Embracing Criticism

Yesterday, I went to downtown to meet a friend for lunch… and I actually found street parking (granted it was $4/hour) right in front of the restaurant.  I was very vigilant about making sure my meter was fed because I know how vicious parking enforcement people are.  When I came out to my car after lunch, I found a notice on my windshield.  Yuck!  I had that yicky feeling of “what in the world is that on my car?” as I walked to my car.  When I looked at it, it was a notice from the safety officer.  It read “Your bid safety officer found: visible GPS device on dash, secure belongings to prevent crime.”  I immediately cringed and thought “Are they for real?  They’re wasting their time giving out these notices on the streets of LA?”  I still had that yucky feeling in the pit of my stomach, and drove off hating this faceless public safety officer.

As I was stuck on the freeway, I kept staring at this little piece of paper thinking “what am I suppose to do with this thing?”  I wasn’t sure if I was suppose to call the number on the bottom or just toss out this notice.  I kept thinking of an action plan.  I was bitter that one of few times that I didn’t put my GPS away, someone noticed and had to say something about it.  It really irked me… As I kept staring at this index card sized notice, it hit me that I was getting all worked up for nothing.  This is just a notice… I don’t have a pay a fine; I don’t have to prove to them that I fixed anything.  And it’s a reminder to always keep my vehicle safe from being broken into.  It’s well-intentioned.  After I had some time to calm down, I started to think why I reacted the way I did initially.  It didn’t take long for me to realize that nobody likes to be criticized.  Most people don’t like to be told what mistakes they made or that they need to change.  I am like most people.

In my ministry, I have always asked for feedback, both positives and negatives.  I have always proclaimed that I welcome all concerns, even criticisms; and I really meant it!  However, when negative feedback or criticisms are voiced, I always resort to feeling really, really yucky.  I think that’s just human nature.  It’s okay to feel yucky initially.  But what’s important is how I react to those criticisms.  I need take time to calm down and think rationally about those criticisms.  Often times, people are quick to react to criticisms, and I am one of them.  But I’ve come to learn that few steps are necessary before reacting out of hurt or bitterness.  Afterall, it’s a lot harder to take back your actions.  Below are steps I’ve learned to take:

  1. Take time to calm down, pray, and check my heart.
  2. I think all feelings are justified, however I try to understand why someone made those criticisms.  Perhaps they said what they said out of their own hurt or circumstances.  Maybe what they said is true, and I just failed to see it.
  3. If action plans are difficult, I seek counsel from my pastor or someone else I trust.
  4. I come up with an action plan… I make sure I address these concerns in a loving way.  If I believe someone misunderstood the situation, I talk to them and help them understand where I’m coming from.  If I do need to make changes, I thank them for bringing their concern to my attention and ask them to be part of the solution/change.
It’s not an easy thing to do… but I do believe that embracing criticism is part of growing process.  As they say, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.  🙂
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