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.