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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

What Criticism Really Is

To others, this season is Christmas. To me, and those who work within Christian radio, this season is "Criticism-mas."

"You've ruined my Christmas by not playing all Christmas the day after Thanksgiving. You aren't playing enough songs about Mary. Why can't you play Christmas music for one week only? Your Christmas music does nothing for me and I can't worship to it - guess I'll have to listen to the rock station until you get back to REAL music. I can't believe you aren't playing all Christmas music - I expect more out of the supposedly CHRISTIAN radio station..."

Those are real comments/emails from listeners, and the list could go on and on. It takes every bit of the Lord's help to respond in grace, especially when assaulted with criticism day in and day out during the most joyous season. Criticism-mas challenges me to look at myself, my defense mechanisms, how I respond to others, and how I criticize others.

Criticism isn't always a bad thing.

It can be something that helps a person/organization grow. It can help you view a task, job, or thought process in a different light through an opposing view point. It can even help a person course correct and positively put them on a fresh, uncharted path personally and professionally. Criticism shows that someone cares. Unfortunately, criticism is typically the adult form of throwing a temper tantrum and crying out for attention.

The trick is to recognize that there are two forms of criticism and then how to express criticism appropriately.
1) Good, (constructive) Criticism
When expressed, doesn't tear a person/organization down and encourages them to grow personally/professionally. This criticism focuses on helping the other person/organization. It's like turning on a flashlight in a dark room and pointing the beam towards the exit to help guide the person.

2) Bad Criticism
When expressed, is done in a way without regard for the feelings of the person/business. It's all about the criticizer expressing their irritation towards the person/business. It's like being in a bright room and someone comes along, switches off the lights, leaving you in pitch black darkness, struggling to discover the exit.
One type of criticism builds up; the other tears down.
"Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them." - Ephesians 4:29

"So encourage each other and build each other up..." - 1 Thessalonians 5:11a

"Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires." James 1:19-20

"If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless." - James 1:26
The next time you have the opportunity to express criticism, ask yourself, "Is this about helping the other person or business grow? Or is this about helping me express my frustration? Would my family and friends be proud or appalled at the way I expressed criticism towards this person/organization? When Jesus asks me for an account of this in heaven, will I be embarrassed?"

You'll find your answer very quickly if it's criticism that can and should be expressed.


  1. Excellent points Erin! Thanks for sharing. I'm reposting this since it's a concept more should understand. I 'got' the concept a few years ago - but I'm still working on the 'successful & consistent application' of the concept. Sadly, knowing & doing are two very different things!

  2. I work in Christian Retail, and yes, those 'I thought this was a Christian store' barbs to hurt. Especially when people follow it up with 'I won't be back' that rejection and anger burns along the bottom my soul, charring it. This year, however, Christ has had me focusing on the positive and I've been delighted to see the bright spots this year. It's been a nice shift.

    I would add that criticism needs to be placed at the point where change can be made. Don't tell a store clerk at the chain craft store that you don't like their policies. You need to write corporate and tell them why they should change their rules, that's where the change can happen. Also whenever possible don't attack or highlight the person as the issue that is 'wrong' or 'needs work' always point to the action or work when issuing it.

    As a bonus, I've been working on remembering Christ and all that He suffered when I am wronged by critical attacks. He paid not only for the sins I commit but also the sins committed by others against me. The key phrase there is "working on" ;) I'm still a work of grace in progress.

  3. What a great piece to write about. I hope you can post it on the radio station's blog. wow - I can't believe people take the time to criticize MUSIC. shine on sister.

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