Every time I am faced with criticism I have two choices. I can respond defensively, closed off and with my guard up or I can respond with grace, kindness and openness. I choose to look for ways to have grace in the face of criticism.
When I was in Art school I found the courses I excelled in and enjoyed the most were the ones that the teacher’s not only actively engaged in, but also gave strong constructive criticism. They told me what I was doing right and what I could do better. I knew I was learning and certainly not getting it all “right.” They could’ve said, this isn’t good enough or you’re doing it wrong. Instead they said, your work would be stronger if you did this or have you thought of trying that. By having an open conversation paired with examples and receiving feedback I was able to develop my skills in a positive environment.
Criticism hurts. No one likes to receive it and yet we all face it. It comes in different forms and from varying sources. Not all criticism is wrong, in fact the feedback can be constructive. It may even help us grow and improve. Even was delivered constructively it can be hard to take. It still doesn’t feel nice. When criticism is delivered gently or helpfully it can still be hard for us to process. We don’t want to be wrong or judged or embarrassed. Criticism that helps me grow I can take. I might not like it in the moment, but I know it is for my benefit.
There is another kind of criticism though that makes me so sad. It the kind of criticism that comes without understanding. Harshly delivered criticism makes me cringe. I feel angry and disappointed when it is given unfairly. It comes as unwelcomed judgment. Out of fear I avoid it. Fearful that it will crush me with it’s disapproval and unkind words. Criticism delivered without grace, is a spirit crusher isn’t it?
People can be unkind, negative, and judgmental. People can also be compassionate, joyful and understanding. The one thing we are not is perfect. We all have been the unkind one, the compassionate one, the negative one, the joyful one, the judgmental one, or the understanding one at one point or another.
I know there are times I have hardened my heart in my own righteous indignation. Times I have been critical and unforgiving when I should have been gracious and kind hearted.
My initial reaction to criticism is to feel defensive and hurt. Don’t they know how thoughtful I am, how much of an effort I make to be intentional and how hard I’m trying? Why can’t they appreciate and encourage me for what I’m doing right? Why is it that they only see what they don’t like? You know what? People can also be hurting.
It’s up to us to lead with grace. It’s up to us to respond with grace.
I believe we need to weed continually negative people out of our lives. However, when we do interact with them, we can live with the spiritual condition of grace. Remember when you feel the need to criticise how damaging a negative approach is.
Try these ideas to show grace in the face of criticism:
Lead with Grace:
Responding with grace takes work. Exercise kindness in the face of criticism. Be gracious in your response. This does not mean allowing others to trample over you. It does not mean accepting their unkindness. It means being gentle with your words.
Work to give and receive constructive feedback:
Empower others through your words to grow. Be tactful in your delivery and your timing. Be open to personal growth. Evaluate the criticism honestly. Was it hurtful or helpful?
In the face of direct criticism stay calm in the moment. Take a deep breath and listen patiently. Actively listen to hear what the person is saying. Do not argue or respond with defensive language. Take the time to process the feedback you are receiving. A response is not always required in the moment.
Look for ways to compliment not complain:
When tempted to criticise or correct, pause. Ask yourself what is most helpful. Will your words empower or tear down? How can you use your words for good in the situation?
Finds ways to actively be the solution:
Instead of telling someone else they are in the wrong or not living up to your expectations, lend a helping hand. Don’t jump to conclusions or make assumptions. Ask questions. Access the situation and know all the facts.
My greatest prayer is that I would be gracious, full of grace for others and full of grace for myself. How do you show grace in the face of criticism?
Grace is what picks me up and lifts my wings high above and I fly! Grace always conquers! Be graceful in everything; in anger, in sadness, in joy, in kindness, in unkindness, retain grace with you!
― C. JoyBell C.