Christians must humbly evaluate criticism in the light of Scripture.
Feedback, especially the unrequested critical kind, can hurt badly. Recently I got some unsolicited negative feedback. How did I feel? Dejected, rejected, self-condemning? What did I do? Lash out, clam up, become bitter? Better yet, what do you do when you get unsolicited criticism?
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In this article I’d like to share 4 ways to handle feedback. The first three are harmful and the last one is helpful.
Here are 4 ways to handle unsolicited feedback:
01. Resent it.
This is a natural reaction to negative feedback and criticism. It stings and we don’t like it. So oftentimes we resent and reject it. But the problem with doing this is that we can’t learn from it.
Many years ago I heard a great phrase: Feedback (not Wheaties) is the breakfast of champions.
There is so much truth in that simple statement. To become great, we have to receive and implement feedback.
Someone has said, “Experience doesn’t make you better, only evaluated experience makes you better.” How true. If we keep repeating the same mistakes, we won’t grow. But when we evaluate our experiences, we can improve.
Sure, feedback is not always presented in the kindest way with the most tact. But with prayer and some determination, we can ask the Lord to teach us through it anyways.
Don’t resent criticism, be thankful for it.
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6-7 ESV)
02. Excuse it.
Sometimes we don’t just resent negative feedback, we excuse it. Here are some of the ways we excuse ourselves when criticized:
By laughing it off
By criticizing the criticizer (retaliation)
By denying the criticized behavior
By explaining away our actions
Psychologists call these kinds of behaviors “defense mechanisms.” We try to defend ourselves against criticism through these responses. But in the end, in defending ourselves, we may miss the opportunity to learn.
Feedback is sometimes hurtful but helpful when it comes from caring friends. Conversely, enemies often pay us compliments that are only lies meant to puff us up.
“Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” (Proverbs 27:6KJV)
03. Ignore it.
Another common response to negative feedback is to ignore it. Some are especially good at putting their head in the sand and ignoring issues.
Recently I was watching a documentary about President Ronald Reagan. It talked about his denial that members of his staff had traded “guns for hostages” in the Iran-contra affair. The program pointed out that it took Reagan a long time to admit the association. They suggested that because he was the adult child of an alcoholic (ACA), he was a natural at ignoring problems.
Similarly, others simply ignore negative feedback. But the tragedy is that if we ignore the issues we miss the opportunity to improve.
“Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” (Ephesians 5:14 ESV)
04. Humbly evaluate feedback in the light of Scripture.
What should we do with feedback and even negative criticism? We must evaluate it in the light of God’s Word.
Sure, there are times when it is inappropriately given; when it is said in a caustic way, meant to hurt us. But despite how it is said, we can learn from feedback.
Recently our church hired a consulting agency called The Unstuck Group. We’re paying thousands of dollars to receive their feedback.
Most of the time the feedback you and I get is free. That’s the best price, yet we often resent, excuse or ignore it!
Years ago I got some feedback from someone who clearly had unhealthy motivations. Criticism was given with an attitude that seemed to be saying “I don’t like you and here’s why.” It wasn’t fun. I wanted to but couldn’t say, “You think I’ve got a few little problems. Well, let me tell you, you’re a real jerk.”
Thankfully I didn’t say that and tried to be as gracious as possible. And as it turns out, upon further evaluation of the criticisms, there was some great truth in them. I later went through some professional mentoring that helped me see the same blind spots and improve.
So here’s the bottom line: Negative feedback is painful whether we learn anything from it or not. Why not turn the pain into gain? Let’s humbly evaluate criticism in the light of Scripture and use it to grow. Let’s let feedback become the breakfast of a champion.
Let’s practice Proverbs 27:17; “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” (ESV)
For more help with criticism, confidence, rejection, bullying and insults, check out these articles I’ve written:
Video vlog: Have You Been Pecked At?
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