Friday, August 26, 2011

Constructive Criticism

How often do we hear, "I'm just giving you a little constructive criticism... after all I am blah, blah, blah"
Then we feel need to respond with, "well I don't mind constructive criticism." or "I know I need to be able to accept constructive criticism."  

The more I think about this phrase, this act, well I have had a little issue here lately with this idea of "constructive criticism". So I thought I might do a little bit of research on this term we so often use.

The word constructive means "building, beneficial to progress, inferential. (Now I had no clue what inferential meant so I had to look that up too, it means "a conclusion or presumption, concluded by reasoning or derived from evidence")

The word criticism means "the act or judgment of a critic and a critic is one who appraises the merit of another's work, usually in a negative evaluation and when one "criticizes" it is usually adversely.

Some of the synonyms for criticize are blame, censure, condemn, denounce, dis, dispraise, fault, knock, reprehend, come down hard on, find fault...

If we put the words constructive and criticism together according to there definitions and synonyms do we not have an oxymoron? Do not the two words actually contradict each other and defeat the other's purpose?

Do you know there is only one place in the NAS translation that we can find the word criticize? (the word "criticism" was not there)

“Those who err in mind will know the truth,
And those who criticize will accept instruction."
Isaiah 29:24

According to the Word of God it's those who criticize that are proving themselves to be the one in error.

Is not criticism, someone setting themselves up as a superior because they have received the praises of man (or even just simply because they have a very high opinion of themselves and the way they do things ) and now they look at you and evaluate your creation, you work, your efforts according to their taste, style, and opinion? And if you do not measure up to them (according to them of course) then you are now considered inferior and your efforts lacking in their eyes.

The more I receive criticism, the more I hate it. Truthfully I had rather not share my work, not put forth my effort, if when I know I have given my best, or am trying my best on what knowledge and skill I currently possess, and then someone comes in and criticizes it and tears that down...
Oh is it not a death blow?

I watch the eyes of others as they receive this "constructive criticism" and there is nothing building up in their countenance. Criticism is not teaching. It is very different. We need to be sure we know the difference. Especially with our children and with our spouses and with anyone who sits under us as a learner in any way.

Believe it or not this term began to irritate me the most as I watched MasterChef with my family. These home cooks prepare these amazing meals that they are so very proud of, these are meals that I could not even imagine preparing myself because there were no boxes or cans of pre-put together ingredients.
They bring these dishes up with bright smiles of pride in what they have accomplished, it most likely is a dish that their friends and family have thoroughly enjoyed as a special gourmet meal, and they present them to these "judges".
These judges then snarl their noses at this dish and pick around it and sniff it and roll their eyes and sometimes even dump this creative effort, this special work, in the trash.

I watched the faces of these cooks this year and my heart broke... and yet most of us (including me before this year) are sitting at home on our couches laughing our butts off at the destructive words coming from this judge toward this person who was so proud of what they had accomplished, to only be told it still was not good enough.
This cook then goes back to their cooking area completely broken down and humiliated and says something like, "I know I needed the "constructive criticism."

I dare say "no, they didn't."

Let me share a few of the antonyms of the word criticize, they are extol, laud, praise...

Hmmm personally it seems to me that constructive praise would be much more building and beneficial to progress. I believe these cooks needed constructive praise not constructive condemning (remember condemn is a synonym for criticize).

I believe we all should have a high standard set for our lives. We should desire to be the best we can be in all things, but I believe we will get there faster through giving and receiving constructive praise, not constructive condemning. 

How does God tell us to build up? To appraise the work and efforts of another? To be beneficial to the progress of another?

Word of God speak...

"And it will be said,
“ Build up, build up, prepare the way,
Remove every obstacle out of the way of My people.”
Isaiah 57:14

"So then we pursue the things which make for peace
and the building up of one another."
Romans 14:19
"This I say for your own benefit;
not to put a restraint upon you,
but to promote what is appropriate
and to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord."
1 Corin 7:35

"You are looking at things as they are outwardly.
If anyone is confident in himself that he is Christ’s,
let him consider this again within himself,
that just as he is Christ’s, so also are we. 
For even if I boast somewhat further about our authority,
which the Lord gave for building you up
and not for destroying you,
I will not be put to shame, 
for I do not wish to seem as if
 I would terrify you by my letters."
2 Corinthians 10:7-9

"For this reason I am writing these things while absent,
so that when present I need not use severity,
in accordance with the authority
which the Lord gave me for building up
and not for tearing down."
2 Corin 13:10

"but speaking the truth in love,
we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head,
even Christ, 
from whom the whole body,
being fitted and held together
by what every joint supplies,
 according to the proper working
of each individual part,
causes the growth of the body
for the building up of itself in love."
Ephesians 4:15-16 

"Therefore encourage one another
and build up one another,
just as you also are doing."
1 Thess 5:11

I suppose of these Scriptures that I cross-referenced the one that hit the hardest was,

"The wise woman builds her house,
But the foolish tears it down with her own hands."
Proverbs 14:1

Today and from this day forward my challenge is to be a woman who teaches through and by constructive praise not the so called constructive criticism. I have never known criticism to ever build anyone up, only make them more defiant and rebellious and disheartened and determined with the wrong motive... to please man and not God. It also can plant a seed of bitterness in a heart that can take root and grow and completely destroy someone.

I am not to use the authority I have in my home over my children, or the position I have in my home with my spouse, or the places I am called to serve in my church, or my place of business/employment in the world as opportunity to criticize the efforts of another by comparing them to my own personal human standards or ability. If they are trying to give me their best and I know this then I am to build them up, encourage them, and teach them from praise not condemnation.

I am not to withhold grace from anyone (Hebrews 12:15). Is that not what criticism does? Does it not withhold grace from another? Who exactly do we criticize when we criticize the creation, the precious efforts of another human being?

"Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer,
and the one who formed you from the womb,
“I, the LORD, am the maker of all things..."
Isaiah 44:24

"All things came into being through Him,
and apart from Him nothing came into being
that has come into being"
John  1:3

The only thing we as believers are called to judge is sin (sin clearly defined in Scripture as sin by God, not man) because sin is a perversion of God's perfection and it always leads to death.
Yes, we are called to judge sin, to criticize it, to condemn it, but even this we are to do in love, with gentleness, patience, and self-control.
And we cannot leave it at condemnation, but must teach the way of Hope.
I am to remove obstacles, not just point them out. I am to promote what is good, not just point out was is bad. I am not to use severity but kindness and gentleness.

"The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome,
but be kind to all,
able to teach,
patient when wronged, 
with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition,
if perhaps God may grant them repentance
leading to the knowledge of the truth,"
2 Timothy 2:23-25

Oh precious ones, the world may be a place of constructive criticism, but may our homes and our church be a place of constructive praise.

What to do with "constructive criticism" that has added "baggage" in your life.

1 comment:

  1. Please know that my heart's intent on this post was from the kind of "constructive criticism" that tears a person down about things that are simply a result of them being them. It was not meant toward someone having the ability to receive instruction that leads to progress, or being someone who does or teaches someone the difference between right and wrong, and truth and lie, and teaching to meet a set standard.
    An example is I learned to hit a softball harder because someone watched my swing and then showed me how to hold the bat in a more efficient way to hit the ball even harder, but they did not say "That's the most stupid way I have ever seen someone hold a bat. Here let me show you how to do that the right way."
    We all must be able to recieve instruction, it is what makes the difference between a wise man and a fool (Prov 1:5, 6:23, 9:9, 10:17, 11:14)
    We must point out error...
    Please know that my intent of this post was not to in any way insinuate that we are not to give wise counsel to one another... no matter how hard it is to give or receive wise counsel must be given.
    I want the surgeon who is working on me to have received wise counsel and instruction and have been required to meet the highest standard before he cuts open my body.
    Can I get an Amen, lol. :-)

    So this turned into a post within a post...