Not long ago, I was offered some constructive feedback on a particular subject. The comments were not made maliciously, but even so, I (predictably) took them as such and became defensive. Even though at other times, praises have been offered to me, and I've accepted them, none of that mattered as I was hearing what, to me, was a criticism. It uncovered some of those deep down fears about myself that I've tried for a long time to keep hidden, for fear that what I thought about myself was actually true: that I am unaccomplished, unmotivated, and unable. (Note: this is not actually what was said at all. It is simply what I heard. BIG difference.)
Was I angry? Yes. Sad? Yes. Did I feel the tiniest bit sorry for myself? Um, I'd be lying if I said I didn't.
Honestly, my confidence took quite a hit as I was listening to what the other person had to say. Anxiety started churning up inside, and I began to question myself. I knew in my heart that while this person had some very good, valid points, it was, after all, simply an opinion. I didn't have to allow this opinion to define me. But I did. This person's opinion is profoundly important to me and I didn't want them to feel let down. And I certainly didn't want them to see me in any sort of negative light. Like, at all.
When life happens, all the other devices that I've put my security in (like beauty, performance, success, possessions) simply can't step up to the plate to make me feel better. What does beauty have to say when I feel like I've let someone else down? Nada. What sort of advice to my possessions give when I feel I've disappointed someone? None. The only "device" that I have left that I have any hope of filling that security void is God.
That's what God offers. Hope. Hope that even though I have not done everything I should have, I still have His grace. Hope that even though life today looks a little more gray than it did yesterday, that He offers a bright tomorrow. Hope that even when I receive constructive feedback like I did the other day, that I can take it to Him in prayer and filter it through His opinion of me. I have confidence that He will help me work on the things that need work (because let's face it--we all have areas that need work), as well as fill me with the security I need so that criticism doesn't seem so harsh, and I can actually take the feedback and use it constructively. There is no need to wallow in pity and despair, wondering if what the other person said is true or not. God's opinion is the one that ultimately matters. When healthy boundaries are set, feedback can be one of the greatest gifts I receive, because I can use it to my advantage. It's a tool that I can use to better myself. But first, it's important to know where I stand with God, and the only way I will discover this is to 1) read His Word and 2) have an open dialogue with Him (read: PRAYER).
So, I have to admit that my reactions to things like this aren't always the healthiest. First, I have the tendency of getting grievously offended, then angry, then hurt. After that comes the good cry, the feeling sorry for myself, the cold-ish shoulder toward the other person (you know, when you'll talk to them but it's very clear there is an issue at hand), and then finally the realization that a) the sky has yet to fall on my head and b) the other person involved needs some grace, too. Finally comes the sheepish "I'm sorry for the way I reacted when you told me _________", and the hug.
I've gotta go get my hug <3 p="p">3>