The section of Proverbs from 6:23 – 27:6 has some profound things to say about receiving criticism. One theme of this passage is to warn against living for the praise of others.
The wise man (including the wise child) is motivated by the fear of God and the pursuit of wisdom (Proverbs 1;7; 3:11-18). When we are motivated by the praise of others we lose the ability to be Biblically objective. This is an important lesson for children to grasp. A little boy who craves praise may well grow into a husband who will be angry or disappointed when he receives criticism. The same child may become discouraged and even depressed when he believes he is not being appreciated. Here is the warning: if you live for praise your life will not be productive. Let’s see how these four verses illustrate this.
Like a coating of glaze over earthenware
are fervent lips with an evil heart.
The glaze over a piece of earthenware may conceal some inward flaws. This analogy shows that fervent lips (smooth lips) conceal an evil heart. Don’t trust smooth sounding praises; they often cover an evil intent.
A lying tongue hates those it hurts,
and a flattering mouth works ruin.
In this proverb flattery is likened to a lying tongue. Don’t trust flattery. Flattery brings disaster upon those who listen to it as well upon the flatterer. Older children will often attempt to manipulate younger children by using flattery. It is a kindness to prepare your children for this eventuality of life.
Let another praise you, and not your own mouth;
someone else, and not your own lips.
This proverb instructs the wise man to not seek praise from those close to him. Both Bruce Waltke and Tremper Longman, in their respective commentaries on Proverbs, translate this verse:
Let a stranger and not your own mouth praise you, an outsider and not your own lips.
It is not a good thing to be constantly looking for praise. It is too easy for us to drop hints that we would really like some appreciation for our efforts. When you hear something like, “Mommy, it took me all day and I had to give up what I really wanted to do, but I just wanted to do this for you anyway,” you are hearing a child preoccupied with praise. The use of the word stranger indicates that if a man really is focused on honoring God, even a stranger will hear of his wisdom and bring praise when it is least expected. There is no need to prompt others to herald our praises.
You shouldn’t trust the lying tongue of flattery, but you should “let another praise you and not your own mouth.” How do you distinguish between flattery and legitimate praise?
Wounds from a friend can be trusted,
but an enemy multiplies kisses.
This last proverb sums it up. Although we can’t trust the flattery and praise of others, we should trust the hard things we hear. For example, if children are to be growing to wisdom and maturity they must learn to welcome the difficult things they need to hear—the wounds from a friend. If a child is looking for praise he will not welcome his friend’s criticism. But constructive criticism (even when it hurts) that comes from parents and friends is to be welcomed. Why? Because a child who is motivated by the fear of the Lord and the pursuit of wisdom will rejoice at information that will make him a better son.
So there is no need to fear the criticism of others. Because the wise man is dominated by his love of God and wisdom he takes every opportunity to grow in these areas. How valuable are the wounds of a friend to you and to your children? Such wounds are gifts from God.
Does your child have friends who give him “faithful wounds”? Do you? How do you respond when a friend gives you such a wound? Does your reaction discourage him from ever doing it again? What are your children learning from your responses to faithful wounds?
Are you a friend who is willing to give loving wounds? If not, what holds you back? This is also an important lesson to impart to your kids.
By Jay Younts
“Preparing Your Children for Criticism” used by permission. © 2014 Shepherd Press.
“Instruments of Torture” © 2008 Angela, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/.