The one who is patient calms a quarrel. Proverbs 15:18
Tough words hurt. So my friend—an award-winning author—struggled with how to respond to the criticism he received. His new book had earned five-star reviews plus a major award. Then a respected magazine reviewer gave him a backhanded compliment, describing his book as well-written yet still criticizing it harshly. Turning to friends, he asked, “How should I reply?”
One friend advised, “Let it go.” I shared advice from writing magazines, including tips to ignore such criticism or learn from it even while continuing to work and write.
Finally, however, I decided to see what Scripture—which has the best advice of all—has to say about how to react to strong criticism. The book of James advises, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (1:19). The apostle Paul counsels us to “live in harmony with one another” (Romans 12:16).
An entire chapter of Proverbs, however, offers extended wisdom on reacting to disputes. “A gentle answer turns away wrath,” says Proverbs 15:1. “The one who is patient calms a quarrel” (v. 18). Also, “The one who heeds correction gains understanding” (v. 32). Considering such wisdom, may God help us hold our tongues, as my friend did. More than all, however, wisdom instructs us to “fear the Lord” because “humility comes before honor” (v. 33).
What’s your typical reaction when you’re criticized? In a dispute, what’s a humble way you can guard your tongue?
Dear God, when criticism strikes or a dispute hurts, guard my tongue in humble honor of You.
The wisdom found in the book of Proverbs has similarities to the New Testament book of James, which has been referred to as the “Proverbs of the New Testament.” The words of Proverbs 15:1, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs anger” reflect the wise words of James 1:19–20. From the first to the last chapter of James, allusions to or quotes from the book of Proverbs can’t be missed. Both Proverbs 2:6 and James 1:5 note that God is the source of wisdom. The wisdom of Proverbs 10:12 is heard in James’ final words about “cover[ing] over a multitude of sins” (5:20). And, as with many places in the book of Proverbs, James 3 reminds us that wise living includes the careful use of our words.
Visit ChristianUniversity.org/NT336 to learn more about the book of James.