In Others’ Words: Criticism

“Don’t mind criticism. If it is untrue, disregard it; if unfair, keep from irritation; if it is ignorant, smile; if it is justified it is not criticism, learn from it.” ~Unknown

Criticism.

In the past, I paid  entirely too much attention to critics. Sure, there were some people ready to let me know where I’d been less-than, not enough, or a full-out failure.

And then there was … me. I was more than ready to criticize myself.

Here’s what I’ve learned about criticism: There’s always someone ready to criticize. I’d rather be the person to encourage, to motivate, to offer the atta’ boy (or atta’ girl.) Even so, I’m enough of a realist to know criticism happens. I like this oh-so-wise person’s approach to criticism in four easy steps:

  1. Pay no attention to untrue criticism. And realize there’s a lot of false “shoulda’, woulda’, coulda'”  thrown at you.
  2. Realize sometimes criticism is unjust. Throw that little hissy fit in the privacy of your bedroom and get over it.
  3. Don’t forget the criticizer may be wrong. Remember this: People (you) look really smart when they keep their mouths shut. (Proverbs 17:28) So, let that gal (or guy) be wrong — and you be smart.
  4. (Wo)man up and accept that the criticism is on the mark. (Ouch!) But don’t beat yourself up with the feedback — learn from it. If need be, take a day or two and then unpack it.

In Your Words: How did you handle criticism the last time it came your way — #1, #2, #3 or #4? Or do you have another approach to handling criticism?

 

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23 Comments

  1. January 23, 2012, 6:19 am   /  Reply

    Good and true. Another Proverb says something like, “Faithful is the rebuke of a friend.”
    Yes, learn and go on to greater (and truer) accomplishments. Bless your week and writing!

    • Beth Vogt
      January 23, 2012, 6:29 am   /  Reply

      Dee,
      I would rather hear criticism from a friend than from an enemy or stranger. Criticism from someone I know — and trust — is valuable and worth weighing.

  2. Jeanne T
    January 23, 2012, 6:44 am   /  Reply

    Such good words, Beth. In the past, I beat myself up with criticisms, allowing words to make me feel inadequate. I think I’m more comfortable with who I am, strengths, weaknesses, etc, that I’m better able to disregard untrue criticism. Most of the time. Harsh criticism is harder to deal with. I try to have a teachable heart when criticism is given, determining what I need to take from it and what can be left behind. 🙂 So appreciate this quote today. 🙂

    • Beth Vogt
      January 23, 2012, 7:16 am   /  Reply

      Sometimes it takes stepping away from the person and the words spoken — Distance, both figurative and literal — to be able to evaluate criticism.
      Sometimes I have to turn down the volume so I can discern the truth.
      Sometimes I have to work hard to remember who I am — those very strengths you talk about, Jeanne.
      And sometimes I have to remember which people in my life are my “safety net” — and are able to speak honestly into my life.

  3. January 23, 2012, 7:31 am   /  Reply

    I’m really bad about self criticism. I’m quick to point out to others when they’re putting themselves down, but slow to take my own advice. I’m working hard to hear God’s voice about who I am, instead of my own or anyone else’s. Thanks for the reminder!

    • Beth Vogt
      January 23, 2012, 7:45 am   /  Reply

      I completely understand, Edie. It’s easier to encourage others and then tear myself down. That’s why it’s so important to steep myself in the Truth! (And be surrounded by encouraging, loving friends and family.)
      🙂

  4. January 23, 2012, 7:47 am   /  Reply

    After twenty-nine years of living with a man who made criticism an art form, I learned not to hear it. (and that’s an art form in itself lol)

    It didn’t matter what I did, it could’ve always been better. I decided early on that if I took to heart every criticism I would break under the weight. To this day, I’ve learned to take criticism to God and ask Him how to deal with it. And I try to keep the attitude of: they(whoever) wouldn’t be saying this if they didn’t love me. Doesn’t matter whether or not they do. What matters is my response.
    Great, thought provoking post, Beth.

    • Beth Vogt
      January 23, 2012, 9:41 am   /  Reply

      Wow, Pat, you are a wise (and forgiving) woman.
      Your response is what matters — that’s gold.

  5. January 23, 2012, 8:11 am   /  Reply

    Thanks for the encouragement, Beth! I can really beat myself up. Everyone has an opinion (or criticism). I’ve found it helpful to have one or two close friends whose opinions you truly trust to give you honest feedback. I have a friend who is also a writer who reads my manuscripts. It’s still difficult to hear (cause we all want to hear we are so perfect!) but I trust her opinion and know she is correct about most of the things. She has made me think about things I didn’t see before in my writing, and has overall made me a better writer because of it.

    • Beth Vogt
      January 23, 2012, 9:42 am   /  Reply

      Trusted friends make all the difference.
      I have my when-all-else-fails family & friends — a chosen few. Their words weigh more heavily with me than anyone else’s words.

  6. January 23, 2012, 8:12 am   /  Reply

    I realize that criticism is part of life, especially life as a writer. I try to offer it constructively and accept it when it comes my way. It can hurt, but we can learn from it if we are humble. But even #4 can be taken with a grain of salt sometimes. Try to evaluate it objectively and see if you agree after lots of thought.

    And the other kind? People are always going to be critical and I can choose to waste time pouting and worrying over what was said about me or pray that God helps me to fix whatever He wants to in me and help me to disregard the rest!

    • Beth Vogt
      January 23, 2012, 9:43 am   /  Reply

      Lindsay,
      I like to say a writer have to have the hide of an armadillo to survive. Not a pretty picture, but true.

  7. January 23, 2012, 8:40 am   /  Reply

    I like your approaches – all four of them. I think it’s good to evaluate the criticism and see where it falls.

    • Beth Vogt
      January 23, 2012, 9:44 am   /  Reply

      It’s true we have to step back and evaluate — but sometimes I need a day or two to be able to do just that.

  8. January 23, 2012, 10:12 am   /  Reply

    I agree with Katie, great approach. To me, it makes all the difference where the criticism is coming from. Also, I think a big piece of my response should always be prayer – that God would help me discern what criticism is helpful and to-be-heeded and which should simply be set aside.

    • Beth Vogt
      January 23, 2012, 10:22 am   /  Reply

      Key piece, Melissa: praying over what the critic said. How it’s said. Why it’s said. And how you should respond.

  9. January 23, 2012, 10:43 am   /  Reply

    Great post! The older I have gotten the more I have come to realize the truth in your words. While criticism-warranted or not- hurts, it no longer has the hold on me it once did. Depending on the circumstance I do one or all of the above, but I always take it to God. He helps me to process it, learn from it and move on. I don’t know what I would do without Him and the helpful friends he has given me along the way.

    • Beth Vogt
      January 23, 2012, 1:54 pm   /  Reply

      TC:
      Sometimes the adage is true: Older is wiser.
      🙂

  10. January 23, 2012, 11:11 am   /  Reply

    The process of writing and being critiqued has really developed #4 for me. Such a good thing!

    ~Debbie

    • Beth Vogt
      January 23, 2012, 1:54 pm   /  Reply

      I agree, Debbie. Never underestimate the value of a good crit group!!

  11. January 23, 2012, 1:01 pm   /  Reply

    Ouch, I do not like criticism. It grates against the people-pleaser in me. Keeping my identity grounded in Christ is crucial to sift through the words of others.

    Great post, Beth!

    • Beth Vogt
      January 23, 2012, 1:56 pm   /  Reply

      I like the way you bring up the idea of “sifting words” through your identity in Christ. It’s important to decide what’s your “sifter,” i.e. what’s the determining factor for your thumbs up or thumbs down decision regarding feedback.

  12. January 24, 2012, 12:29 pm   /  Reply

    I sometimes think I “hear” criticism that maybe isn’t there. Another mom said to me, “He’s your first right?” And, it felt like she was being critical of the question I had. I might have been better served to let it go, but I stood firm on my position — he is my first after all. 🙂 I typically let this go and vent to Hubby later. I do my best to learn from criticim — not absorb all the negatives.

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