Navigating Criticism and Praise
School life began for our family when we joined three other families in starting Oak Grove Classical Academy. I took on the job of Headmaster, and our oldest son took on the job of being a second grader.
It was a wonderful time each school day driving to and from school in my 1971 Jeep. We would pray on the way to school and lay our day before the Lord. On the way home I would ask him about his day.
One particular day I asked him how his day had gone, and like a pin to a freshly inflated balloon he exploded with a maudlin of emotion. One of the boys at school had called him stupid. I don’t know how I came by my response except that perhaps the Lord responded in the moment to all those petitions for wisdom I had been making. My reply went something like this:
“Son, what is your name?” He answered, rather puzzled as to why I ask.
“What grade are you in?” More puzzlement as he answered.
“What is your favorite color?” He was beginning to figure this was a game of sorts.
I followed with a few more questions about Who He Is and then asked him the “money” question: Did your classmate calling you stupid change anything about you? He gave me an unsatisfied, “No,” but he was listening.
“You see,” I told him, “You are sad about someone calling you stupid when we both know you aren’t. What is really sad is that your classmate has sinned against the Lord. We need to be sad that he is making the choices he’s making. Ultimately the only opinion that matters is the Lord’s.”
He “got it” that day, and we have revisited that incident several times as he has dealt with similar issues. My goal each time these things come up is to show him that what matters most, so much so that everything else almost doesn’t matter, is what God thinks of us.
There is only one opinion that matters when all is said and done, and it is the opinion of the One before whom we will stand to give an account, coram Deo. That is a principle that works for both the positive and the negative.
Sometimes praise is the more dangerous thing with which to deal. When everyone is telling us how great we are, we can be in great danger of believing them! We must always keep in mind Paul’s instructions to the Romans in 12:3: For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.
When we are living by this principle, our motives for doing what we do are sanctified. Instead of striving for the approval of those around us, we can strive as Paul instructed the Colossians: And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him (3:17).
May I encourage you to help your children navigate the waters of praise and criticism?
If they would be saved from their sins and the wrath of our holy God they must ultimately reject all worldly assessments of their worth and by faith acquiring the perfect righteousness of Christ.