Ann Farabee: Criticism hurts

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 4, 2023

By Ann Farabee

Clearly, it was not said to encourage. The young student looked at me and asked this question, “Why are you so fat?” I was pregnant at the time, so I had an excuse. Not that I needed one.

A sixth-grade boy was speaking to a sixth-grade girl: “Why are you wearing that ugly bow in your hair?” Negative attention had been brought to something the young girl had considered to be beautiful, but no amount of compliments would be enough to reel her in from the embarrassment and hurt she felt from that one comment. A bow carefully placed in her hair that morning may have felt beautiful, but one negative remark took that feeling away.

Negative comments. The damage can be irreversible. The child or adult can back away, try to blend in, laugh it off or use any conceivable method of dealing with it, but the truth is criticism hurts. Sometimes it hurts forever.

I have seen children not want to go to school or not want to go home because of it.

I have seen teenagers not want to go to church because of it.

I have seen adults become so offended that they shut down because of it.

Do our negative thoughts always have to be said aloud? Can we not just keep them in our minds and not let them slip out of our mouths?

The word criticism is defined as expressing disapproval or speaking negatively about someone or something. More simply stated, criticism is saying something bad about someone or something.

Without the help of the Holy Spirit, we can be masters of negativity and criticism.

A child was sitting alongside her father during a teacher conference. The parent saw one grade on the report card he did not like, and yelled at his daughter, “What’s wrong with you?”

She and I looked at each other, and as I saw tears forming in her eyes, I think she saw the grief forming in mine.

What a waste of a parenting opportunity to show love and support to their child.

It was all I could do to hold in these words to the parent, “What’s wrong with you?”

James 4:11 says, “Do not speak evil against one another.”

Psalm 19:14 says, “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, Lord.”

There are times when difficult conversations must take place, but with God’s Word to guide us, even those conversations can be held without criticism and with words spoken in love.

Most of the time, hurtful words could have — and should have — been left unsaid.

One year, as my fourth-grade students were preparing for the state writing test, we took a list of words we did not need to use repetitively to the playground, where we buried them. The next school year, a new school building had been built on top of our list, so I suppose those words are buried forever.

Maybe we should bury all those critical words we tend to use?

Maybe we should bury them in such a deep place that they are no longer accessible?

Maybe we can find better words to use instead?

Lord, may our words and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable in your sight. Amen

Ann Farabee is a teacher, writer and speaker. Contact her at or

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