Monday, November 29, 2010

Giving and receiving criticism - a display of love (Part 2)

In the previous post I spoke to what I naturally tend to expect/want when I face criticism. I think it is wise to spell out in golden-rule fashion how that should impact how I might give criticism to others.
  • I should give others the space to not be perfect 100% of the time. Scripture speaks of overlooking minor faults and forgiving those.
  • I should realize that I do not sit in the seat of others. I should extend patience and kindness. I would do well to invest some time into thinking through things from their perspective, not just my own (and even in doing so, I should not think I am all-knowing). I should try to consider the fact that I really don't know everything that is going on in their world. I should not assume that I do. It would do me well to even verbalize that to another person.
  • I should give someone the benefit of the doubt in the motives category. I never truly know WHY someone does something (unless they say so). With that in mind, it is generally a good rule to not assume people are acting with clearly evil intent.
  • I should give the opportunity to others to explain their situation and decision before jumping to conclusions. This is not always easy, but I think it is a wise investment of time to do so. Proverbs says that a fool is only interested in expressing their own opinion. If I really desire that I better communicate with someone, I will be compelled to listen and not only speak.
  • I should realize that it is very hard not to take criticism personally. We can say "it's not personal," but all too often it feels VERY personal when we levy criticism. I think I could grow in my sensitivity to the fact that often criticism is hard NOT to take personally. It might slow my tongue down.
  • I should do some damage assessment of my criticism. Maybe this could be viewed as a law of unintended consequences. It might be wise for me to ask, "is this really worth it?" Might this impact other relationships? Would this put someone in such a defensive posture that little good and much harm would come out of it? Once again, I might be slower to speak, and slower to criticize if I considered the potential damage I could cause. I wonder how many families, relationships, and churches could be spared if we thought just a few minutes more about this.
  • I should consider whether I really have the best interests of another person in mind when I criticize. The alternative to their best interests is often my own wishes. Often, it is easier for me to be right than to be loving. It is easier for me to want the approval of a listening ear than it is for me to be a loving servant to others.
  • I should be sensitive to timing in other people's lives. Can I think of reasons why this may not be the right time to approach this? Would this criticism be better received a few days later? Are they coming off a big high or a deep low? Are there other time-sensitive pressures that are noticeable from their perspective? I think answering these questions would change so many difficult discussions.

Giving and receiving criticism - a display of love

Love your neighbor as yourself. I don’t believe that Jesus is teaching we need to work hard to love ourselves. Truly, that isn’t hard work; it is natural. Jesus assumes we will love ourselves in a self-sacrificial way, and that natural, fleshly self-love can actually instruct us in ways to love our neighbor.

Particularly, this has some bearing on how we criticize others and how we handle criticism. At times, rebuke is in order. At times, people and systems need critique. Such critique is not necessarily unchristian. It is part and parcel of living in a fallen world. Having said that, I find there is often inconsistency with how I give criticism and how I receive it. These thoughts represent a desire to close the gap of that particular inconsistency. They shouldn't in any way function as a list of demands I place on others, but rather a helpful guide to me in loving others.

  • I want people to give me room not to be perfect. If I want that for myself, I should give others the space to not be perfect as well.
  • I want people to realize that they do not sit in my seat. They don’t have a view of the situation from my vantage point.
  • I want people to realize that I am least trying to do what I think is right. I often am very frustrated to have people judge my motives.
  • I would rather have the opportunity to explain myself, than to have someone jumping to conclusions.
  • I want people to realize that it is very hard not to take criticism personally.
  • I want people to do some damage assessment of their criticism.
  • I want those who have my best interests in mind to give me honest feedback.
  • I want people to be sensitive to timing.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Grow in Grace, Pt 2

Continuing on from the previous post...

This year, I have seen myself more clearly and more often as the older brother (from the story of the prodigal son). It was very clear to me in the story of Jonah, that I have a tendency to not be as excited about God showing grace to others. I expect grace to me, and appreciate it, but I have a Jonah-syndrome that often makes me question whether others are as deserving. God revealed to me that the older brother AND the younger brother were estranged from the Father. Jonah AND the Ninevites were disobedient. The good news is that God is interested in saving both the UNrighteous and the SELFrighteous.

Christ comes to save sinners of the 'righteous' variety and the 'immoral' variety.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Grow in Grace

Over the next few days, I would like to share some things that I believe God has taught me over the course of 2010.

If we are supposed to grow in God's grace and knowledge of Him, I desire to see progress in my life. In addition, I want to grow in my understanding of our times and the world in which we live.

I believe I have grown in my understanding of the basis of prayer. One of the primary reasons I should have confidence in prayer is that God has given every indication that he wants me to pray, and it is his delight to answer requests. The series of messages on Luke 12 had such a strong impact on me. Especially the fact that “it is the Father’s good pleasure to give us the kingdom.” That is a pretty amazing statement. I don’t have to prove my seriousness to him in an effort to arm-twist him into giving me what I am asking for. Rather I need my heart in alignment with his kingdom, not my own.