Re:Creating Criticism

I have learned more about blogging and social media from Michael Hyatt, CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, than perhaps anyone else. His presence alone at re:create 11 was enough for me to go out of my way to be there. One of the highlights of the conference was to have a one-on-one conversation at dinner one night with Michael. Another highlight was the thought-provoking talk he gave to all of us re:creators.

Michael Hyatt’s talk centered around a topic critical to creatives: criticism…and what to do with it. His talk engaged us immediately by giving background: “Who Am I?”; “What I Like”; “My Story”. Three excellent ways to draw an audience in.

But the meat of the talk was to speak to creatives about their number one challenge: If you’re going to survive and fulfill your God-given calling, you must learn how to handle criticism and overlook offenses. Creatives, and leaders for that matter, must embrace three truths about “offenses”:

  1. Offenses are inevitable. We have daily opportunity to be offended. The book of James reminds us that we ought not resent “offenders” as intruders, but welcome them as friends. God allows people who cause offense to come into our lives because He has a purpose — a bigger story. Daniel Dafoe, author of Robinson Crusoe, once said, “God will often deliver us in a manner that seems, initially, to destroy us.”
  2. God intends offenses for our good. At the end of Genesis, after all the things his brothers have done to him, Joseph says to them: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good….” It’s not about us, it’s about the ones God wants to save through us. It’s easy to resent people for their offense…but what if God has a purpose?
  3. Being offended is a choice. Proverbs 19:11 reminds us that true glory is to overlook an offense. You don’t have to make every wrong right. Sometimes it’s wise to overlook offenses and just keep going. When Jesus was reviled “He opened not His mouth.”

When is it the right time to overlook offenses?

  1. Don’t overlook an offense when it is intended as a correction. Listen and evaluate. Proverbs 10:17 — “He who heeds discipline shows the way to life, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray” (NIV).
  2. When you discern that the other person was reacting because of something else. St. Tikhon of Zadonsk once said, “See him as a fellow sufferer.”
  3. When it is undeserved, but minor. Ecclesiastes 7:21-22 says: “Do not pay attention to every word people say, or you may hear your servant cursing you — for you know in your heart that many times you yourself have cursed others” (NIV).
  4. When no one is affected but you.

How can you overlook offenses?

  1. Acknowledge that you’ve been offended. You can’t transcend what you don’t acknowledge.
  2. Remind yourself you have a choice. Between stimulus and response is possibility!
  3. Remember you are dead to these things. St. Makarios said, “Like the dead, take no account of either the scorn of men, or their praises.”
  4. Forgive the other person…and let it go. Resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to get sick.

Creative people tend to be sensitive people. Criticism is difficult. But it can be overcome. Thank you, Michael!

How do you overcome criticism so that you can create your art?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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8 thoughts on “Re:Creating Criticism

  1. As an artist I have struggled all my life with accepting criticism, especially if I think it comes from those who know less about art than I do. I view my my work as a personal expression, which is sometimes hard to distinguish from me. Criticism can be seen as "suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune." It hurts!

    More recently I have found that I am able to deal more effectively with criticism if I approach it from the context of how I can best serve my neighbor. This is not always easy, especially if I am busy pulling arrows from my thin skin. However, once overcoming the self-centered focus I soon realize that my critic and I are in the same boat. We share needs. This view also eliminates the prospect of one of us being superior to the other.

  2. I start with a heavy dose of blind rage.

    No, that never works.

    First I laugh. I laugh because I can laugh. The criticism that comes my way often begins with the words, "You're a HERETIC." That's a word that got people hung or burned for millennia. So the fact that I'm able to laugh, noose free, is always a relief. (Also, I laugh knowing that once I explain myself the witch-hunters almost always recant with a silly, "Oh, that's what I thought you meant." How fast the pyres are doused!)

    I also laugh because another alternative is to lock up. Folks who don't work creatively (or aren't wired that way) don't know how powerfully creativity-killing criticism can be. I say this with no ego whatsoever; but creativity and loads of self-doubt don't mix. Again, this isn't an ego thing. It's more a freedom thing. At my creative best I'm free from the sort of pestering self-doubt that has me constantly checking whether I'm "doing it right." I'm in this happy bubble where God's gifts to me (the creative, cross-wired ones) are humming along, and I'm coasting on creativity. Up comes that self-doubt (almost always, for me at least, from an outside and critical force), and it really gums up the works! It's amazing how a little chuckle can clear things out.

    The laughter, finally, can also be a little self-knowing, slightly condescending, "they just don't understand," pat-on-the-back. Again, folks who don't work creatively (or aren't wired that way) really don't get it. They don't understand the connection between the creator (note the humility of the lower-case "c") and the creation. It's a powerful and personal connection. The person who is critical of my work would never dream of saying to a young mother, "that's one ugly kid … I'm just saying." They are probably offended, themselves, that I relate the two. So a chortle can help me shake it off.

    So, I've had my laugh. Now I can tend to the business of apologizing for any offense. Most importantly, I can reflect and learn from the criticism (or toss it out) …

    … but only after the laugh!


  3. Pauls words in the assigned text for Sunday, Feb 27 (1 Cor 4:3 and following) were helpful: paraphrased– "it is a small thing to be judged by man." I needed that Word. Paul goes on to say he hardly judges himself, although he admits there are probably things to be judged. But God will be the judge and he will render judgment on us in his own time. In other words, live, as much as you can, free from the judgment of others, and even your own constant self-critiquing. It is all a "small thing!"