Do you value constructive criticism, or do you resist its power?
In Bob Goff’s recent bestseller, Everybody Always, he tells a story of what can happen when you resist constructive criticism.
As a young man, he owned a secondhand truck. When he went back home, his father reminded him to change the oil in the truck. Every time Bob visited, his father gave the reminder, knowing that Bob wasn’t so good at keeping up with details.
Yet every time Bob heard his father’s reminder, his spirit rebelled against the good instruction and he chose to ignore it. He wanted to prove that he no longer needed his father’s advice. But he paid a price for not following the correction.
Eventually, the truck stopped working because Bob never changed the oil in it. He didn’t take care of the truck and reaped the costly consequences. Now he admits he should have listened to his father all along.
How We Receive Constructive Criticism
I’m guessing that you receive plain old criticism more often than constructive criticism. Regular criticism wounds. But constructive criticism offers life.
It’s human nature to defensively respond to any kind of criticism, constructive or not. We don’t like hearing that we’re in the wrong or that we’re about to make a bad choice. We tend to pridefully protect our egos rather than allowing others (or God) to speak truth into our lives.
If you receive constructive criticism, you can choose to see it as a gift. Someone who takes the time to speak the truth in love to you is precious. When you lay aside your defenses, you can see the value.
The Value God Places on Constructive Criticism
Let’s revisit the proverbs to understand the value of constructive criticism.
If we reject it, we harm ourselves. Just as Bob lost his truck, we run the risk of losing something valuable if we fail to listen.
If we accept it, we grow in wisdom and understanding. We gain those rare, precious virtues by choosing to listen to constructive criticism.
I grew up in a critical environment, and I married someone who grew up in a similar one. In the early years of our marriage, our defenses were up every time a word had a hint of criticism. Our personal growth was stunted by our defenses.
We have both learned to tame our tongues when offering constructive criticism and accept it from each other without being defensive. This has taken years of practice, but we’re both better for it.
Think back to the last time you received criticism you didn’t want to hear but knew deep down was good for you. What value do you see in it for the long term? What do you think God may be telling you through that criticism?
The Power of Constructive Criticism
I think about King David’s story, after he committed adultery with Bathsheba and had her husband Uriah killed. The prophet Nathan approached him with a dramatic example of constructive criticism in 2 Samuel 12.
Until Nathan offered constructive criticism, David had not confessed his sins. He was suffering from a spiritual disconnect. The constructive criticism restored David’s relationship to God, which he beautifully described in Psalm 51.
Constructive criticism has great power to place us on the right track. It can restore our relationships with others and with God. It can guide us into a healthier life in the physical, mental, emotional and social realms. It has the power to cultivate wisdom and understanding, which conforms us to Christ’s likeness. (Romans 8:29 NIV)
Next time you receive constructive criticism, stop to consider the value. Ask yourself if God is trying to grow your character. Remind yourself that accepting constructive criticism makes you wise. Choose the path to wisdom and understanding, and you won’t regret that constructive criticism helped you get there.
Lord Jesus, I want to grow in wisdom and understanding. If constructive criticism helps me gain these virtues, send me people who are kind enough to give it. Help me receive it with grace, as if it was coming from Your own lips. I ask that You will help me lay down my defenses and accept correction where I need it. Amen.
Questions for reflection:
1. How do you react when you are criticized?
2. What area of your life receives the most criticism? Is there a grain of truth in the criticism, whether constructive or not?
3. In what ways can you see criticism as valuable?