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.
Not the NLT. It’s 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.
Goodness Henry, what a great article today. Thank goodness it didn’t come a few weeks earlier. It would have been a double whammy with the rake for me.
God has such a marvelous way of getting our attention, doesn’t He? Last Sunday our pastor preached about how God gifts a person, then places that person in situations–some of them difficult–in order to teach us the things we need to learn in order to serve and give glory to Him. Caused me to examine my attitudes.
Criticism thrown at, instead of offered to someone, can be damaging. We must learn to give as well as receive constructive critiques. Our edit partners are a treasure. Iron sharpening iron. But those irons must be cloaked in a velvet gloves. Thank you for your insights.
Thank you, DiAne, for the excellent insights. We need to remember God has equipped us to give criticism, too. And we need to learn how to walk in that equipping just like we do with receiving criticism.
I…have actually stepped on the wrong end of the rake. That comment cracked me up.
Critique group has really toughened my skin, so to speak. Some of the harder comments really cause me to rethink a chapter or character and I’ve grown to love that. Definitely makes it easier knowing that they are FOR me and not against me. Excellent post, Henry.
Wonderful words and great advice at the beginning of this new year. Criticism (constructive or vicious) is never fun, but separating the mean-spirited words from the truly helpful ones will make us better writers, as well as better Christ followers. Thank you!
Thank you, Julie. I’m glad it ministered to you.
Thank you, Deborah.
Good words, Henry. Criticism does come easier with a relationship where you truly feel the person is trying to build up, not tear down. It’s always hard and does take God’s help.
Thank you, Janet