Welcome critique over criticism.

31 Lessons from an Epic Beginner // 17: Welcome critique over criticism

Day 17 of 31 Lessons from an Epic Beginner

When I was twelve, I got more serious about my writing (which was poems at the time) and experimented with refrain. You know, a phrase or verse repeated throughout a poem, especially at the end of each stanza. This was a bit of a transformation for me as I went from writing limericks about shoes to writing stanzas and refrain about faith.

I didn't necessarily love the style--it seemed a little repetitive. But it felt so different than anything I had ever written, and I was proud. I excitedly took it to my dad, who didn't respond exactly how I had hoped.

I'm sure he complimented me and said it was good, but what I heard loudest was criticism. "These verses are a little too repetitive. Maybe you could leave a couple out?"

He was kind and gentle with his words. Offering valuable feedback to help improve on a good thing. But the critique cut straight to my pride. All I wanted was praise and admiration for what I felt had been a monumental breakthrough.


Eventually I realized there was nothing wrong with his response. His words were said in love, and he even agreed with me! It was how I accepted his words that hurt. It's how I hoped for praise and instead got practical feedback. It's how I saw his loving critique as negative criticism.

They are in fact two very different things.

A critique helps us improve. It's usually received from someone more experienced or close to us that has our best interest in mind. It can also come from someone less experienced or not close to us, as long as we choose to see it that way and are careful to not accept these abstract sources as knowledgeable in our situation when they're not.

On the other hand, you usually have to add constructive in order to make criticism positive--it's not naturally that way on its own. It can come from anywhere--a stranger, enemy or pseudo-friend. It can knock us down and eat our spunk if we're not careful and internalize this negative feedback as truth.


Why does this matter on our epic beginnings?

Because we'll receive plenty of feedback--blatant and disguised--on our journeys.We'll receive critiques that can help make us better, and we'll receive criticism that will blindside us. It's important that we call these what they are, so as to not lose our way.

We can do so by asking...
1 | Who said it? (a trusted friend should be listened to over a stranger on the internet)
2 | Why did they say it? (criticism is often a complaint for no reason; a critique is for improvement sake)
3 | How did they say it? (a tone of encouragement goes a lot further than attacks)
4 | What did others say? (there will be lots of lone opinions; the repeats might hold some truth)
5 | Does it matter? (many complaints are not your problem; spend time on the ones that are within your realm and lead to improvement)


And, in case you're curious, here's the poem I wrote July 6, 1999 after taking out a couple of the refrains. (Thanks, Dad! ;)

J O I N   T H E   S T O R Y

Hear His healing words,
"Take your mat and walk."
Pay close attention,
Hear Him gently talk.
Helplessly listen,
As Jesus, they mock.

Observe His actions,
As people are freed.
See His baptism,
And follow His lead.
Watch as he carefully
Plants every seed.

Feel His pain and sorrow,
Join the story.
Would you go through that
For someone like me?

Touch God's hurting wounds,
Making my sins few.
Take hold of the hands
That are reaching for you.
Live your days fully,
In this life anew.

Smell the sweat that drips,
As He goes through pain.
Inhale His freshness;
Let His glory reign.
Breath through the clouds,
That came as He was praying.

Savor the bread
That represents His body.
Taste the perfume
Poured on the head of our King.
Experience His life,
Lived abundantly.

Feel His pain and sorrow;
Join the story.
He went through it for
Every sinner like me.


Answer in the comments:

How do you distinguish between encouraging critique and negative criticism? What is one thing you can do to keep either one from eating your spunk?

Day 17 of 31 Lessons from an Epic Beginner