When I was nineteen the president called me. No, not the president of the United States! It was Dr. Crichton, the president of the college I attended. Dr. Crichton (pronounced cry’-ton) was small in stature, but possessed an intellect of titan proportions. So it was a huge honor when he said, “Tommy, I will be out of town next weekend. Will you teach my Sunday school class for me?” Would I?Absolutely!I prepared to teach that class like I would prepare for a final exam. On the big day, I was ready. My efforts may not have brought “10s” from a panel of pedagogical judges, but in my opinion the lesson was a success.
Perhaps I congratulated myself too quickly. No sooner did I walk out of the class than a seemingly innocent old white-haired grandmother approached me. In a slightly pitched voice with slightly condescending overtones she said, “Would you like a little constructive criticism?”
I looked her in the eye and said, “No ma’am, how about a little attaboy and a pat on the back!”
Actually, I didn’t say that. I was cornered. There was no polite way out, so I took a big slice of humble pie and said, “Sure.”
To be honest, I don’t recall her lecture. At the time, I didn’t regard it at as important. Looking back, however, I know that the greatest lesson that day was not the one I gave, but the one I received—criticism is a friend.
Criticism doesn’t look like a friend! It often greets me with a scowl. It raises its voice in frustration or lowers it in harsh whispers. Criticism lands like a slap on the face. It hits hard and hurts my gentle pride. But when I listen to it—really listen to it—criticism helps! Listen to what God says:
To learn, you must love discipline; it is stupid to hate correction. (Proverbs 12:1 NLT) Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise. (Proverbs 19:20 ESV)
When I was younger I saw criticism as an enemy. Now I know it for what it is, an ally! Criticism wants to help my weaknesses become strengths. It wants to smooth out the wrinkles in my character. It wants to push me out of the rut of complacency and onto a better path.
Next time someone comes offering a little constructive criticism, take a great big slice of humble pie, sit down and enjoy it. Humility helps us to see criticism for what it really is: a mentor, a counselor, and a friend.
STAY FOCUSED TODAY:Write, “I love criticism” on a Post-it note. Eat some humble pie. If you think about it, it is the only dessert that won’t make you fat.