Raise your hand if you love receiving criticism. FYI, I’m not raising my hand over here. I hate criticism. I hate being wrong. Most of us do. It’s a pride problem. It’s a sin issue.
I witnessed an exchange earlier this week where a person, in Christian circles, received what was some very valid and constructive criticism on a recent book they had published, and rather than reflect on the actual feedback, said person called out the critics in a very dismissive way. (Yes I’m being intentionally vague. No I won’t tell you who or what was being criticized. That’s not my point here.)
It made me stop and think about criticism, feedback, correction . . . whatever name you wish to give it . . . and how I handle it. Do I take criticism well? Do I stop and ask myself if it’s valid and helpful? Or do I dig in my heels and insist I’m right?
Because the reality is criticism that is constructive has both a place and a purpose.
Criticism is not always a dirty word. Can it be damaging if given with the wrong intentions? Absolutely. But it can also be something that affects great change if used and given wisely.
Criticism gives us the opportunity to reflect and work toward meaningful change.
Criticism can often be protective. Especially in instances where we are leaders . . . sometimes we must both criticize in a constructive manner and receive criticism in order to protect those around us . . . those we are leading. We must be both discerning and wise about what and who we let in, and often times, that discernment can be perceived as having a critical spirit to those who disagree with us. Further, if we are above receiving and reflecting on constructive feedback, then we are below being a leader.
There’s a vast difference in being a fault finder . . . a complainer . . . or as we would say in Christian circles, having a critical spirit, and issuing criticism when it is necessary and needed.
Likewise, there’s a vast difference in coming under condemnation, which is neither helpful nor good and allowing constructive criticism to be a vehicle for positive change.
As I said in the beginning, I’m not a fan of criticism, correction, or feedback, but that issue is typically with me and not the person giving it. There are times, when, yes, people are critical just for the sake of being critical, but there are also times when someone is genuinely trying to be helpful in what they are saying . . . where that person is looking to help me see a different perspective. And rather than get in a huff the moment criticism comes, I am learning, albeit very slowly and not always super well, to stop and pray and ask the Holy Spirit if what is being said is valid. To listen rather than immediately respond and defend myself . . . to reflect on what is being said and why. Because if the criticism has merit, getting offended is only going to cause more harm than good.
I am also learning to pray for discernment and stand by what I feel God is teaching and telling me knowing full well that if ever I’m in error, He will show me. Yes, sometimes that means that people will be angry. Sometimes that means that people will walk away, but as long as I’m speaking the truth in love, at the end of the day, I answer only to God.
In Galatians 2:11-21, Paul openly tells the Galatians that he confronted Peter when he felt Peter was wrong. It wasn’t that Paul was aiming to humiliate Peter, but what Peter had done and said lead others astray. Paul had a responsibility to publicly correct that. I’m sure there were those that wondered if it was really necessary for Paul to call Peter out as he did. It was. In order to further God’s kingdom, and correct erroneous teachings, it was absolutely necessary.
There are two scriptures, from the same chapter of God’s word, that I think are so important to both giving and receiving constructive criticism.
“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly, but the mouth of fools pours forth foolishness.” Proverbs 15:1-2
May the words I say always be said in a way that turns away wrath. May they bring peace and healing even while they are bringing correction.
“The ear that hears the rebukes of life will abide among the wise. He who disdain despises his own soul, but he who heeds rebuke gets understanding.” Proverbs 15:31-32
May I receive rebuke, reproof, in a way that brings both understanding and life even when, in the moment, it may feel unpleasant and uncomfortable.
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