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Taking Criticism

The ear that listens to life-giving correction dwells among the wise.

Proverbs 15.31 (CEB)

 

No one likes to receive criticism. Being criticized means we might not be right, that we might be wrong. Criticism and being wrong often creates a sense of shame, which is a bad feeling, and, as a rule, our brain likes to avoid bad feelings.

 

Once a ‘bad feeling’ is triggered in the brain, it immediately gets defensive – whether it really needs to be or not. This is why there’s plenty of articles about taking criticism and all of them start with ‘don’t react right away, stay calm.’

 

Jesus has a lot to criticize in the Gospels. There are plenty of stories of him criticizing the Pharisees, and they take it about as well as most people. It’s easy to read these stories now and say we see the truth that Jesus is trying to teach, and see how obstinate those Pharisees are, and how could they not see Jesus’ truth as well?

 

When facing criticism from peers, family, friends, or whoever else decides to offer it, we can’t control how that criticism is delivered. There’s no telling if that criticism will come in a constructive or destructive way, if it will be helpful or just hurtful. The only thing we can control is how we receive it.

 

When we read the bible, we are prepared to hear the criticism Jesus has for us. We’re all aware that we are imperfect people and that is why we need Jesus. We’re ready to hear and learn. Rarely do we have that luxury of being prepared when facing criticism face to face.



Kathryn Schulz gave a TED talk in 2011 called “On Being Wrong.” In this TED talk she speaks on the idea that we often do not know when we are wrong. We do not know what we do not know. That until our wrongness is corrected, we think we’re right.

 

From a young age, we are conditioned to think that being wrong is a terrible thing. If you’re wrong, you get bad grades, you get punished. Being wrong is associated with many bad things. It drives some people to be perfectionists or overachievers, which generally aren’t a bad thing, but can certainly wear you out and develops a fear of failure.

 

Our correctness has been tied to our identities as a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ person, so any comment on our correctness is an attack on our ‘goodness’. Being wrong isn’t a bad thing. Criticism isn’t an attack on your person. It is only through being open to being wrong that we can learn and grow.

 

What if criticism is an opportunity to see a situation in a different light. A time to see another’s perspective that is different from our own. Even if you do not agree with the criticism there is still worth in seeing their point of view.

 

Jesus still loves us despite our wrongness, he even came to us because of our wrongness. Getting over the fear of being wrong that triggers when we’re criticized takes conscious effort but knowing that Jesus accepts it can perhaps help us accept it ourselves. Keep an open mind in those times of criticism, take a moment and truly think on it. Perhaps you were wrong this time, perhaps you weren’t, but either way, it’s a moment for growing and reflection.




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