Many times, when I meditate on God’s Word, my eyes are drawn to encouraging and uplifting verses like John 3:16, or “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” or “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”
And sometimes, as only God can do, He whacks me upside the head with a mackerel as he did during my prayer time the other day when He led me to Proverbs 29:1 (NLT): Whoever stubbornly refuses to accept criticism will suddenly be destroyed beyond recovery.
In the King James Version, this verse reads: He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy. Not quite as in my face as the NLT. The Old English makes it a little mushier with having to untie the knots in the sentence.
The NLT is like stepping on the wrong end of a rake.
When I began writing seriously, the thing I feared most was receiving criticism. I had always been extremely sensitive to criticism. It came from having a poor self-image and being convinced in my mind I could never be smart enough or good enough. My first reaction was to shut down and then, at the first opportunity, I would go off by myself and brood.
Imagine taking this attitude into a critique group.
But God, with His grace and favor and wisdom, prepared me. He showed me magazine articles, books, and blogs that talked about receiving and giving criticism. He brought me to my first critique group. There I observed a group of people much more experienced than me give and receive critiques in ways that were constructive and encouraging.
Most importantly, through prayer and wise counsel, He showed me, for the first time, how to see the criticism was not about me personally, but about my words.
Sometimes, it’s still hard to make this distinction. The enemy tries to wedge the door open and tell me negative feedback means I’m no good. But God has shown me, no matter what people think of my writing, I am good. I am his child and, as the old saying goes, God does not make junk.
To refuse and reject criticism is to set myself up for failure, to put myself in a situation of not being published, of developing a reputation of being difficult, if not impossible, to work with. This accomplishes several things I don’t want to happen. People won’t work with me or consider my work because I’m not open about improving it. It hurts God because it takes me out His plan for me. And it gives the enemy a victory because it takes me out of the will of God and opens the door for him to do even more damage, and, thus, for me to be destroyed beyond recovery.
God’s shown me the purpose of the criticism, how it applies through this verse. The feedback is to help me improve as a writer, to develop and refine my craft, to become a better storyteller. To become a better servant of Him by taking my skills to the highest level possible. To walk in obedience and in the fullness of His plan and calling for my life.
After getting my attention in Proverbs 29:1, He led me to this Scripture, a part of a prayer in Hebrews 13:21 (NLT): May he equip you with all you need for doing his will. May he produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, every good thing that is pleasing to him. All glory to him forever and ever! Amen.
He’s equipped to me write and He’s equipped me to receive feedback and instruction to improve my writing so it serves Him even better.
How does criticism, both good and bad, affect your work, your self-image?
When I first started writing, I didn’t find constructive criticism. I found a critique group that was downright unhelpful mixed with mean, condescending people. After searching a while, I found other groups that actually understood what a critique was for. Then I found my critique partners!! They are above and beyond awesome and always point out what works and what doesn’t! So blessed to have them!! I think balance in a critique is essential. Sometimes I need to take a couple days and really think on what people say I need to change. And if it fits with the story or character, I take their advice because I understand I won’t always get it right the first time around. And I don’t know everything. Great post, Henry!
Good critique partners are priceless.