Constructive criticism is one of the most enormous oxymorons I’ve ever encountered. There is nothing constructive about criticism.
I am very familiar with this process and its disguises: effective feedback, productive assessment, practical observation, etc. I used them all during my management years. Almost every employee or colleague encounter of this nature, no matter how skillfully orchestrated, resulted in myriad hurts, resentment, and a decrease in job performance.
Because these conversations were seldom initiated with the receiver’s best interests in mind. They were usually about what was going to benefit the department, or the company, and in some cases, the manager. I’ve been on both sides of meetings like this. Neither is pleasant. I do understand that sometimes the slack needs to be jerked out of certain situations, but there is a right way to do so. Please hear me out.
Constructive criticism (I even dislike typing the words) has leaked into Christian circles, perhaps even more so because it can be used to manipulate people in a seemingly spiritual way. How many times have you heard, “I believe the Lord wants me to tell you . . .”, or “God showed me something about you . . .”, as somebody proceeds to point out your faults and mistakes? This is particularly damaging when it comes from a pastor or church leader since it’s all in the name of Christian love, of course. Oh, and maybe they’ll offer to pray for you so they can feel good about ripping you to shreds.
Why do we feel so compelled to bring someone else’s dirty laundry into the light of day, whether that be in the form of gossip or right to their face? How can we even consider that it is our duty to bring life’s garbage to someone’s attention? Truth be told, they probably already know. And your words will likely do more damage than good. I’ve been on both sides of these meetings as well. They weren’t helpful.
Whatever happened to loving one another?
1 Corinthians 13, often referred to as the bible’s love chapter, gives us a really good picture of what love looks like and how that needs to be lived out every day. There is no room for criticism, constructive or otherwise. Even in the context of sincerely motivated feedback, love has to be the anchor. Otherwise, it’s just a clanging cymbal.
If you’ve been hurt by constructive criticism, ask God to help you to forgive those who have wronged you. Then allow Him to heal those hurts and so you can respond with love. If you’ve been the giver of such criticism, in any of its many forms, ask the Lord where you may need to ask for forgiveness. And allow Him to show you ways to go forward with love.
Read the following and think about it. A lot.
Love, the Motivation of Our Lives – 1 Corinthians 13 (TPT)
If I were to speak with eloquence in earth’s many languages, and in the heavenly tongues of angels, yet I didn’t express myself with love, my words would be reduced to the hollow sound of nothing more than a clanging cymbal.
And if I were to have the gift of prophecy with a profound understanding of God’s hidden secrets, and if I possessed unending supernatural knowledge, and if I had the greatest gift of faith that could move mountains, but have never learned to love, then I am nothing.
And if I were to be so generous as to give away everything I owned to feed the poor, and to offer my body to be burned as a martyr, without the pure motive of love, I would gain nothing of value.
Love is large and incredibly patient. Love is gentle and consistently kind to all. It refuses to be jealous when blessing comes to someone else. Love does not brag about one’s achievements nor inflate its own importance. Love does not traffic in shame and disrespect, nor selfishly seek its own honor. Love is not easily irritated or quick to take offense. Love joyfully celebrates honesty and finds no delight in what is wrong. Love is a safe place of shelter, for it never stops believing the best for others. Love never takes failure as defeat, for it never gives up.
Love never stops loving. It extends beyond the gift of prophecy, which eventually fades away. It is more enduring than tongues, which will one day fall silent. Love remains long after words of knowledge are forgotten.Our present knowledge and our prophecies are but partial, but when love’s perfection arrives, the partial will fade away. When I was a child, I spoke about childish matters, for I saw things like a child and reasoned like a child. But the day came when I matured, and I set aside my childish ways.
For now we see but a faint reflection of riddles and mysteries as though reflected in a mirror, but one day we will see face-to-face. My understanding is incomplete now, but one day I will understand everything, just as everything about me has been fully understood. Until then, there are three things that remain: faith, hope, and love—yet love surpasses them all. So above all else, let love be the beautiful prize for which you run.