One of the lessons I wish I had learned earlier in life was the art of receiving constructive feedback well. If you’re like me, even the words “constructive feedback” or “constructive criticism” make your stomach flip-flop.
Our anxiety surrounding such feedback may be the fear of making a mistake or of exposure and truly being known. Our fears could even be rooted in family history or a past experience when the feedback wasn’t so “constructive.”
Think back to the last time someone gave you some feedback about your performance in the workplace or elsewhere.
- Perhaps they said your work was too slow, not detailed enough, or you failed to delegate.
- Perhaps someone shared a challenge they have in communicating with you.
Ouch! How did you respond? Did you lash out in anger? Did you ignore it? Did you collapse in a pile of tears?
How you respond may be directly related to your understanding of the gospel.
Getting Constructive Feedback Is an Opportunity to Remember the Beauty of God’s Grace
When we suddenly learn of a blind spot, an area in which we had no idea we needed to change, we can feel ashamed. That’s why we may respond defensively in anger or cry out of despair. That’s the very moment we need to look at the cross of Christ.
When God sees us, he sees the righteousness of Christ and his performance record. Our sins are forgiven and Christ’s righteousness has been accounted to us.
This is a truth we can’t think about enough. A former pastor of mine used to say,
For every one look at your sin, take ten looks at the cross.
Of course, not all feedback or criticism we may receive is sin-related, but simply a new thing to learn and apply. How we respond to the learning opportunity is the key.
- We can stew over the issue—but that’s our pride at work.
- Or, with Christ’s help, we can humbly accept that we’re not perfect and need to change, and then get busy moving in that direction.
Some feedback we get may be off-base. Pray that God would help you separate the truth from the fluff.
Even if it is accurate, it may not have been delivered with much grace. Pray to forgive the messenger and thank them; it takes courage to deliver feedback and no one does it perfectly.
The Gospel Gives Us the Power to Apply Constructive Feedback and Make A Change
I’m thankful for blogger/author Tim Challies’ review of Jerry Bridges’ classic book, The Discipline of Grace. In this book, Bridges writes about the power of the gospel to transform you:
…nothing so motivates us to deal with sin in our lives as does the understanding and application of the two truths that our sins are forgiven and the dominion of sin is broken because of our union with Christ.
Because we are united with Christ, we’re empowered to apply the feedback, let go of old patterns and the “sin that so easily entangles” us, and grow in Christ-likeness. In doing so, we even become more fruitful, as 2 Peter 1:8 tells us:
For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Bible Teaches That Receiving Constructive Feedback Is a Normal Part of Life
Getting constructive feedback is going to happen. In more theological terms, it’s part of the sanctification process—being changed to be more like Christ.
That’s why it shouldn’t be a surprise when it happens at work, the place where most of us spend the majority of our waking hours. The process of being transformed through life’s circumstances is part of God’s life-long plan for us,
For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…(Romans 8:29; see also 2 Corinthians 3:18).
So, if you’ve received constructive feedback, embrace it. It may help you become more of the man or woman God designed you to be!
Editor’s Note: On “Flashback Friday,” we take a look at some of IFWE’s former posts that are worth revisiting. This post was previously published on May 21, 2014.