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Pointers along the way #187

Responding to criticism
- Jacob Ninan

Our built in psychological response to threatening situations is to either fight or flee. If we think we can manage to overcome whatever or whoever is causing us problems we choose to fight, and otherwise we flee. This fighting or fleeing is basically aimed at preserving our status quo. We don't like to be forced to make any changes in our life and so we respond in ways that can hopefully avoid changes.

For example, when we face criticism we try to defend ourselves by insisting that it is not true or justified, or by saying that the critic has more things to deal with in his own life. This is 'fighting.' We don't want to take that criticism and we are doing all we can to deny it. On the other hand if the criticism strikes us to the core and there is no way to deny it we can get into a depression over it and pity ourselves. Both times we are refusing to face the criticism and see if there is any need to make changes to our life.

We Christians who acknowledge that we are sinful and imperfect should deal with criticism differently, shouldn't we? We say we want to become more and more like Jesus and admit that we are far from that goal. But what we do in actual practice is to try and avoid every chance of finding out what exactly is wrong with us and what we can do about it.

Is this because admitting our faults might take away or crack the foundation of our self-righteousness on which we are resting? If recognition or admission of our faults or lacks can cause our self esteem to crumble we must realise that our foundation of grace is very weak or absent even if we profess the doctrine of grace in theory. Let us take a look at one incident in the life of Jesus.

Shortly before His time for betrayal and death Jesus took a basin of water and a towel and proceeded to wash His disciples' feet. The Bible says that He did this "knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God" (Jn.13:3). In other words He knew who He was, what His relationship was with the Father, and what His task was. He was sure of Himself. This permitted Him to have enough 'margin' to step down and humble Himself before the disciples without any threat to His self esteem.

When we find it difficult to admit our faults it shows that we are not secure. Hasn't God accepted us just as we are, 'warts and all,' when we put our trust in Jesus? (Ro.5:8). Aren't we His children? When He chose us before the foundation of the world He knew what sinners we would be. Is any sin that we see a surprise to Him? Isn't the blood of Jesus sufficient to forgive the sins of the whole world? (1Jn.2:2). Then why are we afraid that admitting some sin might shake the foundation of our salvation?

But when we know with what large heart God has accepted us, we are also able to honestly accept our failures and go on to change our ways (Je.31:3)).