Kevin Offner's Advice
Kevin Offner, in the Student Leadership Journal, published by IVP, offers the following advice to those who are ready to become a critic. It could transform your relationship with someone who you're about to make into a target of criticism.
Here are five changes I believe critical people need to make.
First, we must have our spiritual eyes opened to see two truths: the heinous depth of our own sin and the amazing grace of God’s love toward us in Christ. Spiritual sight is not something we can will. God must give it. But we can cry out to Him for it. “Lord, would You open my eyes to see myself soberly and to know Your love more intimately?” We desperately need to feel the weight of our own sin and then to cast ourselves upon God’s grace. No mere head knowledge, here. “Wash your hands, you sinners... Let there be tears for the wrong things you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief” (Jas. 4:8–9, NLT). When King David’s blind eyes were finally opened to his sin with Bathsheba and Uriah, he didn't merely acknowledge it in some academic, emotionally removed way. He fell on his face and fasted for days (2 Sam.12:16)!
Second, we must be deeply convinced that we can never know with certainty another person’s motives. Yes, we can see actions, and clearly sinful actions need to be confronted. But we must catch ourselves when we hurriedly, often unconsciously, make that jump from He did this to He is obviously acting from pride (or insecurity or revenge, etc.). There are so many factors beyond our knowledge that motivate another’s actions. Only God sees the heart, and only His judgment will be 100 percent accurate and fair. Now, perceptive people will hear this admonition yet still secretly think, Well, yes, but you see, I really do know why this person does what she does. Sometimes we are right. But we must remember that we may very well be wrong.
Third, when we’re bothered by another’s actions, we must pray fervently for that person and our response to him or her. What would happen if we channeled all our critical energy into a running dialogue with that person’s (and our) Creator?
Fourth, we must learn to be diplomatic and direct in confronting people one on one. No fake smiles, no repression of negative feelings, but instead, direct, tactful communication. Our goal is not to blast people or to inform them of all their hidden character flaws. Rather, our goals are God’s glory and the reconciliation of broken relationships. Recently I talked with (a student) regarding her critical spirit. “I feel I need to tell you something. Yet I’m hesitant to do it for fear of losing your friendship. For the last several times I've been with you, you have spoken critically of something either the group or I have done. There’s often much truth in what you say, but I find myself frequently dragged down by your comments. We need encouragement as well as criticism. I value your friendship, and thus I thought I ought to share this with you.” I'll be honest: she didn't respond as I’d hoped. But I did feel right about being direct and honest rather than nurturing my own critical spirit.
Finally, we need to be encouragers, genuinely building others up and helping them become all God longs for them to be. I want to get excited about making others successful. I can be an encourager in others’ lives, as Barnabas was to Paul. I can trust God to provide encouragement for me as well. I have watched people melt when given a rightly timed, genuinely motivated word of affirmation or gratitude.
And I know how empowered I feel when I’m around a genuine encourager.
More in EBC Blog
May 26, 2017Men - If You Have an Appetite for Christ then Stay Hungry
March 27, 2017“AND CAN IT BE?” a blog by Lou Koncsol
February 3, 2017Peacocks or Buzzards: which do You Prefer?