I had been going to college for 4 years before finding what I was looking for. Yep, slow learner, I took 5 years to get a 4 year degree—okay, I liked school and wasn’t in a hurry to get through. Finally, I found it.
You see, I enrolled to learn how to be a good writer. I had already been published as a teenager, but I knew there was more I needed to learn. Once I finally got through all that nonsense of “core curriculum” the first couple of years, I was excited to be going on to a writing program.
But it was just a bunch of kids writing crazy stuff and bouncing their ideas around. I did not feel like I was growing by getting approval or disapproval from inexperienced people. That was not developing me.
The instructors did a good job teaching and they were very affirming of all us creative weirdos. However, I needed more than instruction and more than affirmation. I needed critique.
Of course, I did not realize how badly I needed it until I got it. Then, I could not get enough. It was a literature class, not a writing class. I wrote a response to a story we had read. Then, my writing world came unhinged.
The instructor wrote me a scathing letter telling me what a horrible essay I had written. I had not even written a whole page but he wrote me two, single-spaced pages trashing everything I had said. When I asked for clarity on the paper, he pointed out some of my word choice and said, “Are you dumb or something? Nobody uses a word like ‘startlement.’”
I died. Laughing.
I loved it. No one had been brave enough to point out my flaws before. I suddenly found what I had been starving for during that whole writing track—someone who would tell me what I needed to hear and not worry about hurting my feelings.
Mr. Rodgers was a teacher who enjoyed seeing grown men cry when they read his response to their writing. There are too many writers today who shouldn’t be. He aimed to solve that problem.
He pointed out flaws in my word choices and destroyed me for so much passive voice throughout my writing. I loved his harsh editing so much, I opted to do an independent study with him my last summer so he could critique the writing I was doing for publication. He taught me how to be creative and how to think more widely about the craft.
I love correction. I appreciate someone who would take the time and risk to tell me where I am wrong. I do not appreciate people who just want to argue a difference of opinion. However, I greatly appreciate those who will invest insights that will improve me and how I influence others.
This is the role of a pastor. Many people do not want their pastor correcting their lives. They only want approval. This is the role of a spiritual mentor or leader. God’s Word is for reproof and correction as well as instruction and teaching.
Do you love to be corrected? This is the sign of someone with a heart after God. Stiff necks and hard hearts do not do well in the Kingdom. Have you thanked your spiritual leaders for speaking into your life things that altered your behavior? Perhaps you need to let them know you are willing to be edited.
That teacher taught me something else that might help you with your perspective on all of this: only criticism improves anything. Everybody these days wants affirmation and accolades to feel good. Really they feel what I did—like something is missing, but they aren’t sure what. If a coach only encourages a person in what they are doing right, none of their flaws will disappear. Only by critique or constructive criticism do things improve.
Ask your pastor to critique your life. First, though, be ready and willing to improve your life. Let God shape you into the person He designed you to be by listening to the voices of people who know you and God’s Word well enough to show you were you need to shape up.