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Getting Serious About: Your Response to Criticism

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard something of the furor around the new Beyoncé single that hit the internet. I usually don’t bother to address things in pop culture, but I felt like this was a “teachable moment.” (BTW: I hate that term. What doesn’t constitute a teachable moment?) How do we respond to criticism?

The Beyoncé song is supposed to be a response to all of her “haters,” but Beyoncé manages to offend some people who don’t fall into this category. Even people who sympathize with all of the criticism that she has received over the years were a bit shocked at this late and seemingly unprovoked shot at everyone who ever thought they were on Bey’s level. The worst part of this is that anyone who has anything bad to say about her response is almost immediately attacked by Beyoncé’s “stans,” an overzealous group of fans who pledge undying devotion to the star. It’s like her position is unimpeachable. All of us just need to “bow down,” as the song says. Well, like Daniel in Babylon, this blogger isn’t going to do it. But the point of this discussion is not to talk about the idolatry of pop star fans, but to examine our responses to criticism.

If you insist on being a part of the human race, at some point in time you will be criticized for something. We can be criticized for our religious convictions, choices in clothing, choices in mates, political affiliations, what we choose to eat or what we don’t eat, how we wear our hair, and etc. ad nauseum. Someone always have something to  say about who and what we are. We will never be able to change that. All that we can control is how we respond to criticism.

There are two kinds of criticism: constructive criticism and destructive criticism (well, if you’re a writer, there is also deconstructive criticism, but I digress). Constructive criticism is supposed to be helpful. It builds upon the foundation you’ve laid. It makes you better if you can embrace it. Destructive criticism is meant to hurt, to tear down. Most of us have experienced both kinds of criticism. Even though hearing any criticism is hard, it’s important to be able to distinguish between constructive and destructive criticisms to have the appropriate response in any situation.

I try not to respond to constructive criticism right away. I choose to let the insights marinate for a bit. I let the person know I’ll take their criticisms into consideration, and I’ll ask questions for clarification, but I don’t respond to the content of what they said because I know my immediate response to criticism of any kind is rejection. My “old man mentality” likes to think that I have this life thing figured out and I don’t need anyone telling me what to do, while my “new man mentality” acknowledges that this person could have a point. When I know someone is speaking the truth in love, I take what they said to heart and really examine myself and their suggestions. Once I have consulted God’s word for what he has to say on the matter and I see it lines up with what they have said, I pray to God about that aspect of myself that needs changing. I meditate on His word regarding that area. I accept it.

I don’t respond to most destructive criticism, either. I evaluate what the person has to say, and if it doesn’t line up with God’s word, I discard it. There have been times when I’ve had to cut people out of my life because of their penchant for criticism. There are ways to insulate yourself against destructive criticism. You may have to unfriend, unfollow, delete phone numbers, change your  phone number, or change where you go to avoid destructive criticizers. Just this morning, I had to delete a Facebook friend because the radical ideals she pushed don’t line up with the life I’m called to live. I have to know what God says about who I am to be and what I am to do, and I have to let that be the final word.

I almost typed “negative criticism” in the section above a couple times. It’s so easy for us to believe that negative criticism is destructive, when the two are not interchangeable. There are some criticisms that are negative that are valid and constructive. We may not like the way the messenger delivers the message, but if the message is correct, we still have to obey it. This one took me a long time to figure out and agree with. We miss the message because of the messenger sometimes, and what’s ultimately important gets lost.

What do I think of Beyoncé’s response to criticism? I have heard her address rumors and gossip before in her music, and I have thought that she did so in a classier way than most. Sublimation, or putting that energy to use in a positive way, is a good thing. Writing in a journal, praying about it, exercising, singing, cooking, or whatever you can do that is positive to release those feelings is a good thing. However, I think she missed the mark. Although the song is supposed to address a specific group of people, her lyrics call out anyone who grew up listening to her and wanting to be like her. Her lyrical rage is vented on anyone listening. She calls women derogatory names and yells at them to “bow down” as if she’s god and we need to pay homage to her.  Having a healthy self-esteem and thick skin is necessary in a critical world, but arrogance and pride comes before a fall. By not utilizing the proper outlets to vent her frustration, she looks like a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde caricature, singing about female empowerment and sisterhood one day and singing about how she should be elevated above everyone else and paid homage to the next.

The Bible says that a double minded man is unstable in all of his ways. Consistency and conviction are in anything we do. I can’t be one way here and another offline. Neither can I respond in a loving, godly manner to the good things in life, and “lose my religion” when bad things come my way. In a nutshell, respond to criticism  in the same way you respond to favor: thank God for the wonderful things He has done, for strength to get through the difficulties of life, and keep pushing forward, working out your soul’s salvation with fear and trembling. That’s my two cents, anyway.



P.S. I am going to put up a glossary of blog terms for you guys eventually. I am sure someone is reading these posts going “wha??”

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