For someone who hates being criticised, God had a sense of humour when a while back someone asked me as pastor the above question.
I’ve had to learn a lot about accepting criticism over the years, especially the last several. Just when I’ve thought ‘I’m good at this’ God has brought a new lesson front-and-centre to show me just how insecure I can be.
No matter how unfair criticism is, I’ve had to learn there’s always some truth in there to be gleaned.
So, with that background I’m taking the role of suggesting ways to approach someone like me.
I cannot overstate it enough that the person we’re approaching to challenge must feel safe at all times.
Even as we plan to meet with them, we ought to pray about anticipating and allaying their fears. This is whether we’re above them or below them in the pecking order of things. I love the wisdom in the book Crucial Conversations around keeping it safe when the stakes are high. By keeping it safe I mean that whatever we bring as far as negative feedback is concerned is weighed and conveyed compassionately, communicated with patience, devoid of anger or frustration, but chock-full with empathy. It could be very hard to receive, so help them receive it well. Take heed of Romans 12:18: “As much as it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live peaceably with everyone.” Imagine if roles were reversed. I don’t know anyone who thrives on criticism.
Before you even plan to meet with the other person, get the log out of your own eye. Why? Because Jesus taught it. If you’re Christian, this isn’t optional. It’s optimal.
Having dealt with our biases and baggage we start to see how important it is for the other person to feel safe; we see that while they have their part to play, we too have ours. We need to be prepared to accept what we did wrong or could do better next time. Perhaps there’s nothing. Still, ask God to reveal it. Even if there is nothing for you to do, God may cause you to be reminded that you’re flawed too. A contrite heart is always a good backdrop for challenging people, because humility disarms pride barriers in the other.
Ensure, also, that you have prayed through a redemptive frame beforehand, during and after the exchanges. God works through the redemptive pathway of restoring individuals, relationships, and communities. Anything that isn’t redemptive in intent doesn’t reflect the gospel.
And finally, if we find we got it wrong in any way — as so often happens — we ought to be prepared to model care for the relationship and apologise with sincerity and thoroughness.
Acknowledgement to the PeaceWise ministry courses and resources.