”Have you ever choked on a criticism sandwich?”

A friend asked this question recently: “Have you ever choked on a criticism sandwich?”. He’d heard my criticism workshop: Criticism Rule. You can click on this link to hear my workshop: How to Accept, Invite, and Enjoy Criticism. It lasts about an hour.

My answer:

Not that I recall. I deflected, denied, and rejected before my conversion to loving criticism. 

After reflecting on my change in attitude toward criticism, here are some observations:

  • A critical statement is either true, false, or mixed.
  • If it’s true, I need to consider changing what needs to be changed.
  • If it’s false, I don’t need to change. I need to decide how to respond in the best way — refute or ignore. Taking time to think about when and how to respond is wise, biblical. (James 1:19)
  • If it’s mixed, I can respond appropriately.

If I am a leader or a “normal” human being, I can expect criticism. There are more than enough critics to go around. I’ve observed by inviting criticism, I get less. When people realize I mean what I say: I will listen, write it down, and think about it, fewer henpeckers will peck. I’m not going to quit, throw a fit, or react in a radical manner. They aren’t going to see a show when they push my button. I’ve deactivated my button.

Having made that commitment, I still get a sinking feeling when I see criticism coming. 

I’m human. There’s a possibility that, although I have practiced, improved, and have a better track record in responding in a positive way, there may be hidden triggers that could result in my quitting, throwing a fit, or reacting in a radical manner.

That would be a disappointment to me, a delight to adversarial critics, and a less than an excellent example to those who watch and respect me.

I try to remember:

  • I’ve been wrong, mistaken, and inadequate in the past and will be again in the future.
  • Anyone who finds salmonella in my refrigerator and tells me about isn’t hurting me. That person is helping me.
  • When someone criticizes me, that means different people have different perspectives.
  • When I listen and respect that person’s right to think differently from me, I’m making deposits in the bank of fairness and patience to do the same when it could be helpful.

There’s a limit. When criticism becomes cruel, it’s time to end it. Watch and hear: When Criticism Is Cruel

What have you found helpful in dealing with criticism? Please comment below:

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Jerrie Barber
Disciple of Jesus, husband, grandfather, preacher, barefoot runner, ventriloquist

4 Responses to “”Have you ever choked on a criticism sandwich?”

  • What I have found helpful: 1) EXPECT criticism (it’s a part of life/ministry), 2) Sometimes the folks who criticize the loudest are the people who THINK they know more about how to do your work than you do (even though they’ve never done my job before), 3) Take a deep breath and slowly/silently let it out because the criticism MIGHT not be as bad as you’ve anticipated, 4) Even when you’ve done your VERY BEST and carried out your work according to Scripture, you’ll still receive criticism, 5) It takes a LONG time to learn how to eat and ENJOY a criticism sandwich (i.e., kinda like learning to enjoy boiled okra – it’s an acquired taste). NOTE: I ate so much slippery boiled okra when I was a boy, I can’t keep my socks up today). 6) If I can listen to the criticism with a heart to LEARN, it doesn’t taste as bad going down. Listening with a heart to learn often tells me: a) the criticism I’m receiving REALLY ISN’T about the criticism at all – it’s about something else all together, b) there may actually be SOME tidbit of truth in the criticism which is correct and that I need to heed and consume. 7) Folks TYPICALLY would rather GIVE criticism (i.e., offer a sandwich) than they would like to RECEIVE (and eat) criticism. 8) A lot of times criticism doesn’t come from the initial criticiz(er), rather it comes through someone the criticizer has been talking to about me. I find this funny in an odd sort of way. The real critic can break biblical precept (and talk ABOUT me to others – i.e., gossip, slander), which the critic believes is perfectly Scriptural (Mat. 18:15; Luke 17:3-4), but my alleged sin/wrongdoing is not acceptable. MY SIN (WRONG!); HIS SIN of slander (GOOD!). 9) Jesus was perfect and folks said he was a) “a friend of tax collectors and sinners” (Lk. 7:34), b) “a glutton and a winebibber” (Mat. 11:19), c) “casting out demons by the power of Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons” (Mat. 12:24), d) a speaker of blasphemies (Lk. 5:21), e) a lawbreaker/violator of sacred tradition (Mk. 2:24), et. al. IF HE WAS SINLESS AND STILL RECEIVED CRITICISM, AND I AM CERTAINLY NOT SINLESS MYSELF, I shouldn’t be surprised when I receive criticism too (Jn. 15:20).

    • Jerrie W. Barber
      3 years ago


      Good observations.

      Thank you for sharing.

  • John Hammond
    3 years ago

    Jerrie, thank you for sharing the lesson on criticism. I believe it may be helpful to me in bringing two relatives closer together that seem to be at an impasse in their relationship. Contrary to some of others’ opinions of you that you shared during this presentation, I have always enjoyed the lessons I have heard from you.

    • Jerrie W. Barber
      3 years ago


      Thank you for reading and responding.

      I pray your peacemaking efforts will be a blessing to those involved.