Most mornings Anna leaves me a list of chores to do during the day. For the most part these are relatively menial tasks such as emptying the dish washer, but occasionally a more problematic task sneaks on, like making a bed. The task itself is not the problem, I have developed advanced bed making techniques. The thing that gets me is not having to do the job itself, but Anna’s reaction. It’s not anything she says, it’s more how the bed looks about an hour after she gets home. You see I will have done my best with the sheets, they’ll be almost straight, but after Anna has been home a bit they seem somehow straighter.
I find it hard to take criticism, spoken or not. I think it’s got something to do with our competitive natures, I’ve noticed as I get older that I worry less about competition with others and more about competition with myself. I want to be better than I am in almost every sphere of my life. And herein lies a problem – to get better more quickly I need to be able to accept criticism.
The Bible actually has some helpful things to say about criticism, but we are going to ignore them. Instead we will look at a verse that just confirms how annoying criticism is.
Matt 7:3-5 ‘“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.’
All criticism can be hard to take but I think it’s especially hard to take when the person who criticises you is also guilty of the thing they are criticising you about. Notice from the verse I read that both of the items stuck in peoples eye are made of wood. Perhaps they are varying levels of the same thing.
We need to learn to accept criticism, and perhaps even welcome it. How do we do that? For a start we need to be open to hearing it, and when we hear it and know it’s true we need to act on it. To often when someone says something to near the mark we become defensive or go on the attack – “yeah but you do this…” When we learn to walk the middle ground between defensive reaction and counter attack we also earn something. We earn the right to help others. You see if we have been freed from a painful intrusion in our own eye our motive becomes not to correct someone, but instead to release them. We can do this because they know that we are willing to hear truth spoke into our lives.
I worry that a lot of us waste too much time bantering, when we all need a good dose of truth. If we heard truth and criticism from our closest friends and learnt how to accept it, would we need it from anyone else? Next time you are criticised what will you do? Sulk and moan – ‘How dare they say that to mean?’ Accept it but refuse to change? Or bite the bullet and start to work on your own vision so that you can help others see?