Saturday, August 1, 2009

Learning to Say "Thank You"

“We should see constructive criticism as a gift to us, and respond to the one criticizing with thank you.”

Whoa. Really?

Immediately I feel a sharp pain. Can this be true? What if the criticism isn’t accurate? What if I can think of 50 other reasons why I did what I did? I think if I stopped and really let this idea sink in I would realize that the reason why I chafe against it initially is because I don’t like criticism. Usually my response is a big, fat, “no thank you” to the one bringing the correction.

Is this in the Bible? Not exactly. My husband was taught this (and many other things) at a management training class this week. But I think we can see biblical truth even in this secular model.

Proverbs says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend.” This friend can be in the form of a spouse, sibling, parent, pastor, or best friend. These wounds are faithful because friendship implies a deep knowing. This person knows us better than anyone, and also loves us dearly. He or she does not want us to continue on in our sin, or even ignorance. Faithful wounds point us towards the Savior and chisel away at the garbage that keeps us from intimacy with the Father.

But what do we do when the person is not a friend, and they aren’t criticizing in love. I do not pretend to have arrived in this area. In fact, I respond poorly even when it is a friend bringing the correction. But as I have heard others (much wiser than me) say before, people who are criticizing us aren’t criticizing us enough. We are far more foolish and sinful than we can even imagine. Our criticizers aren’t even getting to the half of it.

I think we can still respond graciously and kindly to any person bringing correction. Perhaps the flawed correction will be used by God to bring other sin to light that we can’t even see yet. And even if they are wrong on many levels, God will be the final judge. We can trust in his justice. The Psalms are a great source of hope in those times. All throughout the psalmist often cries out to the Lord for vindication from his enemies. These enemies were real, and they were painful at times. But even in his innocence from fault, he trusts that God will deal with those who are against him.

We can be thankful for the criticism, not because it is always right, but because God uses all things for our good. These “wounds”, whether from a friend or enemy, make us examine our hearts and run to the Savior. I think what God cares about for us in these times is how we respond to the people criticizing us. He will deal with the rest. So I am praying for myself today. That I will learn how to say “thank you” instead of “no thank you.”

Alfred Poirier has an excellent article on criticism. It has really helped me (and I know has helped many others). You can read a copy of it here.

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