year incarceration in Caesarea that his missionary companion, Dr. Luke, is able to conduct interviews and do the research necessary to later write the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts. I am very grateful for these two books of the Bible and for Paul’s no-retreat-no-surrender attitude that helped pave the way for them to be written.

GUIDELINE #7: STAND ON THE PROMISES OF GOD. Because Paul knew that God’s promises are as good as gold, he didn’t need to be anxious or worry about his unforeseen roadblock in Caesarea. God had promised him that he’d make it to Rome, so no matter how long and drawn out his incarceration was, he knew he would eventually make it to Rome. God had said so. So, when you are harshly criticized, hold onto the promises of God. Paul was able to endure some of the harshest criticism imaginable as he stood firmly on the promises of God. And so can you.

Dane Davis is the pastor of Impact Christian Church in Victorville. Pastor Dane’s latest book (Called to Persevere: One Man’s Journey to Overcome Pain, Disease and Disappointment with God) is NOW available at Amazon. For more information, visit or



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