Wednesday, April 9, 2008

31. "Accept criticism gracefully and test it carefully."

A word from Stephanie:

What a hard thing to do – accept criticism, yet it is such a necessary experience for our growth. Without feedback from others, we humans tend to develop distorted ways of seeing ourselves and the world, and those distortions eventually lead to unhealthy behaviors (sins, missing our mark). We are pack animals by nature, and we were created to function within our society, not as fully independent beings but as an interdependent system bound in love. As one form of communication among elements within the Body of Christ, critical feedback from others is a source of blood flow that keeps us functioning in a healthy manner.

Scientists call this concept of interdependent systems “Field Theory” or “Systems Theory,” and reading more about it has led me to see how awesome is the balance (homeostasis) God has set in place in our universe! When one criticizes in love, and the other accepts it gracefully, there is no unnecessary tension or strife – the Body functions as it should. Criticism serves its function to set things back in order to the benefit of all, like the forces each of the stars and planets exerts on the others. If one organ in a body is sick, all the others suffer, and health is maintained only to the extent that each is willing to offer its feedback to the rest, keeping the blood flow steady and rich.

Testing criticism carefully is an important step and requires discernment. Sometimes criticism is valid from one person’s perspective but not another’s, and only God knows which perspective is right, yet the process still provides important information about the state of two individuals. It could be that someone criticizes another more from one’s own distorted lens than from reality. If we live within Christ at all times, we can regain our true state of humility, and discerning the important message of the communication becomes clearer. Either way, when criticized, we may consider it a blessing, as it provides us information either about how we might productively change ourselves, understand the needs of our brother, or both. Either way, it provides communication, the blood flow among the organs of the Body, and if we are functioning in a healthy manner, we will thrive on it.

A nun once told me that when we receive criticism, we should say, “God bless it!” I’m far from achieving the humility I need to gracefully accept criticism, and I know my lens of discernment is darkened, but I trust that with God’s blessings, I might at least perceive some small bit of understanding that I might begin to undertake the task of true healing. Please pray for me, and forgive me for all the times I have offered criticism without love and taken criticism without humility.


Carla said...

Dear Stephanie,
You have offered such insight into this difficult topic. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Monica said...

Your interpretation of the maxim was extremely helpful. Receiving criticism has often been painful for me because I have perceived it as a pejorative statement about my personal worth. Many thanks for your lucid explanation!

The Forty Maxims

  • 1. Be always with Christ and trust God in everything.
  • 2. Pray, fast and do acts of mercy.
  • 3. Read the Scriptures regularly.
  • 4. Read good books, a little at a time.
  • 5. Practice silence, inner and outer.
  • 6. Cultivate communion with the saints.
  • 7. Be an ordinary person, one of the human race.
  • 8. Live a day, even a part of a day, at a time.
  • 9. Be honest, first of all with yourself.
  • 10. Be faithful in little things.
  • 11. Do your work, then forget it.
  • 12. Do the most difficult and painful things first.
  • 13. Face reality.
  • 14. Be grateful.
  • 15. Be cheerful.
  • 16. Be simple, hidden, quiet and small.
  • 17. Never bring unnecessary attention to yourself.
  • 18. Listen when people talk to you.
  • 19. Be awake and attentive, fully present where you are.
  • 20. Think and talk about things no more than necessary.
  • 21. Speak simply, clearly, firmly, directly.
  • 22. Flee imagination, fantasy, analysis.
  • 23. Flee carnal things at their first appearance.
  • 24. Don’t complain, grumble, murmur or whine.
  • 25. Don’t seek or expect pity or praise.
  • 26. Don’t compare yourself with anyone.
  • 27. Don’t judge anyone for anything.
  • 28. Don’t try to convince anyone of anything.
  • 29. Don’t defend or justify yourself.
  • 30. Be defined and bound by God, not people.
  • 31. Accept criticism gracefully and test it carefully.
  • 32. Give advice only when asked or when it is your duty.
  • 33. Be strict with yourself.
  • 34. Be merciful with yourself and others.
  • 35. Do nothing for people that they can do for themselves.
  • 36. Have a healthy, wholesome hobby.
  • 37. Have no expectations except to be fiercely tempted to your last breath.
  • 38. Endure the trial of yourself and your faults serenely, under God’s mercy.
  • 39. When you fall, get up immediately and start over.
  • 40. Get help when you need it, without fear or shame.