My wife and I recently became grandparents for the first time. We are so thrilled and she is such a gift from God. After our granddaughter was born they took her to the nursery and we watched her being checked out by the nurse. She checked her ears, nose, throat, heart, and lungs. The nurse then pulled out a needle and proceeded to give her a shot. I wanted to reach through the glass and stop her. What a way to be welcomed into the world with a painful needle being stabbed into your thigh. She started to cry and so did we.
It was hard watching that but it was important to realize that it was actually for my granddaughter's health and wellbeing. The pain was unavoidable and necessary. I think about that sometimes when someone gives me constructive criticism. The Bible sometimes calls that a "rebuke," "correction," or "to reprove," depending on what version you use. It can sometimes come from God or from godly people. It hurts at first but if done right it ultimately is for our health and growth.
During a recent continual education event the instructor did an evaluation on each of us. He started out with good things to say but also turned the conversation towards my blind spots, the areas I needed to improve. Ouch! That was hard to hear at first, but later I thanked him. The criticism was actually more helpful then the praise and affirmation. His critique helped me become better.
There is no perfect person. We all have areas for improvement and need to be open to change. So how should we receive truth spoken in love? First, it is important not to take it personal. Know the difference between guilt and shame. Guilt is feeling bad for something we did. Shame is feeling bad for who we are. Shame is not a healthy state. If we are shamed based we receive criticism as personal attack. Constructive criticism is intended to help us be better. It is not an attack on us personally. It is important to separate the two.
Second, don't be defensive. This is a natural response. But rather see constructive criticism as an opportunity to be more successful and healthy. Winston Churchill once said, "Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things." We need medical checkups as part of our overall wellness. Work evaluations are part of our overall health, success, and wellbeing. So it is better to not get defensive, ask questions and try to learn more.
Third, look for the grains of truth. Ask yourself what can I learn from this? You don't have to agree with everything but at least agree with part of it. I have found that there is a grain of truth in most criticism and I need to chew on it a while before I spit it out. Accept the fact others may see something in you that you don't. They may be right so look honestly within yourself to see if you might be negative, overbearing, or whatever the issue may be.
Finally, remember that everything happens for a reason. It may mean if you receive the criticism appropriately, apply it, and change, something much better may be in store for you. Your efforts and attitude may eventually be rewarded. Proverbs 25:12 says, "Like an earring of gold or an ornament of fine gold is a wise man's rebuke to a listening ear."