Daily D – Proverbs 15:31
If you listen to constructive criticism, you will be at home among the wise. PROVERBS 15:31 (NLT)
“Do you want to play better on the weekends, or do you want to win tournaments?”
This was the question a coach asked someone who came to him for lessons. What a great question!
No matter what we do, there is a learning curve. No one becomes proficient or an expert at anything on their first effort. Successful repetition which is repeated and improved over time is what sets apart the interested amateur from the seasoned professional. If we want to improve in any area of our lives, focused attention and regular practice are required.
Some years ago I took swimming lessons to learn how to swim long distances and thereby improve my physical fitness. I needed something to provide strength and endurance beyond running which was causing first one problem and then another. Do you know how humiliating it is for a forty-something man to have a young woman in her early twenties explain how to master some of the basics of swimming and have her laugh at your awkward efforts? At least I wasn’t the guy trying to learn who used a facemask, snorkel, and a floatie.
Powering through the basics, I soon arrived at the intermediate level. Before I thought it possible, I was swimming four hundred meters without a break. That’s a quarter of a mile, sports fans. Then I required shoulder surgery. Ten years later and I still dream about getting back in the pool and swimming up to half a mile or more. COVID has provided enough buoyancy to prevent me from drowning.
On my second or third golf lesson around thirty years ago, the pro pressed pause on my efforts and said, “The goal is not to hit all of the balls in the bucket. The goal is to hit every ball well.” I was having a really good time up to that point. There wasn’t much predicting where the balls were going to land when I struck them, but I was hitting most of them cleanly. After the pro’s pause, I began lining up every shot. It’s amazing how quickly you can improve with good coaching.
For years, I bristled when I read this verse. I do not enjoy criticism. You probably do not, either. However, there is such a thing as beneficial constructive criticism. How do you distinguish it from deconstructive criticism? One is invited and the other is not.
If I pay a swim or golf coach to help me overcome my fear of looking bad and performing poorly, I am going to listen to what they say even if my efforts make them chuckle. I want them to honestly tell me what I am doing wrong and show me what I can work on to do better. That is constructive criticism.
If someone happens to step up without invitation and say, “You’re doing that wrong,” and their goal is not to help me improve but to challenge my character or motives, that is destructive criticism. You will find most of these people ready to reply to whatever you post on social media.
We often hear people talk about accountability similar to how they talk about constructive criticism. My favorite definition of accountability comes from the book The 12 Week Year. The authors describe accountability as a promise you make to yourself that you invite others to help you keep.
Our son-in-law is a really good golfer. I told him I want to play well enough that I do not embarrass him on the golf course. So far I am 0 for 2. Since I have not played regularly in over twenty-five years, I need a lot of time on the practice range and several sessions with a golf pro. In other words, I am prepared to welcome constructive criticism. Yes, I am going to make some golf pro laugh. He will have stories to tell around the clubhouse. And maybe, just maybe, one day he will say with satisfaction, “He’s my student.”
Where do you need improvement? Who can coach you? You may not need a swim coach or a golf pro, but maybe you need someone who knows how to listen deeply and ask powerful questions. Maybe you require a mentor who has been there, done that, and got the T-shirt. Maybe you need a professional counselor to help you untie the knots of your past so that you can move freely into God’s special future for your life. Pay whatever it costs. The benefits far outweigh the expense.
This is going to sound wrong, but invite criticism. Invite constructive criticism. Whether you want to play better on the weekends or win championships, you need someone who knows what to look for, what to listen for, and how to guide you from one level to the next one up. Where could you use wise guidance? Who can provide it?
One other thing: Grow some thicker skin. Even constructive criticism can sting. So does the vaccine which protects our lives against dread disease. Give preference to the inoculation over disease. Give preference to the facemask over the ventilator. Give preference to practice which moves us toward perfection to the fear of criticism.
I will seek constructive criticism.
Our Father, give me the wisdom to set aside my pride in pursuit of excellence. I want to play better on the weekends. I want to win championships. I want to live a life which honors you and serves others. I want to bless your world. Provide me with wise coaches, consultants, mentors, and guides who can help me improve my serve. Amen.
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2 Timothy 2:3-6 Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. Soldiers don’t get tied up in the affairs of civilian life, for then they cannot please the officer who enlisted them. And athletes cannot win the prize unless they follow the rules. And hardworking farmers should be the first to enjoy the fruit of their labor. (NLT)