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:
I'm totally unloveable.
If people really knew me, they wouldn't love me.
I'm broken beyond repair.
I'm stupid and will never amount to anything.
The maturity to accept and even ask for constructive feedback comes only once you have confronted the black and white thinking that leads to shame. God doesn't want you to hide your sin from him or to pretend that it doesn't exist. He knows your frame and he has compassion.
God will not condemn you when you admit your weakness and sin. Instead, he promises to forgive you and to cleanse you completely (1 John 1:9–10). He is not a disapproving Father waiting to punish, but a gentle shepherd waiting to forgive and restore.
In the psalms, David asked the LORD to search him and show him what he needed to confess and change. David could boldly ask God to search him because he knew the heart of God. This is what he wrote about God's response to the "bad" in him:
The LORD is compassionate and merciful,
slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.
He will not constantly accuse us,
nor remain angry forever.
He does not punish us for all our sins;
he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve.
For his unfailing love toward those who fear him
is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.
He has removed our sins as far from us
as the east is from the west.
The LORD is like a father to his children,
tender and compassionate to those who fear him. (Psalm 103)
It's time to stop hiding, to stop pretending that you have it all together. When you are free to admit to weakness and are open to the "wounds of a friend," you will find yourself and your relationships growing by leaps and bounds.
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