“Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
While we’re on the subject of criticism it is important to note that some is warranted. Where would we be if no one ever pointed out our faults or shortcomings? I believe what makes this sort of assessment difficult is when the fault-finding is delivered from people who matter.
The critique that hurts the most comes from those important to us, but that doesn’t always make it wrong. The question I ask today is this: When should we listen and when should we ignore? Which criticism counts and which don’t?
Following, is the advice given by John C. Maxwell, a respected expert in the field of leadership who authored the book from which I gather this information, Put Your Dreams to the Test.
Later I will give ten benefits criticism can have on our life, but first, listed below are Maxwell’s five tips on when to heed the advice of a critic:
1) You are unconditionally loved by the one who criticizes you.
2) The criticism is not tainted by his or her personal agenda.
3) The person is not naturally critical of everything.
4) The person will continue giving support after giving advice.
5) He or she has knowledge and success in the area of the criticism.
This is a good list and one I believe I’ve used while building my business, even though I may not have been consciously aware that I was. Coming from someone who’s generally defensive (this happens to people who struggle with their worth and value), the ability to accept and receive criticism is a continual battle for me.
I absolutely hate being appraised or evaluated. I hate being told I’m wrong. In fact, I have to assess how much I try to live a “careful” life just to avoid these horrible encounters.
If you’re someone who struggles with criticism just write a book and try to get it published.
Or how about you start a business with no financial or administrative experience? The last ten years of my life I’ve tried to learn how to receive and accept corrections, edits, rejections and rebuttals. I don’t feel like I’m any better today than I was four thousand days ago, but I’m trying.
I’ve learned that it “takes a village.” Now that I’m an author, when I enjoy someone else’s book I read the acknowledgements because I totally get it, where I had no clue before. The people who help us become successful are astonishingly important. Absolutely no one living or dead is or has been successful by themselves. Even God has the Trinity. As hard as criticism can feel, it really does have its benefits!
Top Ten Benefits of Criticism:
1) Personal Growth
We all need improving, but it’s not easy taking an honest look at ourselves. By making the choice to look for seeds of truth in another’s assessment, we can grow in humility and give ourselves and opportunity to improve where we need strengthening.
2) Expanded Perspective
Through active listening (not just waiting to say what you want to say), we have an opportunity to consider an option or opinion that we never would have thought of before. I can’t begin to tell you how many edits and revisions my book has been through, but her pages are richer through my willingness to listen to effective criticism.
3) Recognize Unresolved Issues
Some of these major revisions I’ve had to make in writing and developing a business from nothing has forced me to dig deeper and look boldly at unresolved conflict within my own spirit, the biggest one being the discomfort I feel with correction. I’ve been given the gift of first hand knowledge that it is possible to experience unconditionally love by those who also correct us and they are still there to support us through the ups and downs. We don’t have to be sensitive, annoyed, or self-critical just because someone sees something differently than we do.
4) Solidifies Our Own Convictions
I have not taken heed to every form of critique on my manuscript or in running my business. This does not come from rebellion toward the critic, but a conviction that was discovered deep within me and my relationship with God. I have had to do this over and over again. People love to give advice, plenty of it warranted, but other times the advice comes from misunderstanding about where the Holy Spirit is directing my path. There comes a point when you must run with your own vision, passion, and Spirit led conviction. Thankfully, criticism serves to strengthen this if we give ourselves the time and solitude to draw on what those inner confidences tell us.
5) Challenges our People-Pleasing Tendencies
This goes with much of what I’ve just said in point four, but my added point here is recognizing the drain that can be placed on relationships if they are based on a need for approval. It is so liberating to live by your own convictions and allow others to live by theirs. Just like Ralph Waldo Emerson says, contradictions do not need to mean persecution. I have growing concern that we are losing our ability to experience healthy debate. What happened to the Republican and Democrat who’d sit on the porch and disagree and then shoot the breeze about sports ( and argue some more) the very next day?
6) Improved Relationships
As I mentioned in my previous blog on criticism, we can’t get away from it. We all criticize. By embracing this fact and handling assessments well, we have the opportunity to practice peace over conflict, lay down our need to be right all the time, and learn to brush off the small stuff and move on. All of these reactions will lead to improved relationships with others–even a critic!
7) Chance to Teach Another How to Treat Us
Some forms of criticism can be thrown at us rather inappropriately. How will we react? We can take all that’s been said already into account, but we can also use the experience to teach someone how to treat us. I see this more about personal empowerment, rather than teaching someone else a lesson. This point is more about self-respect. Discerning which criticism counts is not about letting someone walk all over you with harsh reactions that leave you feeling belittled. Take a stand for yourself (but as the Bible teaches, this can be done with gentleness and respect)!
8) Provides the Opportunity to Monitor the Inner Self-Talk
We must be willing to recognize that our biggest critic is ourselves. Wow–I can’t stress this enough! The very truth is that before anyone criticizes us we have already done so. I’m amazed at my own ability to get defensive by one small corrective comment from another. So often I don’t choose to brush it off, I choose to let it smack me in the face over and over again. You’re stupid. Why didn’t you see that? How could you not notice? How could you forget? You idiot! These are all self criticizing thoughts that come directly from ourselves, not another. I’ve read that 80 percent of our inner thoughts are negative. 80%!!! If we are wise, we can take a criticism and then choose to monitor our own inner critic to make sure she is not taking simple advice to an unhealthy extreme.
9) You Are Empowered to Achieve Even More
When we learn to accept, learn, evaluate, grow and move on from the multitude of critics that will forever be present in our life, we are better equipped to reach our fullest potential. Imperfection is part of our fallen human nature. The person who cannot accept criticism communicates that she doesn’t believe this universal fact. There is really nothing we can do about our limitations, but we do have a choice to learn from our weakness whenever we can. The trick is also learning how to work on them without getting down on ourselves. I believe once we master that, we can experience fulfillment, peace, productivity, and increased success.
10) Practice Forgiveness
We need more forgiveness for one another. We need it desperately. We need to remember how much we have been forgiven. I never really thought about this before, but consider how often we criticize God! Every single time we doubt (which is often), we are telling God that He should be doing things differently. What is His response? Forgiveness. “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.” Ephesians 1:7
The Cost to uncovering your unique path and living a productive life is getting face to face with criticism. We can’t get away from it, but we can sure choose to learn from it!
What benefit has criticism served in your own life?
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