Tag Archives: criticism

Down the Drain with Praise and Criticism

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“Praise and criticism go down the same drain.” Betty H.

I cut my own hair and kept its natural color ever since I grayed early and changed to a short hairstyle. No one cut it like I wanted, so I gave up on finding a stylist and bought a set of clippers. I’ve never colored because I imagined it turning the shade of a carrot.

Family, friends, and strangers who have loved my short gray hair have made the style and color easy for me to love as well. Praise has been nice to hear. 

If anyone’s disliked it, they’ve kept it to themselves. That was, until The Woman struck up a conversation with my friend and me. We were at a mutual friend’s house for a get-together. The Woman talked about finding someone to style her hair the way she liked it. We both complimented her cut and color just before she looked at me and said, “I’m relieved I found her because I wouldn’t be caught dead leaving my house with gray hair.”

It was one of those moments I wished I was as bold as Joy in Shadowlands, a movie about C.S. Lewis. When Lewis’ friend criticized, Joy turned to him and asked, “Are you trying to be offensive, or merely stupid?”

Since I’m not so outspoken (yet), criticism’s left me shaken for days. It’d send me reeling and questioning more than my hair color. Why doesn’t she like me? What’d I do to bring on that kind of reaction? How can I let go of replaying the scene again and again?

I glanced in a mirror over the dining room table where we were standing near the food. No urge came over me to dip my head in a dye bottle or bolt out of the party, so I figured I’d let her criticism go down the drain. 

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Still, there’s much work to do when I come up against praise and criticism. Publishing a book is a goal of mine, and a “different animal” from writing articles and blog posts. I’ve read Amazon book reviews that’d make a crybaby out of Bruce Lee. Similarly, I’ve obsessively checked on here for encouraging comments even though I don’t want them to be the reason I write. I’m sure God doesn’t want that either.

Maybe I’ll  tattoo Betty’s praise and criticism quote on my eyeballs. Or maybe I’ll just skip reading other people’s opinions since I can get caught up in either one – praise or criticism.

I admired how well Chuck Murphy, our former rector at The Abbey, handled praise and criticism. I wondered how he’d come to the place his friend described, “He had little use for the praise of men, but wanted it from heaven.”

Chuck set an example of caring what God, not people, thought about his actions, some of which were controversial. He didn’t solicit praise from people, nor did he spend much time praising them. He saved that for God. He also didn’t criticize. He stated scripture and facts and observations. 

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My friend Betty encouraged me away from caring so much about what others thought of me. She shared quotes like the one at the beginning of this blog post, as well as this one, “Ten percent of people will like you no matter what. Ten percent will dislike you no matter what. The other 80 percent aren’t thinking anything about you.”

She also said, “What other people think of you is none of your business.”

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Her wisdom helped me get myself to the right size, important to some people, but not to all. She helped me keep people’s praise and criticism the right size too, so I wasn’t consumed with either one. Mostly, she reminded me to get God to the right (and bigger) size.

Praise encourages and inspires, but let 20 people praise us and one person criticize us and see which we focus on. Focusing on God and our purpose remedies that.

“You can’t let praise or criticism get to you. It’s a weakness to get caught up in either one.” John Wooden

Why do we care so much what others think about us when it’s our calling that matters? Living our purpose gives us meaning beyond praise and criticism. Our purpose allows us to let praise and criticism go down the same drain, the place our lives would be if not for God’s opinion of us.

#gettingyourownlife #whilelovingthepeopleinit 

In This Together,
Kim

Disclaimer: Some facts have been changed to protect The Woman. #keepitkind

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Saved By Criticism (in writing and in relationships)

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“The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.” Norman Vincent Peale

Below is a link to one of the best blog posts I’ve read about the value of criticism. I believe it applies to healthier daily living and enriched relationships the same as it applies to improved writing. Dan Balow writes about family and friends who, though well meaning when they praise our writing, actually turn out to be misleading culprits who tell us our work is far better than it is.

This reminds me of a friend who asked my opinion about a book she planned to self publish. Since I’m in the business, I thought she wanted the truth, although I wasn’t comfortable telling her all I thought. It crossed my mind that maybe she only wanted a pat on the back, but I really wanted to help her improve the book. I gave a couple of ideas to see if she was okay with my feedback. Unfortunately, she wasn’t, even though my review was cautious. Her book didn’t sell like she hoped and our relationship never was the same – all a lesson to me about graciously accepting criticism.

When I began my writing career in 2007, I surprised my husband and myself by handling critiques and rejections better than either of us expected. I’m sensitive, so we wondered if a career full of this sort of thing was a good idea. I guess I recognized my writing wasn’t going to improve without some level of support and honesty. It probably helped that my first editor who I respect and like said more than once, “Writing is rewriting” and “There are two kinds of writers: ones who are still learning and bad ones.”

That brings me around to my critique group that meets an hour and a half from where I live. I haven’t always appreciated the long commute, but I have valued the distance. When I first attended, I was grateful I only knew the members as fellow writers since we didn’t live in the same town. That way, our feedback to each other wasn’t influenced by friendship. We are now friends, but since we started on the “write” foot, foremost in our relationship with each other is still the honesty (and, yes, criticism) we share during our meetings.

I’m not suggesting we stand by and be criticized by anyone who has an opinion. However, if I trust that you care about me and I trust that you know what you’re talking about, I’ll listen and then try to put your suggestions into print and practice. Like Winston Churchill said, “Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.”

Heaven help those who have no one to tell him or her the truth or those who won’t listen to anyone who tries. I’m fortunate to be encircled by people who care enough to criticize me and I’m grateful I can hear them. For me, speaking the critical truth takes more courage than hearing it, but I want to care enough to share that responsibility as well.

At least in part (I repeat, in part), criticism is what critique groups are about, criticism is what friendships are about, and criticism is what marriage and parenting are about.

Do you have people you trust to tell you what you need to hear? Do you listen? Are you honest with others?

Click here to read Bad Reviews by Dan Balow (from The Steve Laube Agency Blog).