Just like everyone else, I don’t typically handle personal criticism well. It depends on the details of both how, and from whom, the personal criticism comes. Does the person have my best interest at heart? Is it someone I trust and respect, and who therefore has a right to speak into my life? Or is it someone removed from me, who does not have that right?
Someone re-connected with me through social media. We were acquaintances in our teen years, and we are now middle aged. (Note that we were never more than acquaintances even in the far past.) This person started sending me personal messages of criticism about online “behavior” of mine. I was taken aback. For one, she misconstrued some details. But I also felt this relative stranger had no right to give me advice. Long story short, I took control of the situation and blocked future interaction. I feel a bit bad that this person thinks ill of me, but believe I did the right thing in this circumstance.
[Good thoughts here: Judgement, Conflict, Vulnerabilty. Do you have the relational equity to share a concern with a friend?]
I don’t want that to come across as a blanket statement that we should never consider the critique of a stranger, as sometimes an outsider can see things we miss. Rather the point is that we have the right to a boundary and to ignore critique.
Wisdom is needed in all respects, and we can observe examples in the Scripture of different approaches -or- reactions for different times. Jesus sometimes kept his mouth shut, and other times Jesus spoke up. The apostle Paul was a real encourager, but also had sharp words of critique. I sometimes observe false dichotomies made here. We must only encourage or have positive words, and never critique anyone or anything. (Or the opposite scenario.) But there is a proper time for both.
But to get back to the beginning of my post. I have usually appreciated being challenged or convicted about behavior or beliefs – perhaps in a broader sense – such as through a book, article, or sermon. I like a message that…
steps on my toes a bit, gets me thinking, helps me see truth about myself or the world, shakes up my paradigm, brings conviction, challenges me to change or do something.
But many people do not appreciate this.
The Old Testament prophets certainly were not popular with their messages of warning or rebuke, although a minority did listen to them. The same for Jesus, who certainly disturbed people at times.
People want comfort, not challenge.
People want the status quo, not to be shaken up.
People prefer to remain in ignorance, rather than consider hard truths.
Comfort? Status quo? Ignorance? Those things sound terrible to me!
Now, I don’t want to come across as holier-than-thou here. As said, I can struggle with personal criticism.
Perhaps it involves my personality type, but I truly like being challenged to think, and awakened to hard or new truths. Of course, there are limits, and too much “truth” all at once can crush or paralyze!
But I don’t want to go through life stagnant.
I want to learn and grow.
Have you ever changed your mind about something in life, and I mean a significant issue? Undergone a paradigm shift? No? This might be a problem.
I’d suggest you start wearing some open toe shoes, and feel the benefits of occasionally getting them stepped on.
Saw this on twitter today:
“If you have a god who always agrees with you, I can tell you, you don’t have the true God.” @