Well, the truth is, it’s our natural reaction to try to defend ourselves in the face of critique. Our hearts wonder why that person doesn't see all the righteousness you possess.
Many of us go to one of two extremes—we push the person away (“You’re dead to me”) or we spend crazy amounts of energy trying to defend ourselves (“I’ll help them see how great I really am!”). Let me suggest another approach.
What would it look like to let the gospel inform how we respond to critique? We might still conclude that they don't see everything clearly, but not because it's better than they see, but instead it's worse! Let texts like Gen 6:5 (“The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually”) and Jeremiah 17:9 (“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”) inform our response.
In other words we might say something like—“You’re only seeing part of my heart. If you saw fully what was in my heart, then you’d really have something to critique!”
Isn't that refreshing? Drop the mission to defend yourself. You no longer have to reject those people for their ignorance. Realize your heart does still have yearnings for sin and you may be blind to some of its effects.
The only way we’ll get there, though, is if we see Jesus’ work as sufficient. If His work of providing all our righteousness was sufficient then we don't have to worry about trying to provide our own. I need a savior because I am a wretched sinner. It runs deeper than I even perceive.
I don't have to defend myself and make sure everyone thinks well of me. Perhaps this critique, right or wrong, is an opportunity to be reminded of my desperate need for Jesus. Maybe this person is His gracious reminder of how desperately I need Him. Now you can smile at those critiquers and say, “God has really used you in my life. Thank you.” And then maybe add something like, “And there is a great church down the street that could really use someone like you…”