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Criticism: Constructive or Destructive?

Criticism can be a great thing. It keeps us from becoming myopic, helps us grow personally and often leads to recognizing and solving real problems. However, there is a significant difference between valuable ‘constructive criticism’ and a critical person who seems to only offer criticism that is destructive.

Criticism Pic

Criticism Pic

Here are three questions to discern between the two:

1. Are they willing to personally help solve the problem?

Critical people are all about the ‘hit and run.’ They are quick to point out what’s wrong, but there is a lack of willingness to be a part of the solution. If the problem is financial, are they willing to provide money? If the solution to problem requires time, will they rearrange their calendar? It’s one thing to say, “This is what’s wrong- you need to make it better.” it’s another to say, “This is what’s wrong and I will do whatever I can to help you make it better.”

2. How do they respond if you or others disagree?

No one is always 100% correct in their criticism. There will probably be parts where the person offering criticism is spot-on and other parts where they miss the mark. The question is whether or not they are willing to engage in a healthy dialogue about what they see. If there is no willingness to budge or to genuinely listen to another perspective(s), their criticism is less constructive and is more destructive.

3. What is the ‘spirit’ of their criticism?

When someone is offering criticism, it is often difficult to know their intent. One thing you can do is trying to listen ‘between the words.” What is the nature of the criticism? What is the heart in which it is being expressed? For criticism to be truly be constructive, it should be given with the goal of helping the recipient improve and be more successful, not to belittle or humiliate.

We all have given and received criticism. What advice would you add that may help criticism be less destructive and more constructive?

Water or Gasoline

People seem to fall into one of two categories… water or gasoline. Being able to discern between the two is important when building teams, discerning friendships, raising a family and even choosing a spouse.

Water or Gasoline Donovan Christian

Every arena of life is filled with ‘flare-ups’- challenging situations that have the potential to harm organizations and relationships. While some of these are preventable, most are not. The key, however, is not the prevention of these difficult situations, but the response.

When a ‘water’ person sees a flare-up, their instinctive response is to put water on the flame, thus reducing its destructive potential. Conversely, when a “gasoline” person sees a flare-up, their response is to douse it with flammable liquid. The result is just as we would expect, a difficult situation becoming more difficult… a small problem becoming a big problem… a contained flame with flickering embers becoming a raging inferno.

Water extinguishes. Fuel feeds. “For lack of wood, the fire goes out…” (Proverbs 26:20). It’s that simple.

One additional word of caution/encouragement. Water and gasoline are both contagious. If the initial response to a problem is with water, expect the bucket brigade. If it’s gas- pyromaniacs of the word unite. So… carefully guard the first response knowing this will determine much of what follows.

Which do you tend to be? Water or gasoline? How have you seen this to be true in your life situations?

7 Questions for Campers Coming Home

This is the time of year when thousands of young men and women will head off with their church youth group to experience camp. It is well spent time that creates lasting memories and often serves as a catalyst for significant spiritual growth.

Camp Sign

When our kids return home and stumble out of the bus/van, we have the unique opportunity to take part in and continue their experience.

The first order of business… peeling the clothes off your middle school boy, incinerating them, and dragging him into the shower. After that, here are seven questions to ask your camper.

1. What did you learn about yourself?
Camp shakes things up and puts campers in environments that force self-discovery.

2. Who did you spend time with (fellow campers and adults)?
Camp relationships are both significant and telling.

3. How did it help being away from TV/computers/phones/video games?
Modern-day life is filled with distractions that keep us from hearing from God.

4. What did the speaker talk about & how can you apply it?
Good camps have a theme and the speaker will encourage practical life-application.

5. What did your counselor or youth group leader say that had an impact on you?
Adults make it a point to speak into the lives of their campers.

6. What did you learn about who God is?
God is not more present at camp, campers are just more aware of His presence.

7. What did you learn about what God wants for your life?
Many major life decisions have come as a result of a camp experience.

A few bonus tips to keep in mind:

  • Limit questions that can be answered with a “Yes” or No.”
  • Give plenty of time for answers and don’t be afraid of silence.
  • Have the conversation away from phones/TV/computer/etc.

The Cure For Critical

Are you critical? Do you often find yourself assessing other people and finding that they come up short? Do people feel like they can never measure up to your expectations or do anything right?

Critical

While there is nothing wrong with legitimate criticism, or what we might call “loving discernment,” there are those who tend to be overly critical. They expect and inspect, readily finding deficiencies, causing inevitable strain on relationships.

Fault-finding becomes a pair of pessimistic lenses through which we see the world, consequently stealing our joy.

Like many negative behaviors, a critical spirit is a symptom of an underlying disease… pride. A critic is someone who considers themselves an authority. Pride believes, “I know what’s best… I know what’s right, and because something isn’t the way I believe it should be, it must be wrong.”

So, how do we overcome a critical spirit? If pride is the disease of a critical spirit, humility is the cure.

A humble spirit willingly admits that there may be alternate views to their own and that these views are equally worth consideration. Humility recognizes value in other people and lowers the “self-superiority” of a critical spirit.

The benefits are many including a more positive outlook on life, improved relationships and being liberated from the misery of being critical.

So why not start today? Ask God to replace any pride-rooted criticism with grace-filled humility and watch what happens!

What kind of impact has an overly critical spirit had on your own life?

If it must be whispered

If it must be whispered

If it must be whispered and cannot be shouted, perhaps it should not be said at all.

Great Expectations

Expectations

Most people live in a tension of having expectations about something and subsequently dealing with the reality of whether or not those expectations become a reality.

This happens at work, ministry, marriage, and just about every area of life.

The reality of this tension means people usually do one of two things. They either set high expectations and are disappointed when those are not met or they stop having expectations altogether in order to avoid disappointment.

But there is a viable, healthy third alternative:

Set your expectations high, but be satisfied when you don’t meet them.

Continue to aim high. Dream big and want the best for things in your life. This allows us to accomplish greater things, to excel, and to do more than we think we might have otherwise.

But… whenever you don’t meet the mark set by those high expectations, don’t get discouraged. Be content. Be satisfied knowing that you did what you could and continue having high expectations.

Where do you typically find yourself in this tension?

Making Progess- Four Simple Steps to Getting Where You Want to Be

Most people have an area of their life, either personally or professionally, they would like to work on to make improvements. The challenge isn’t having the desire to make something better, it’s actually doing something about it.

Doc - Jan 24, 2013, 12-05 PM

Here is the simplest approach I’ve found to make changes in whatever area you want to work on.

1) Know where you are.

This is the easiest step and probably the reason you’re even thinking about making changes in the first place… there’s an element of dissatisfaction.

2) Identify where you want to be.

Be as specific as possible. The more you can “see” what it would look like and be like the better.

3) Decide what you have to do to get there.

This is your “to-do” list. Again, be as specific as possible without bogging yourself down to the point that you get overwhelmed.

4) Do it.

This is always the hardest step, but when we see how the “doing” actually moves us where we want to be, it serves as a powerful motivator.

What other advice or recommendations would you offer to help someone get where they want to be?

The Social Media Sham

Social media has a lot going for it. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and all the others have a place and a purpose, but they also come with a warning.

A friend shared a story about his recent visit to the “happiest place on earth.” As they stood in line waiting for a ride, he noticed two brothers nearly killing each other, only to be interrupted by their mother who told them to stop and smile so she could post a picture to Facebook.

Thus the danger or social media… it’s not reality.

When it comes to social media, we capture the highlights, not the humdrum. We capture the meal, not the dishes. We capture the smiles, not the tears. We show the world our best moments and conveniently leave out the rest.

Sure, a trip to the beach includes smiles and sunshine, but it also includes packing, driving, trudging through sand, sunburns, malicious seagulls bent on destruction, individuals oblivious to their body-to-bathing-suit ratio, and sand stuck in various cracks and crevices. Those things rarely make it in.

Not Reality

Why does it matter? The things we see and read in the world of social media don’t accurately represent life. We only get the highlights.

If we use what we see on social media as a means for comparison, we run the danger of being discouraged and disappointed with the reality of our own lives. My marriage won’t measure up, my kids won’t measure up, my church won’t measure up, my friendships won’t measure up… nothing in my life will measure up.

Yes, we should capture the smiles and share them with the world. But, we should also find contentment in the ordinary and the mundane that makes up a great majority of our lives. Stop comparing. In the ‘unreal’ world of social media, you’ll always come up short.

For the Better

With the exception of some deeply religious hypocritical leaders, people really liked hanging out with Jesus. And it wasn’t just because of the cool miracles.

Plenty of people really liked having Jesus around because he always made people and situations better. Funerals and wedding parties… better. A trip to the well by a licentious women… better. Worship in the temple… better. A party with drunks and prostitutes… better. Walking down a dusty road… better. Fish fry at the lake… better. Every person, every situation, every moment was better because Jesus was there.

Jesus was there, so life was there. Hope was there. Love was there. Encouragement was there. Peace was there. Truth was there.

What about us?

There is never a time or a moment where our presence does not have the potential to have an effect on the people we come in contact with.

How do conversations shift when you join in? How does your home change when you walk in the door? How is work different because you’re there? How does your presence in your faith community change? How is your neighborhood or community affected because you are there?

If we’re anything like Jesus, they’ll all be better.

The One Thing Children Don’t Need To Learn

Not a single child in all of history has ever needed to be taught to be foolish. Folly just comes naturally.

I was speaking at a camp for middle school students this summer just outside of our town. My wife and nine-year old son decided they would like to drive out and join us for the evening. They didn’t know if they would make it in time for the evening meal, so Shelly told him to pack a meal to go.

They made it to camp in time for dinner so the packed meal remained in the bag it was brought in. Later that night, I opened it up to see what was inside and discovered the following contents.

While his dinner maybe missing a couple essential food groups (or all of them), he does get high marks for color and consistency.

We see similar examples of folly all the time in children. Running with scissors and not looking before crossing the street are due to folly. It’s why a child will eat donuts until they throw-up. Nearly all trips to the principal office are folly related. Folly is why teens surf on cars and jump from buildings without thinking about the importance of landing.

What can we attribute all of our “seemed like a good idea at the time” moments to? Folly. Folly prevents people from considering the outcome of their actions.

Proverbs 22:15 tells us, “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.”

Children do not naturally gravitate toward wisdom because their hearts having something stuck to them that prevents them from making good decisions. So parent’s have been given the responsibility to “unbound folly”… to drive it far from them through the use of discipline. We might say our job is to be “folly extractors.”

Discipline removes folly and replaces it with wisdom. This could be through verbal warnings, time-outs, loss of privilege, spankings (given in love), or other forms of discipline. Correction should always begin with the least severe method and increase only when the more gentle method fails to bring about change. We know that forms of discipline must change as our children grow older, but the mission remains the same.

But have to stay the course. We must remain vigilant. Unlike wine, uncorrected folly doesn’t get better with age. The stakes get higher and the consequences become more severe.

No parent enjoys discipline, but we cannot allow folly to bind their hearts. To not discipline is to not love. Sparing our children from the potential consequences of foolishness is the most loving thing we could do for them.

How have you seen this relationship between folly and discipline in your own childhood, as a parent with your children or with other children/parents?

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