Discerning Criticism


Welcome to another in the series of periodic (or sporadic) posts on Proverbs for Writers.

This week’s post is from Proverbs 25:12 (NLT): To one who listens, valid criticism is like a gold earring or other gold jewelry.

Sometimes, it’s interesting to read other translations to get a fuller flavor of the verse.

From the CEV:  Listening to good advice is worth much more than jewelry made of gold.

From the HCSB: A wise correction to a receptive ear is like a gold ring or an ornament of gold.

From the MSG: The right word at the right time is like a custom-made piece of jewelry, And a wise friend’s timely reprimand is like a gold ring slipped on your finger.

I think all of us have heard in our writing careers that we need to develop a thick skin to handle criticism and rejection. And this is true. To a certain extent. If we want to succeed as writers, we can’t let harsh criticism or bad reviews or rejection by an agent or publisher throw us off course.

Along with a thick skin, we also need to develop discernment.

If all we have is a thick skin, this could lead to ignoring or rejecting valuable content. We plow ahead into more criticism and rejection, not knowing why it keeps happening. We keep beating our heads against the wall, only to discover the wall has gotten thicker and we’ve developed a flat spot on our foreheads.

Criticism and rejection are part of being a writer. A thick skin helps us get tough enough to receive it without going all to pieces.

Discernment is a gift God has for all writers. Like our faith, we need to develop it and strengthen it. How do we do that? The same way we strengthen our faith. We exercise it.

As the verses above tell us, valid criticism, good advice, wise correction, the right word, and a wise friend’s timely reprimand can be like the finest gold. If we are open to receiving it.

And we need to be open to it. One reason we join writers’ groups and critique groups is to get feedback. So why do we reject the feedback we don’t like?

We need to welcome it. We need to receive it as the valuable tool God designed it to be. This doesn’t mean we accept it like the tablets Moses brought down from Mt. Sinai.

This is where discernment comes in. This is where we pray over every critique and criticism and rejection we receive.

“Father, help me to read this criticism with an open mind and heart. Help me to see what you want me to see in these comments. And help me to identify the comments I don’t need to hear, those that will mislead or harm my writing. Help me to focus on the valuable comment, the nuggets of gold, the finest pieces of jewelry that I can apply and make my writing shine for your glory, not for mine.”

How do you exercise discernment in receiving criticism?



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