In Others’ Words: Criticism


“Criticism, like rain, should be gentle enough to nourish a man’s growth without destroying his roots.” ~ Frank A. Clark, “The Country Parson,” journalist, editor & writer

It’s the beginning of a new week. Odds are, I”l run into some criticism as I journey from here to the weekend. As a novelist, there’s always a good chance I’ll get feedback on my work-in-progress (WIP) — either by request or just in passing.

But I don’t just interact with the imaginary people populating my manuscript. I also spend time with my family and friends, which means I will probably have opportunity to receive — and give — criticism in those relationships too.

I wonder … how will my words affect others this week? Will they be gentle, nourishing my children’s growth? Or will my words destroy a friend’s roots — their sense of worth? Will they walk away from me feeling more . . . or less?

In Your Words: What’s the verbal weather forecast for you this week? Will the words you speak encourage growth or wreak havoc in another person’s life?

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  1. February 13, 2012, 4:02 am   /  Reply

    Oh, please Lord, let my words encourage growth and encouragement!

    I’ll definitely have many opportunities to receive and give feedback in my work this week. I hope nothing but encouragement comes out of my mouth, even if it has to be constructive.

    • Beth Vogt
      February 13, 2012, 6:07 am   /  Reply

      Sounds like you know the “verbal forecast” for your work this week — lots of opportunity to encourage others. Knowing you, I believe you’ll speak words that are positive and life-giving.

  2. February 13, 2012, 4:42 am   /  Reply

    It depends on who’s controlling my life…if I’m Christ-filled, then the words I speak will be uplifting and encouraging even in correction. Otherwise, I can be self-centered and petty and my words can be just the opposite. Thanks Beth, for a reminder of Who needs to be in control!

    • Beth Vogt
      February 13, 2012, 6:09 am   /  Reply

      So true, Pat. So often the words that come out of my mouth are determined by my attitude. Am I considering others more important than myself (Philippians 2:3), or am I thinking only of myself and how “important” I am?

  3. Karen S. Elliott
    February 13, 2012, 4:56 am   /  Reply

    I have found that criticism, no matter how gently presented, is hard for children, and some adults aren’t so good at getting it either. In writing, it pops up a lot, yes? I try to accept writing/blogging/editing criticism, because more often than not, it makes me better. At least I consider another point of view. It is harder to accept personal criticism, though I still try to keep an open mind – and apologize when it’s warranted. What I do not do is make excuses (i.e., I do not add a “but” or a “however” as part of an apology because that’s like making your mistake the fault of the other person).

    • Beth Vogt
      February 13, 2012, 6:11 am   /  Reply

      All good points, Karen.
      As a writer, I’ve signed up for criticism — or feedback, which is a nicer sounding word, don’t you think?
      And, yes, children need to be treated gently.
      I think a guiding principle is to always “speak the truth in love,” (Ephesians 4:15) no matter who I am speaking to — another writer, an adult, or a child.

  4. February 13, 2012, 6:12 am   /  Reply

    One of your strong gifts, Beth, is doing such a great job of wedding pictures to words–that more than doubles their meaning. This is a great one. I’m determined to choose, and think, wisely.

    • Beth Vogt
      February 13, 2012, 6:47 am   /  Reply

      Thanks, Dee.
      I thought this was a beautiful photo too.

  5. February 13, 2012, 6:20 am   /  Reply

    What a great post to focus our thoughts for the week. Sometimes, people don’t perceive helpful advice as criticism, yet it often cuts through the heart just the same. Thank you for a great reminder to think twice (or even thrice) and speak once.

    • Beth Vogt
      February 13, 2012, 6:49 am   /  Reply

      There is such a thing as constructive criticism, Donna — and I am certain you know what I mean — where the hope is to truly help and/or edify the other person. This kind of feedback takes more forethought than “critical” criticism that just whittles away at another’s sense of worth.

  6. February 13, 2012, 6:28 am   /  Reply

    When I hear “criticism,” I so often relate it to writing and ME receiving the criticism personally. I didn’t really think about how I give criticism on a daily basis to others. I pray that my words would be gentle, and that I’d encourage instead of discourage. There is definitely a right and a wrong way to give criticism.

    • Beth Vogt
      February 13, 2012, 6:50 am   /  Reply

      You are so right, Lindsay. It’s so much easier to think about what I’m hearing from others instead of what others are hearing from me. That’s one of the reasons why I liked this quote. It caused me to stop and think about how I affect others by what I say.

  7. Jeanne T
    February 13, 2012, 6:37 am   /  Reply

    Such a great post, Beth. Words. The joy and pain of my existence. I’ll have plenty of opportunities to share them in training and correcting and guiding my children. My hope is that they will edify rather than wreaking havoc in their little hearts. One guiding verse for me is Ephesians 4:29–“Let no unwholesom word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification, according to the need of the mopment, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Even when the words may come across as criticism.

    • Beth Vogt
      February 13, 2012, 6:51 am   /  Reply

      Terrific “anchor” verse, as I like to call it, Jeanne. One I taught my children — but one I need to remember too!

  8. February 13, 2012, 7:04 am   /  Reply

    Such a great reminder that our words are powerful. Thanks, Beth!

    • Beth Vogt
      February 13, 2012, 7:34 am   /  Reply

      You’re welcome, Katie. Enjoyed your blog today!

  9. February 13, 2012, 7:21 am   /  Reply

    I love this quote. It’s beautiful and so true. I have a ms out this week so I’m sure to get criticism; I’m thankful my cps are gentle, helping me grow. I know I’ll have many opportunities to help my kiddos grow this week as well.

    • Beth Vogt
      February 13, 2012, 7:35 am   /  Reply

      How wonderful that you have a trustworthy crit group, Jess. That makes all the difference in forward motion along the writing road.

  10. February 13, 2012, 8:01 am   /  Reply

    Words are so important…reminds me of that verse about the power of life and death being in the tongue. Criticism, well-offered and Christ-guided, can be life-giving…even if it stings at first, I’m thankful for the people in my life who have offered me good criticism right when I needed it…

    • Beth Vogt
      February 13, 2012, 11:53 am   /  Reply

      So true, Melissa — Proverbs 18:21!

  11. February 13, 2012, 10:19 am   /  Reply

    While constructive criticism can be necessary, that doesn’t mean it has to be mean. I don’t like being mean. I pray all my words bring blessings to the hearers. (Thankfully people can’t hear my internal dialog at times…it’s not always so gracious).

    I pray also that I hear God through what others say to me, that way I can gain wisdom and blessings without the unnecessary hurt that can sometimes accompany even the most well intended words. No need to wear my heart on my sleeve, life is too short for that.

    • Beth Vogt
      February 13, 2012, 11:54 am   /  Reply

      TC — I agree. My internal dialogue is not often the most edifying. I am always thankful my thoughts are on “mute.”

  12. Amy Leigh Simpson
    February 13, 2012, 10:36 am   /  Reply

    Encouraging others has always come pretty easy for me…likely because I grew up with such a strong verbal support system. Like anything else practice makes perfect and I do my best to speak love and support to my rowdy children all day long. I still have to rely on God to give me words that will build up and not tear down.

    • Beth Vogt
      February 13, 2012, 11:56 am   /  Reply

      I agree, Amy — we are here to be our children’s advocates and cheerleaders, even as we give them needed feedback. I’ve sometimes misstepped verbally with my kiddos. But I’ve learned children are a-ma-zing at forgiving!

  13. February 13, 2012, 10:39 am   /  Reply

    I aim to encourage. Gentle. Going to be my word of the week. (Face is almost back to normal…normal…ha!)
    ~ Wendy

    • Beth Vogt
      February 13, 2012, 11:56 am   /  Reply

      Glad to hear you are smiling normally again!
      Gentle — good word for the week.

  14. Patti Mallett
    February 13, 2012, 10:45 am   /  Reply

    Beth, the quote and picture pair up to tell a powerful story (of the need for gentleness). Thank you!

    Please, God, plant this in my brain as something that will come to my mind each day. Amen.

    • Beth Vogt
      February 13, 2012, 11:56 am   /  Reply

      Thankful you were encouraged.

  15. Loree Huebner
    February 13, 2012, 10:52 am   /  Reply

    Words are powerful. They can lift up, or tear down. We must be very careful how we use them.

    • Beth Vogt
      February 13, 2012, 11:57 am   /  Reply

      Agreed, Loree, agreed.

  16. February 13, 2012, 11:31 am   /  Reply

    Oh how I wish I could have read this post *before* I crawled out of bed.

    Our words have the power to lift up or crumble. I want to be a lifter-upper.

    • Beth Vogt
      February 13, 2012, 11:57 am   /  Reply

      You are a lifter-upper, LJ, you are.
      And you can always have a do-over for the day.

  17. February 13, 2012, 12:23 pm   /  Reply

    Oh, wow. This is an awesome post, Beth. So important to carefully consider my words before I go spewing them on other people. I’m hoping my verbal forecast this week includes receiving kind words as I try to find book reviewers, but even more I pray to pour words of life and love on others. Thanks for your post today! Gives me a good thing to keep in mind as I start the week.

    • Beth Vogt
      February 13, 2012, 12:37 pm   /  Reply

      So excited for you, Shelley, as you find those book reviewers. Hoping and praying for fair weather and lots of sunshine!

  18. February 13, 2012, 12:30 pm   /  Reply

    Oh wow, what a challenge, Beth. I love what you said about someone feeling more or less after interacting with us. It’s never neutral, is it?

    • Beth Vogt
      February 13, 2012, 12:38 pm   /  Reply

      No, it’s never, ever neutral, Sarah.
      The power of words — so, so powerful.

  19. February 13, 2012, 4:28 pm   /  Reply

    I hope my words encourage others. That’s my heart’s desire, although I muff things up far too often. Thank the Lord for grace and forgiveness.

    • Beth Vogt
      February 13, 2012, 4:57 pm   /  Reply

      Keli, you are one of the most natural encouragers I know. And yes, thank God for his grace and forgiveness — that he lavishes it on us.

  20. February 13, 2012, 6:11 pm   /  Reply

    Great reminder! I’ll be honest and say that it’s sometimes not what I actually say, but my tone of voice and the look on my face. I’ve been working on my face looking loving and kind toward my children (and my husband and others!) even when my words must be firm. Sunday’s sermon was on joy and that it doesn’t come natural but you must want it and go after it. Encouraging words, smiles, loving tones, and kind faces all help others see the joy of the Lord in our hearts.

    • Beth Vogt
      February 13, 2012, 8:24 pm   /  Reply

      Such an excellent reminder: Actions (and facial expressions) speak louder than words!

  21. February 14, 2012, 6:44 am   /  Reply

    Looking forward to a week of encouragement. I’ll save the constructive criticism for critique group on Sunday. ๐Ÿ™‚

  22. February 14, 2012, 11:40 am   /  Reply

    This is such a huge thing for me. I’ve always been ultra sensitive, so much so that I often assume judgement is behind every criticism. Not easy for my husband who loves to give advice. ๐Ÿ™‚ Seeing it as encouragement definitely makes a difference. So here’s to a week of encouragement–both giving and receiving. Thanks Beth!

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