Handling Harsh Critics

Ya’ll are hands down the most kind, tender, loving and encouraging blog readers a girl could ever have.  I mean that.  I read and appreciate every comment you take the time to write.  You make me laugh, smile, reflect, and press on. 

I look forward to getting up every morning to read, study, and write my blog.  These are some of my most favorite moments of the day.

But every now and then a little squirrely email sneaks its way into my inbox.  (Not from you… squirrely email people don’t read my blog.)

And y’all, my flesh just wants to rise up and tell said squirrel to get a life.  I mean really. 

Of course, that’s not what I say.  But, in those few seconds (minutes) while I’m waiting for the Holy Spirit to reign me in, that’s exactly what I think.

I hope you never have to deal with harsh critics.  I really do.  Unfortunately, some people get high from trying to drag other people low.  I’m not sure why this is.

Isn’t there enough yuck going around in this world where we sisters in Christ can just decide not to add to it? 

I think so.

Truly we have a choice everyday with the words we give to other people.  We can use our words to breathe life into another person or we can use our words to suck the life right out them. 

There is a place to say the hard things sometimes, but we don’t have to be harsh. Even those times can be life-giving if we handle it correctly.  We’ll talk about that tomorrow.

For today, I thought it might be helpful for you to see how I stop the cycle of negativity when someone sends me a harsh criticism. 

1.  Remember, the part from above where I told you about letting the Holy Spirit reign me in.  Yes.  That pause is absolutely necessary.  Heaven help me if I let my first reaction be what spews out.  Spewing causes conflict escalation rather than conflict dissipation.  Proverbs 15:1 is a good verse to remember, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

2.  I try to give a harsh sister the benefit of the doubt. Surely, somewhere tangled within her words, there really is some sort of good intention.  So, if I respond, I will usually start my reply by saying: 

Dear _____________,  Thank you so much for caring enough about me and my ministry to share your thoughts….

Now, sometimes I will choose not to respond.  I trust the Holy Spirit to reveal to me when I should and should not take the time to address a critic.  Sometimes, people will just be mean because they are in the mood to be mean- and nothing I could ever say will make things better.

3.  Just because someone has gotten their feelings all wadded up, doesn’t mean they are right.  However, I challenge myself to see things from her vantage point.  Is there any call to action I can see in this?  How can I make her criticism work for me and not against me?  It’s amazing how the Lord graciously allows me to see a different side of things when I have this perspective. 

I will address the issue at hand from my vantage point while acknowledging any call to action that might be there.  For example:

“It would never be my intention to ______________.  Thank you for helping me see that in the future I might consider__________.”

Sometimes I will further explain myself and help them see things from my vantage point, and sometimes I won’t.  Again, I trust the Holy Spirit to lead me in this.

4.  In the end, giving a gracious response usually negates whatever issue someone has with me.  I can’t tell you the number of times the harshest of critics have wound up apologizing to me after getting a gentle reply.  But no matter the outcome, if I am gentle and respectful, I can always go to bed with a clear conscience.  A great verse to remember is 1 Peter 3:15-17:

“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.”

And all my Jesus girlfriends said, “Amen!”


  1. says

    Amen. 🙂 I’ve come to realize that we can’t walk the path God has for us without getting some rocks tossed at us along the way. Jesus had critics, so we certainly should expect to have a few. Thank you for sharing with us how you’ve learned to handle critics/criticism with grace.

  2. Monica says

    Very good! The Bible verses are so relevant for these situations. Scripture brought to life – thank you for that gift today, Lysa!

  3. Lisa says

    Thanks for this reminder to be gracious and tender in the face of criticism. Seems the Spirit is showing me some things and encouraging me deal with not only words that come but thoughts and attitudes that are hidden in my heart, never expressed but still residing there for a time. I so enjoy reading your blog and navigating around to all the good things P31 has available. What a blessing!

  4. says

    Thanks so much for this incredible insight! The main thing for me to remember is not to spew the first thing out ; ) That is key! I appreciate the time and energy you took to pass on these nuggets of wisdom. Well, these are bigger than nuggets . . . so, I’ll just call them . . . hunks of sweet wisdom. Yes, thank you! I am in the midst of dealing with a harsh critic, and this encouragement is a refreshing drink!

    Thanks for all you do!

  5. Fran says

    Lysa, I just love you so much. I can relate to you in so many ways. You are such a “great communicator!” It seems like many of the problems you encounter…I do as well. Let me know when you are coming back to Iowa again because I will not miss seeing you. You are so inspirting and uplifting. I never miss reading your blog. God bless you and your beautiful family!

  6. Christina says

    Thank you for this…I have a hard time knowing how to respond when someone is not nice with their words. This is great advice and I will take it to heart. Love your blogs!

  7. Marrilee says

    Your harsh comments blog was exactly what i needed today to remind me to use kind words in a family situation that has occurred this week.

  8. says

    This is great. Very helpful knowledge for these types of situations. I am one of many who feel “Keep up the great work”. You are truly a BLESSING!! We Love Ya!!

  9. says

    Hi Lysa,
    I appreciate your wisdom on handling criticism and your willingness to endure it gracefully. I am about to enter a couple of meetings over the next 2 days where I must do the same and was feeling like running away instead of dealing with it. So thanks for encouraging me!
    Jenny 🙂

  10. Vicki Scott says

    Thank you for you insightful examples of responses to harsh comments. I could stand some growth in this area. I really enjoy your blog. Bless you!

  11. Mere Hililan says

    Thanks for sharing this!! I usually see things from the other viewpoint to understand where they are coming from. But I have never attempted to address it by writing a gentle reply. I will try it next time.

  12. says

    Hi lysa,

    Your words is really confirmation in what I have been feeling. I normally spew back, but I realise that it just makes me even more unhappy. So I answer with a gentile answer or say nothing. Actually saying nothing works best, I don’t think I have reached the stage of giving a honest gentle answer yet. I will get there….

  13. says

    Sorry I am late in reading all your messages but I am at the office and I am swamped. But I deal with these people all the time, and I cannot spew anything out. I stay quiet and get my manager to deal with them. Sometimes if he is not here I do handle it,and end the conversation with REMEMBER JESUS LOVES US ALL…that usually makes them even more angry but they just look at me….and then calm down..it works sisters..try it!!!

  14. Darlene says

    Wow! Am I blessed to have joined in reading your blogs or what??? Thank you! There are many many times when I would love to hurl out stuff. But what does stop me is the fact that hurting people hurt people. And I, as a Christian, am supposed to love the unlovable and the hurting. Even when it’s hard. Knowing that when I lay my head down at night that I haven’t given anyone anything to slander me with is something to keep in my heart and head. Thank you, Lysa, for sharing your heart and soul with us. I love it that Christian sisters can be real.

  15. gina says

    How grateful am I, that someone thought enough of me to share your blog; May God richly bless them.

    After struggling w/friendships through the years, I’ve come to rely on God in all that I go through. I must say that after I’ve gotten criticism from “so called Christian friends” I’ve found that by not reacting, and that by going to God in prayer and waiting for an answer from God, is a much better way to approach all situations in my life. I often say to myself…”Why not me?” I pray that God continues to use me, however He so chooses. I pray that the love that I have for Christ, shows in all that I do and say. Thanks you so much for being a blessing to all your readers, Indeed, this is the work of the Lord. God bless you.

  16. says


    I paused to contemplate on what you said about. “We can use our words to breathe life into another person or we can use our words to suck the life right out them”.

    Thank you, Lysa for giving me yet again, another teaching that takes me one step closer, to my quest to be more like Jesus every day.

  17. Ashley says

    Lysa, God bless you for writing this blog. It has always been so hard for me to deal with critical people. I hate it when I think that someone doesnt like me, especially when they do not have any reason to. It makes things even more difficult when the criticism is coming from a family member who happens to go to church with me and who spends their free time gossiping about me to other sisters of the church. I always pray that the Lord will intervene and reveal the truth to those she talks to. Please remember her and I in your prayers. God bless.

  18. relentlessgod says

    Thank you so much for this post–I REALLY needed it. I am the director of the women’s ministry at our church–we have a motto that says REAL WOMEN, REAL LIFE, REAL FAITH. And in choosing to be real (real wife, real mom, real FT job, etc), I speak using those examples of how we live out our faith. 99% are so encouraging, loving & appreciative of the ministry. But that 1% is so shockingly critical & mean-spirited! This happened to me about 3 weeks ago and I am sad to say that I let it derail me for almost a week. A week of emotional energy, time, creativity, and focus wasted on bizarre accusations!! But I am learning to pray for her and then move on with the things God has called me to do. Not easy but necessary. The devil will not accomplish his purposes!