“Correct the wise, and they will love you.”
Proverbs 9:8 (CEB)
As far as I can discern from research, there is no word in either the Hebrew or Greek Scripture texts that could be correctly translated to mean the English word criticism. It simply does not appear anywhere in the Scriptures.
The word rebuke or correct does appear. Its various meanings, as in Proverbs 9:8—Correct the wise, and they will love you—carries the meaning of: to reason together, to decide, to argue, to reprove, to plead with, to rebuke, to convince. I think that most wise and reasonable people would indeed appreciate a true friend or knowledgeable person helping them by correcting them when they are heading toward danger or going down an unwise road. I know I have appreciated this, in my own life.
But criticism? I used to follow the advice, often given, that when criticism is aimed at us, we can try to self-examine or learn from it. And perhaps we might, here or there. But not always. Not even usually. Because criticism is, with only a few exceptions as to meaning, an inherently fault-finding word in English.
The English dictionary defines criticism as: tending to find fault, fault-finding, often denoting emphasis on shortcomings… criticism is the general term for finding fault with or disapproving of a person… ”. And so forth. The rest of the definitions don’t improve the standing of this fault-finding, comparison-oriented negative word. I’m thinking it’s something we should not be engaging in.
Miriam Adahan, a wonderful Jewish writer, says that all the millions of criticisms can be reduced to five major categories and they are as follows: “You are… evil, stupid, uncaring, crazy, or a failure.” Not a pretty five words to hurl at another person.
So I’m thinking we should forego criticism altogether. Both the giving of it and the receiving of it. We should stick with reasoning, correcting and convincing. And sometimes, yes, rebuking. A wise person, if that correction is given well, will forever thank you and even love your effort. They will hear you. An unwise person? The rest of the verse addresses that, too:
“Don’t correct a scoffer, lest he hate you. Correct the wise, and they will love you.”