Back from Africa Friday afternoon with lots to process and amazing experiences meeting many heroes. Daughter Maggie, and son-in-law Austin arrived Saturday so I’m thankful for the summer blog sabbatical and the space to be present. I’m reposting some thoughts from a few years ago today that started with a text from Maggie.
“This afternoon a man from the DC Legislature and Regulatory Services in the office next door reprimanded me for playing with bubble wrap too loudly.
BTW, You raised me.”
This text raises so many questions.
The Jesus-y way people used to say this back in the day was “I rebuke thee!” And it came with flames of fire, and lightning bolts. Like Jason Bourne, Bruce Lee, and 007 doing their super hero moves in a whirlwind smack down of high kicks, karate chops, back flips and flying tackles.
Rebuking seems like the biblical free clobber card although these days it often comes under the guise of “doing a Matthew 18:15”. If we’re honest, sometimes I think we can enjoy being the clobberer (or imagining it), but as the clobberee we usually we feel like we’re picking ourselves up off the matt, bruised and bloody after being called out.
A few weeks ago I was corrected loudly and publicly for a mistake I made. Then later in the day I was scolded for something I wrote. It felt like Simon Cowell had told me he had never heard anyone with less talent. On national t.v. Want-to-crawl-in-a-hole-pain-full.
We Christians don’t like making mistakes. It feels so, you know…ungodly.
Once in awhile critique comes wrapped in love from those close to us, like Mr. Rogers putting his arm around us and gently saying “You messed up, but it’s ok. We all do. You’re still a part of the neighborhood.”
But more often it comes from a stranger and it feels like Mark Driscoll has put us on his “Jesus hates you” hit list.
All this bubble wrap stuff has made me think about the ways we usually respond to criticism or correction.
1. We hold hoard it like an 80 year old grandma saving plastic baggies to reuse. We let it define us. Maggie could see herself forever as the “Bubble Wrap Bimbo.” Let it drown out any affirmation. Research shows that it typically takes 4 positive interactions with someone to offset one negative one. We’re giving reprimands a lot of power! Maggie might so focus on the rebuke that she’d miss the three other compliments on her creative bubble dance moves, her cat-like reflexes, and her innovative use of trash.
2. We rebuke the rebuker. Replay the conversation in our heads complete with witty original comebacks. In these scenarios we always emerge righteous and are able to do an end-zone victory dance with moves like Victor Cruz in the Super Bowl while the other person begs forgiveness for being SO wrong about us. Victim turned Victor.
3. We look for the truth, learn from it, and move on. Borrrrring, you say? Yeah, and it’s about as easy for me as competitors on the Amazing Race, sifting through the mud to come up with the prized Japanese frog. But I’ve seen it done so I know it’s possible.
What might a redemptive text from Maggie to Regulatory Guy look like?
RG, Sorry the noise bothered u. It was thoughtless of me not 2 tone it down, but bubble wrap is joy in plastic! Next time I’ll invite u 2 join us in the dance. Have a great day! 😉
Just recently Mark Batterson tweeted, “Criticism, even unfair criticism, can be a blessing in disguise. It keeps you humble.” Great. Thanks. Yea for humility.
I’m trying. End zone victory dance fantasies aside, my prayer this morning was, “Lord have mercy on me, a sinner. Help me to hear the words of truth in each criticism aimed at me. Let my words of correction always be few and seasoned with grace.”
What’s your most common reaction to criticism? How do you handle it?