Friday, March 30, 2012

Tell Me How Great I Am

Photo Courtesy of Dorota Kaszczyszyn

I love hearing nice words said about me. I love hearing my children sing my praises. I love hearing my husband talk me up to his co-workers. I love hearing my friends thank me for my love and counsel. I love hearing my readers applaud my recent blog post. 

Don't you? 

Most ordinary people thrive on the praises of others. It lifts us up, encourages us and brings health to our souls.

No one likes to be put down, after all.

But what do we do with criticism, correction and the like?

Hannah is nine. I can whisper for her to please go take a shower because her hair is greasy from the day's activity, and she will act like I crushed her heart. "You're mean," tends to be her response.

I'm a writer. There's a term in this industry and most writers are required to have it (or are encouraged to develop it, if they don't). It's called tough skin. Without it, you might not make it in this business. Because criticism is part of the nature of the beast.

"He who rebukes a man will find more favor afterward
 Than he who flatters with the tongue."
 - Proverbs 28:23

I'll never forget the day my parents decided to kick me out of their house. At the age of twenty-two, I felt rather entitled to my life and my freedom. I was an adult, after all. How dare they try to tell me how to live my life?

When I refused to follow their house rules, they deemed it necessary to confront me and drag me off to the pastor's house. Where his very bold, Italian wife decided to tell me how it is. Red-faced and rather loudly, she pointed her finger directly in my face and told me, "Satan made you kill your baby." That's all of the one-sided conversation I remember, because I postured myself behind my self-built brick wall of rebellion and isolation and refused to hear any more of her so-called wisdom.

Her tongue certainly wasn't flattering that day. And I hated her for it.

Flash forward thirteen years later. A group of women in leadership sit encircled in our pastor's living room, his dear wife in our midst. We go around the room, giving one another a word of encouragement and praise. Each lady gets her turn to hear what her fellow leaders love about her. "Let another man praise you, and not your own mouth." - Proverbs 27:2 We are practicing this verse. We are building one another up. 

It becomes my turn to listen. I receive several compliments and encouraging words. My ears tingle with the joy of hearing I'm growing into a woman of God. My pastor's wife smiles at me. "Alycia, do you know what I love about you? No matter how many times I come at you with a baseball bat, you keep coming back for more." This is her way of telling me I have a teachable spirit and am not afraid of correction or criticism. I learn from it. Continually.

The woman who rebuked me has my favor. The woman who yelled in my face with the flush of correction loves me. The woman who isn't afraid to tell it to me straight has my attention.

But I can't remember anyone who flattered me with their lips, their tongue flapping in the breeze. If I do remember the person, I've long forgotten their words and never applied them to my heart.

How about you? Do you prefer flattery or rebuke? Has God's word changed your perspective today?   


  1. Thought-provoking and convicting: YES, I enjoy getting praise. NO, I don't particularly enjoy criticism BUT I can accept it better from somebody who "has my back."

    Reminds me of the psalm that says, Faithful are the wounds of a friend. Thanks, Alycia!

  2. Funny you mention this, because I was just on the receiving end of a criticism a few days ago and I've been thinking about it. Like you said, being a writer makes for easier appreciation of criticism. I used to be so sensitive to it, but ever since a writing mentor prepped me for her return of a manuscript covered in red pen edits (!) her words changed me: "Laurie, if it wasn't worth reading to begin with, I wouldn't have wasted time marking it up." That one phrase pops in my head when someone criticizes me on anything. Like it's God saying "If your life wasn't worth investing in, I wouldn't help you grow better."


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