Last Saturday, I took a break from yard work and ran to Starbucks for a cup of coffee. While getting my coffee, a lady walked up to me and said, "It looks like you're having the same kind of hair day I am." Looking at her hair, I knew that was not a compliment. I didn't know whether to laugh or run home before someone started laughing at me!
It doesn't feel good to have someone give you negative feedback about your appearance, but it is even worse to hear something negative about your actions or your character. They are a lot harder to fix than messy hair.
One of the most important steps towards maturity is learning to accept and even ask for corrective feedback in your marriage, your friendships, and other areas of life.
Why is it so difficult to hear your husband's suggestion that you are too lenient with the kids? Or your friend's feedback that your comment in a recent conversation hurt her feelings? Why do we often build superficial relationships that try at all costs to avoid difficult truths?
I believe much of our fear of corrective feedback is based on black and white thinking. As children, we see the world as painted black and white—there were only good guys and bad guys. Just think about children's stories and cartoons. Every character fell into the categories of "all good" or "all bad." When you were punished as a child, you probably felt like you were a "bad girl," instead of being the "good girl" your parents desired. This type of black and white thinking can create shame—feeling that there is nothing good about you.
As an adult, you have the capacity to understand that people are not categorized by being all good or all bad. We all have sin and weaknesses in our lives, but as Christians we also have the desire to do what is right. As we yield more and more to the Spirit of God, we have the power to choose what it right instead of what is selfish or evil. But that doesn't mean we don't make mistakes and have blind spots.
Even as an adult woman, you can revert back to the early feelings of shame and self-contempt when someone confronts you with corrective feedback. Instead of accepting the words, you may become angry or defensive. Why? Most likely it's because you fear that if you admit to some bad in you, it may mean that all is bad within you. This is often where negative self-talk creeps in:
Juli Slattery is a TCW regular contributor and blogger. A widely known clinical psychologist, author, speaker, and broadcast media professional, she co-founded Authentic Intimacy and is the co-author of Passion Pursuit: What Kind of Love Are You Making?