by Matt Schroeder
How do you react to feedback or criticism? How do you react when someone points out a weakness they see in you? How do you respond when someone gives you a stern rebuke for your performance or for a sinful attitude you had.
If you are anything like me, one of these responses will easily begin to surface: defense, self-condemnation, or withdrawal. Or, if you are really like me, all three will surface.
It’s strange how many different routes we can go in times of criticism and feedback. Maybe you know some of these reactions from your own heart:
Defensive: “It’s not really my fault. If she had done this, then I would not have done that. If she had just reacted this way, then I wouldn’t have reacted that way.”
Self-condemnation: “Well, I guess this means I’m not cut-out for this job. I can’t even do this simple task, I must not be qualified or called to this job.”
Withdrawal: “Well if I am such a screw up, then I should do everyone else a favor and not be present. I don’t need people and they don’t need me.”
In my short 23 years of life experience, feedback and criticism can be a tremendously valuable thing, but it all depends on how it is received. And how it is received all depends on a person’s identity.
Do you know who you are as a son or daughter of King Jesus? Are you anchored in what it means to have your total identity wrapped up in the love of Christ?
Many people answer these questions with a strong, yes. I genuinely believe many people have their identity anchored in Jesus, so I’m not questioning everyone. But, my follow up question would be, “walk me through the day-to-day functional implications of what it means for YOU to have your identity in Christ.” In my experience, this is where the breakdown begins to happen, for ALL of us. It’s easy to say I’m a Christian and Jesus loves me. It’s another thing to walk out the practical implications of “Jesus loves me.”
If a person were to rest in their identity being in Christ alone, they wouldn’t get defensive when their boss critiques them for something they did, because they know their identity is not wrapped up in their performance.
If a person were to rest in their identity being in Christ alone, they wouldn’t get defensive when a spouse calls out sin in their lives, because they know the call on their life is to be holy, not always to be “right.”
If a person were to rest in their identity being in Christ alone, they wouldn’t beat themselves up and feel condemned when they mess up, because they know there’s nothing on earth that can separate them from the love of Christ (Rom. 8:39).
The truth is, no human being (except for Jesus) ever walks, functionally, in perfect identity all the days of his or her life. None of us get to a place of perfect rest in who we are in Jesus. We are all on the same journey of choosing to place our identity in Jesus; some of us are just at different stages along the path.
So, how should we handle criticism and feedback? By pressing into it!
Don’t run from it, justify it, manipulate it, or avoid it.
Press into it!
If you are in Christ, you get the privilege and joy of responding to feedback and criticism differently from the way the world responds. When our identity is in Christ, we get to filter feedback through the lenses of, “oh great! An opportunity to grow and look more like Jesus. Whatever is about to come out of this person’s mouth does not define me. So, I can receive it with joy, and submit it before the Lord to see how I can grow.”
All easier said then done. Praying Christians stand out from the world for the way we handle criticism and feedback.