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Is it valid?

It is a badge of honor to accept valid criticism. (Proverbs 25:12 TLB)

Have you ever been criticized for something -- criticism you didn't deserve? Maybe it was something others could not know all the details about right then and there, but you had to take some immediate action in order to prevent some other action coming along that would hurt all those who stand there criticizing your present action. Now, that one just plain hurts, doesn't it? Perhaps it was the time you weren't as eloquent as you could have been in expressing yourself, but something needed to be said and you stepped up to say it, then found others picking apart what you said and how it sounded. Those words are picked apart, analyzed, and scrutinized time and time again, all the while finding some fault with them. No one probably knows how many times you have allowed those same words to turn over and over in your own mind, realizing you could have said it better! Valid criticism is one thing - undo criticism is just doggone unkind and unnecessary.

There always comes a time when some action on our part 'deserves' that moment of critique - when you dissect what was said or done and look for ways to do it better the next time. If we are walking with the Lord, those times probably come more often than we might imagine because we get these little prompts from the Holy Spirit to 'evaluate that moment'. Valid criticism is good because it helps us grow. Unwelcome or hostile criticism is not. That actually stunts our growth, or creates even more problems for which we must address new issues requiring even more attention than it would have taken to have had that moment of constructive criticism in the first place! Who defines 'valid' anyway? This has been a debate in one of my work teams about a certain set of tasks we must perform - trying to determine when something is 'valid' is a challenge. Why? We all have our own perspective!

Valid criticism isn't determined by our own standard or perspective, though. It is defined by the standards outlined in scripture. If the action on our part didn't align with one or more of those standards, then we need the honest evaluation of where it is we got off course. Valid criticism is well-founded. If that foundation is the Word of God and the standards laid out there, we will stand a better chance of attaining the desired result. Valid criticism produces the desired result - it causes us to examine our actions/words and then to evaluate where the adjustments need to be made so we don't repeat those actions/words again. This is a good thing - something we don't need to fear or run from. We need the action to be 'pointed out' sometimes because we don't see it as 'invalidating' the standard of God in our lives.

Criticism that produces growth isn't harsh or 'gossipy'. It is to the point, presented in a gracious manner, and has some thought behind it. Rarely is constructive criticism 'given in the moment' - it usually comes when the heat of the moment passes and the other individual is ready to receive it. To attempt to give 'valid criticism' in the moment often meets with hostility, rejection, and hard feelings. It is much better to give that 'cooling off' period, because the other party often begins to realize things didn't go as expected and is actually looking for a way to improve so it won't happen quite the same way again. Valid criticism doesn't point fingers - it is delivered in such a way that it is clear, concise, and given in commitment of the parties to all the parties involved. We need more of this kind of criticism in our world and a whole lot less pointing of fingers and talking about how wrong everyone is, don't you think? Just askin!


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