Does Not Exist - It's Merely A Sword Designed To Create Fear or WORSE To Cut, Maim, or Kill
- - - - - -"If a critic tells you, 'I don't like it,' or 'This is disappointing,' he's done no good at all. In fact, quite the opposite is true. He's used his power to injure without giving any information to help you do better next time. Worse, he hasn't given those listening any data with which to make a thoughtful decision on their own. Not only that, but by refusing to reveal the basis for his criticism, he's being a coward, because there's no way to challenge his opinion." Seth Godin
Watch for that last factor - not giving people data with which to make a thoughtful decision on their own.. It can happen several ways. A judgement thrown out, an argument that sounds logical or reasonable but which comes from a set of false presumptions, twisting of language, assigning motive to the facts, false logic, etc. Dogs hunt in packs. Critics sometimes like to wield their swords in packs too.
"Constructive criticism, of course, is a terrific tool." Constructive criticism always provides information that helps you do better next time. It is marked by empathy, mercy and grace. Constructive criticism is a gift and, in the church, comes with a commitment to help that is long term, a commitment to a long term relationship. The spiritual gifts of discernment, shepherding, word of wisdom, word of knowledge, prophecy, and evangelism include giving constructive criticism. Even healing, miracles, leadership,and perhaps other gifts occasionally come with a gift of constructive criticism. Think of how often Jesus said, "Go and sin no more," or the words of hope and promise given by the prophets at the same time they issued correction or stiff warnings.
Seth Godin proposes that it is a badge of honor to get a bit of criticism (referring to negative ones). It means that you confounded expectations -- that you didn't deliver the sequel or the simple, practical guide that some expected. It means that, in fact, you did something worth remarking on. The products and services that get talked about are the ones that are worth talking about. In the exercise of spiritual gift, it probably means you were a tool in the hands of the Holy Spirit.
When being dismissed from a church once I was criticized for raising money for a woman waiting for approval of disability payments. The wait was one year. The Social Security Administration told her they could not grant the disability status until her condition remained for one year. I got approval from the chair of the appropriate committee to raise funds to assist her, though he declined to take the request to the committee or to the elders board as newly adopted procedures specified. Over 90% of the contributions raised were my own personal funds or funds I secured from the ministerial associations with whom I had affiliated. These were often doubled by a charitable organization that gave grant aid only as matching funds. I reported my fund raising monthly to elders and/or general church meeting.
Because of the tenuous nature of the approval received, I kept in conversation with the granting office of the charitable organization to be sure every request met their criteria. They allowed for granting requests for which fund raising was verified by the treasurer or the pastor. Grants could also be approved when forwarded by the governing church board but since the committee chair had excluded their involvement that avenue was not used. Funds were always channeled through the church treasurer with no funds given dirrectly to the lady being assisted.
One individual with a "gift of criticism" saw the lady buying cigarettes and objected to the treasurer. The treasurer declared that if she could by cigarettes she could afford rent and utilities. I demonstrated to him the impossibility of the conclusion but he was not happy. The lead elder decided that the lady had only joined the church so she could receive funds - funny she still maintains membership till this day. Others objected to aid because of her past. And her family joined the circles of critics - apparently because they were embarrassed.
Anyway, at the meeting called for my dismissal one of the charges was misuse of church funds. I had handled no funds directly. Every penny raised and spent went through the treasurer and to the woman's utility companies or landlord. But, this fund raising and the fact I had assisted this specific woman (several others had been helped with several hundreds of dollars as well, one case having been approved in the same meeting with the committee man as this woman's) were the reasons for this accusation.
The head elder said I had violated the charitable organization's procedures and that he had confirmed that with the organization (I called all the individuals involved with charitable grants and he had not spoken to anyone of them). He alleged she was just in the church to get the money. He threw up that some one saw her buying cigarettes and was upset by that. And stated we could not have a pastor doing anything that upset any church member. One women on the elders board had already privately threatened me with removal if I did.
Now that was only one item on a list of, I believe, at least 16 accusations offered as gifts of criticism for my good on the way out the door. I was not granted the courtesy of a copy of the written list nor were the items included in the minutes of that meeting. Not even one item was a constructive criticism. All were delivered by the lead elder as cuts with a dull sword in a tone and manner that injured and battered even the facts of my past which were declared to probably not be true either.
A severe case? Yes. A painful memory? Always. But I hope a good illustration of two facts:
1. A judgement thrown out, an argument that sounds logical or reasonable but which comes from a set of false presumptions, twisting of language, assigning motive to the facts, false logic, etc.,cuts, maims, and sometimes kills.
2. A gift of constructive criticism always provides information that helps you do better next time; is marked by empathy, mercy and grace; and, in the church, comes with a commitment to help that is long term, a commitment to a long term relationship.
All Seth Godin quotes are from his book TRIBES.
Photos: Swords from Fourteenth Century by One lucky guy @ flickr