“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” -Proverbs 4:23
I love the book of proverbs. There are so many great tools that add layers to your life. The above verse is a great one. It’s like a hammer, simply essential. One time early in my ministry, I was struggling with receiving criticism. At the time I was a worship leader and this lady came up to me after church and said I wasn’t very good at leading. She said I sang too low and a higher key would engage more people to sing along. That may not seem like a big deal to you, but at the time it crushed my very fragile ego. Now, don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong with constructive criticism. If done the right way, criticism can be one of the biggest growth catalysts of your life.
However, the challenge is to learn how to take the criticism you’re receiving and place it into categories, mainly as ‘constructive’ and as ‘trash’. Early in my life I didn’t know how to do this and, if I’m honest, it’s still sometimes a day by day process.
As I said earlier, I was receiving some criticism and didn’t really know what to do with it. An older, wiser leader gave me a phrase which has been huge in the process of categorizing negative comments. Here it is…
“CONSIDER THE SOURCE”
“Consider the source” has been the key to allowing certain types of comments into my heart and others that do not even make it past my ears. Here are some questions to ask next time you are being confronted with criticism and how to know what to listen to and what to throw away. In essence, it’s how we can consider the source.
1. Does the person know your heart?
Hurting people hurt people. That needs to be learned early and often. Sometimes people will say negative things simply as a way to cope with their own issues. Their not mad at you really. Their upset with someone else. You simply were at the wrong place at the wrong time. Before you take their words to heart ask if they know you. Do they know who you really are? Do they love you? What’s the motivation behind their comments? Are they for you or are they simply trying to use you as a punching bag?
2. Are they willing to back up their comment with help to make it better?
Talk it cheap. Is the person daring to give you negative feedback willing to work through the issue with you. There’s a big difference between, “You stink” and “You stink but I want to help you get better.” Both hurt but one of them implies ownership for the words spoken. There’s another blog post coming for the importance of not saying anything you are willing to back up but… that’s later.
3. Do they want the best for you?
I’ve had people criticize me that knew me. However, their comments weren’t to make me better it was just to inform me of my issue. That’s not a true friend. Just because someone knows you does not mean their out for your best interest. Anyone with an ex-spouse can tell you that. What’s the motivation behind their comment? Are they trying to make you better or simply remind you of their superiority?
Criticism isn’t going anywhere and the truth is not all of it is bad. We cannot grow with out being stretched, pulled, and sometimes torn. The trick isn’t to hide from criticism but to figure out what is worthy of your attention and what needs to be thrown into the garbage where it belongs.
So, there’s my three ways of qualifying the words of others. Is there something different you use? Let me know in the comments below.