Pastor's Corner - July 18, 2019
How to handle constructive criticism
July 18, 2019 | View PDF
In the fall of 1958, it was the day of our an annual athletic physicals in our small rural community. On this appointed day every would-be athlete walked down to the local clinic to see Dr. Helmut Hartmann for the necessary health check. This was my first of seven such fall afternoons, and my excitement was off the charts.
Dr. Hartmann's nurse lined us up a few at a time at the scales and recorded our height, weight and blood pressure on a small card before handing us the medical card to give to the doctor for our exam. Returning to the waiting room I looked at the figures recorded. I had no idea what the blood pressure readings meant, but I did understand the height and weight; it read 5'6" and 165 pounds, not bad for a grown man; however, not good numbers for a 12-year-old boy. I was not proud of, and actually ashamed of, my "pudgy" frame. Although nothing could prepare me for what was about to happen upon entering the doctor's office for my athletic physical.
Dr. Hartmann was a refugee from Nazi Germany fleeing before Hitler's reign of terror. One thing he brought with him from his German heritage was a stern and serious demeanor. His tough behavior frankly translated to the bedside manner of a "rattlesnake." Standing before him sheepishly, cloaked only in my "skivvies," the good doctor gave me a once-over, had me dress and sit down. Then, looking me directly in the eyes, he said, "Boy you are so fat you should eat rocks!!" Although firm, serious and stern, he was extremely honest and true in his bluntness.
Talk about stunned, hurt, humiliated and emotionally shaken, I was. In retrospect, it was the first time that I can remember receiving pointed and opinionated constructive criticism from someone other than my parents. At 12 years of age, I did not see it that way, and it was several years later before I began to appreciate Dr. Hartmann's bluntness. (I lost 35 pounds before Christmas of that same year).
Everyone has received criticism from one source or another at some point in their lives. At times it is valid constructive, and at others it is rendered out of spite, jealousy or fear and should be ignored only after being examined for any elements of truth. The severity of the sharpness of valid constructive criticism's pointed remarks depends on only two criteria:
--The power and authority from whom it is given.
--One's personal perception of the value of valid constructive criticism.
An athlete learns to hear and heed the intent of constructive criticism given without internalizing how it is delivered. Those who spent time in the military learn to accept criticism -- warranted and unwarranted, individually and as a group. Employees who spend any time at all on a job must be able to accept instruction without personalizing the negative aspects from which it is often offered.
The Book of Proverbs is full of instruction on this subject and very instructional for all in today's world of business, family and church. A few of the verses from the Living Bible Translation read:
--"If you listen to constructive criticism, you will be at home among the wise." (Prov. 15:31)
-- "If you reject criticism, you only harm yourself; but if you listen to correction, you grow in understanding." (Prov. 15:32).
-- "Whoever stubbornly refuses to accept criticism will suddenly be broken beyond repair." (Prov. 29:1)
When constructive criticism comes, it is imperative to search for the "seeds" of truth that can be extracted and planted in your life to help personal growth into a stronger individual, employee or employer. A secular proverb says, "Every cloud has within it the seed of equivalent or greater benefit."
Have a great week.
[BEGIN ITAL]Jim Neal is pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Shafter.