I’m writing this post because of inspiration provided by comments from my readers. Thank you, readers!
Recently I blogged about seasoning our words with salt. If you haven’t read the comments on that blog, I recommend you do because they are insightful and uplifting.
That post referred mainly to social media, but this post applies to all parts of life, and even to some fiction. For example, one writer, Joanna Davidson Politano, shared that a couple of her characters struggle with how to convey the truth in love. I think this is a great way to share with readers how their personal struggles with the tongue can play out in reality. Telling the truth is an amazing, sometimes surprising, power of fiction.
“When someone shows you who they are believe them, the first time.” – Maya Angelou
I’ve been insulted by people saying outright they were “just telling the truth.” But their “truth” was merely unhelpful criticism delivered without an ounce of love or humility. From that point forward, I avoided these people. On the plus side, it was for my benefit that I learned quickly that they didn’t care about me. And to everyone’s benefit, that knowledge freed me to focus on those who did, and do.
Does this mean I’m too perfect to be criticized, and that no criticism of me is worthwhile or valid? Absolutely not. And by being the recipient of criticism from people who didn’t care about me, who delivered their verdicts bluntly, with no encouragement offered, I learned to do my best not to criticize without need and certainly not without humility or love. Am I perfect in this? Of course not. But at least I have learned to be cognizant.
“Never come forward to give thine own opinion about anything unless asked to do so, or charity requires it.” – St. Teresa of Avila
Following this maxim is a form of self-control, a fruit of the spirit. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23
Giving in to the urge to tell someone off or simply to offer your devastating opinion feels great, doesn’t it? It also demonstrates a lack of self-control, and damages relationships. Perhaps with some people, you’re beyond the point of caring. I won’t deny that sometimes a severe opinion is justified. However, if you hold the person in low esteem, she senses that and chances are she stopped listening to you long ago, so sharing your opinion won’t produce good fruit. Save your seed planting for those who will listen.
Since the Lord works in surprising ways, you both might want to restore the relationship later. The more upsetting exchanges you have, the harder restoration will be.
Because all humans have opinions, we struggle with how and when to share them. Before diving in, ask:
Do I have the type of relationship with the person that means he’ll be receptive to my ideas?
Is the comment necessary to improve the person’s health and welfare?
Does the comment impart Biblical truth, or is it simply my personal viewpoint?
Will imparting this truth have positive eternal consequences, so sharing it is urgent?
Try to censor yourself every day. Some of my proudest moments are when I remained silent.
Develop the habit of communicating the truth with a gentle spirit. Acknowledge your faults. Perhaps you share the same struggle as the person you’re talking to. If so, admit it.
Share your opinions with people you are in relationship with. Let these people know that you care about them. I’ve experienced at least one person who never had a kind word for me, but gleefully seized every opportunity to say something mean and negative. For me, he illustrated Corinthians 1:13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
Let your loving voice be reminiscent of the harp of an angel.
How have you benefited from criticism?
What is your response to unjustified criticism?
What tips can you offer for sharing criticism?
Do any of your characters struggle with a critical spirit?