Ralbag (Rabbi Levi ben Gershon, 1288-1344, Provence)
It is appropriate for a person to take heed of good advice and forsake his own approach when it is not as good. For indeed, Moses, our teacher of blessed memory, notwithstanding his perfection and wisdom, put aside his own approach in the face of Yitro’s advice—since it was better!”
How do we respond to criticism and rebuke? Why do we respond that way?
The Rebbe Rashab (1860-1920) Heichaltzu: Chapter XI
... He will minimize the worth of the other person’s service and scorn and negate his positive qualities. When he sees that another person possesses a fault albeit a superficial one which does not at all affect the main body of his service he will magnify it, speaking about it often, and humiliating him. Should he discover a character flaw in his fellow [which is inevitable,] for “who is so righteous as to have no flaws?” he will say that this [flaw] proves that any good his fellow possesses is really of no consequence. He will exaggerate the evil to the point where any good [the person possesses] will be unnoticeable...
Why does it bother me so much if others point out flaws I know I have or mistakes I know I have made?
Rabbi M. M. Shneersohn (Tzemach Tzedek 1789-1866)
The Prohibition Against Hating One’s Fellow
The Mitzvah of Loving One’s Fellow
[Our Sages’ teaching that] “A person sees no flaw within himself” does not mean that a person is completely unaware of his shortcomings. On the contrary, he may be aware of and comprehend the depths of his deficiency even more than another person. For someone else perceives only what is visible to the eye, while he discerns what is in [the depths of] his own heart. Instead, the intent [of the Talmudic adage] is that his fault is not important to him and does not disturb him.
It is as if he does not see it at all, for his great self-love covers all his shortcomings, shielding them from above. [Though intellectually aware of his deficiencies,] this knowledge will not evoke any emotional response. Accordingly, his shortcomings give him no cause to be concerned. He does not see any faults within himself, because they are submerged in— and nullified by— his intense self-love, [which] shields them from above.
[Now,] when another person points out his fault and understands it, he becomes very angry, even though he himself is well aware [that what the person says] is true. Essentially, his anger is not aroused by the fault itself, [i.e., he does not feel] that the other person is mistaken in his judgment [and is suspecting him of a nonexistent defect], for he knows [what the person says] is true. Instead, it is the other’s perception of his defect that inflames his ego and [causes him] agitation. In contrast, when he himself knows of it, his self-love conceals it. He becomes enraged at his colleague for bringing it out in the open, i.e., for revealing his flaw from the concealed and unperceived state to which his self-love [had relegated it]. For now, as far as his friend is concerned, it has become a tangible and substantive [shortcoming].
On this basis, [we can appreciate Hillel’s statement]: “What is hateful to you” — i.e., [having one of your shortcomings] revealed — “do not do to your fellow” — do not expose his faults and imperfections, whether in worldly matters, in his relations with others, or in his spiritual behavior. [Do not make them] noticeable and concrete. Instead, let your love for him be so great that it covers his flaws and does not permit your intellectual awareness of them to evoke an emotional response.
The importance of accepting criticism
Rabbeinu Yona (Shaarei Teshuva 2:10)
Listen well, surrender yourself, and return in repentance when you are admonished by sages and those who criticize you. Take each word of criticism to heart without exception. By doing that, you will go from darkness to great light in an instant. For if you listen and internalize… repent and take the words of those who criticize you to heart… your repentance will take effect, and you will become an entirely different person. In fact, the very moment you accept these words in such a way in your mind and take them to heart, you will earn the merit and reward of all the mitzvot and admonishments.
So search hard for those who would offer you criticism from that day on and learn from whoever will teach you…
"Remove the barriers from your heart" (Deut. 10:16) A person's heart must be soft and receptive, receiving the words of a reprover and not hating him, rather loving him more, as the verse says: “Rebuke the wise one and he will love you” (Proverbs 9:8).
Hayom Yom Sivan 12
My revered father, the Rebbe [Rashab], writes in a letter: “Love criticism, for it will place you on a truly high level.”
If the person criticising is very flawed themselves, how should we respond?
The Rebbe, Rabbi M. M. Shneersohn (1902 – 1994)
The words of our Sages in the Mishnah are clear and concise. Thus, the Mishnah emphasizes, “Who is wise? He who learns something from every person.” The rule that the Mishnah establishes here is that the definition of a wise man is one who learns from each and every person. This means that if he is in the presence of ten people and from only nine of them does he learn a lesson, not only is he not considered great in wisdom, but he is not a wise man at all! (Toras Menachem 5745, Vol. 2, p. 984)
If after careful honest contemplation the rebuke is totally undeserved how should we respond?
The Rebbe, Rabbi M. M. Shneersohn (1902 – 1994)
How does one understand the words of the Mishnah: “Who is wise? He who learns from every person?
The Baal Shem Tov explains: If there are those about whom we cannot find a positive trait from which to learn, we can learn from their conduct what to avoid and how not to behave. This, too, is considered as having learned from them.
The Baal Shem Tov teaches us that G‑d does everything for the good. So, too, even one who behaves badly has been sent to us to strengthen our ability and commitment to shun evil (Toras Menachem, Vol. 28, p. 238).