May 24, 2019

Criticism - Ouch, Ouch! - Shirley S. Tye

Today, many people criticize numerous things, subjects, people, and places. There is much hatred and anger in the world which is visible every day in some way.  Drivers tailgating and speeding twenty over the limit or more.  Can’t have anyone in front of me! When standing longer than two minutes in a check-out line, one can hear criticisms about the cashier; terribly slow and incompetent, the cashier ought to be fired. Why doesn’t this place hire more help so that I’m not standing here waiting? 

Criticism hurts and is difficult to take when on the receiving end.  And for some reason it does not provide relief to the one criticizing. It seems to stir more anger. Often the one being criticized also becomes angry and retaliates. And there we have it folks, ring-side seats to a fight!

Some people realize afterwards that the criticism was uncalled for, mean hearted, and revengeful.  They feel badly about it and may seek forgiveness from the person they offended.  Forgiveness might be given and received but yet the painful aftereffects linger.  

Why all this hatred and anger?  Often it is the symptoms of the “me factor”.  I want this now!  I was here first!  I’m smarter than you!  I can do that better than you!  Listen to me! Look at me!  

We might brush this off as human nature and so it is – our fallen sinful nature. So then, how should we react to criticism? Is criticism excusable in some situations?  Listen to what James said; “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” (James 1:19-20) “Brothers, do not slander one another...” (James 4:11) And Proverbs 15:1 tells us, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” 

In Galatians we are told how to approach someone who has been caught in sin.  “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.” (Galatians 6:1). If we criticize or judge, we better do it gently, for who knows, we might commit the same sin if found in the same situation as the one who has fallen.  You may have heard the sayings, “Praying hands bring better results than pointing fingers.”  And “When you point a finger at someone, there are three more fingers pointing back at you.”

And Ephesians 4:20 has wise words to live by; “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Another saying is, “It is better to give others a piece of your heart than a piece of your mind.” 

Yes, sometimes we do criticize and sometimes we are criticized.  But the wonderful news is that God is loving and gentle when we ask for forgiveness. And He heals our hurts. Some words to consider from the poem How Did You Die by Canadian poet and writer Edmund Vance Cooke (1866-1932) – poem in public domain; “Oh, a trouble’s a ton, or a trouble’s an ounce, Or a trouble is what you make it, And it isn’t the fact that you’re hurt that counts, But only how did you take it?”  Be encouraged and encourage others!  

May 22, 2019

Death by Criticism, Life by Critique




“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”—Proverbs 27:17 RSV


Being a writer or any other type of creative includes some form of evaluation. A criticism or critique may be via an editor, writing buddy, beta writer, writing group member or even a family member etc. Perhaps I should have mentioned most of these sources might be more prone to give a good constructive critique of one's writing. I appreciate those who critique my writing. Criticism is another thing altogether in my mind.


For at least my first twenty years of life I received intense criticism about almost everything I did or tried to accomplish. Without coming off as being dramatic I have to say these years were ones I hoped I would survive. A lesson I learned from years of being criticized is criticism is always negative.


Criticism is something someone else says about you or your work that does not have your benefit in mind. Criticism can be crushing. Criticism can kill your spirit. This became my response at least. For instance, I loved writing composition and English courses at school. I cherished my teachers who encouraged my writing. At home was a different story. I never shared what I wrote with my family for fear of criticism. I always wished this wasn’t the case, but it was.


I have always loved to write. As I have shared in other posts, in my younger years and even into adulthood, I was a closet writer. Fear kept me from sharing my writing. The fear stemmed from pointed words acting as if arrows piercing my heart.


Even today I am sensitive to criticism. On the other hand, I try not to allow criticism to harm me. At such times I pause, take a deep breath and consider the source of the critic. I know I do not allow the words of a critic to hurt my heart anymore.


A summation of my response to criticism of my writing:
1.   Criticism does not have my best in mind.
2.   Criticism may kill my spirit.
3.   Criticism comes from a critical heart.
4.   Criticism disempowers me as a writer if I allow it.
5.   Criticism denies the beauty of the message I desire to convey.
6.   Criticism is shortsighted and sees only what the critic wants to see if anything.
7.   A critic says, “listen to me, you need to quit writing,” while I know I am to listen to God. He is the One who called me.


Contrary to my response to criticism I am always open to my work being critiqued. I want to improve or enhance my writing, therefore, a critique is welcome.

 


Here is an idea of my response to honest critiques of my writing:
1.     A critique allows me to walk with my head up and not feel beat up.
2.     I still know my writing is worth the effort to work on.
3.     A critique reminds me I am not alone in my writing.
4.     I become more confident in the words I write and the message I am conveying.
5.     A critique encourages me not to be afraid to critique someone else’s writing.
6.     Although my writing is a calling from God, I rely on other writers to help me sharpen my skill.
7.      An honest critique and an honest response to it are life-giving and spur me on in my writing.


When I have an opportunity to critique the work of fellow writers I pray I help build up their skill and calling. We are in this together, therefore, let us build each other up.



May 21, 2019

The Heart of the Matter ... by Jocelyn Faire


Above all else, guard your hearts, for everything you do flows from it.  Prov 4:23 NIV

This month, started with a jolt ... Normally I like to read the theme of the month in the beginning and contemplate its focus leading up to the 21, my posting date.
This May my life question is what do heart attacks and criticism have in common? Besides that both can happen to you, or someone close to you, and can leave the heart in a critical state?
Thurs morning May 2, my daughter in overseas ministry sent the message that her 67-year-old father-in-law had had a heart attack and was being rushed from the regional hospital to the cardiac centre. Please pray! This came out of the blue for all concerned. The reports they received and conversations with John himself had them believing he was well cared for, and that the other son was managing things well. For now, they would stay put and monitor the situation closely.

I have learned the degree of how critique impacts you, is how close you are to the work, or the person involved; and who the person giving the critique is. For myself, I know that encouragement goes further than criticism, no matter how constructive. For many of us, our writing is like little parts of our heart that we put out to the world. So criticism feels painful, everyone has written well on that aspect.

Two days after hospitalization, John's message of: On the mend everybody. I am feeling pretty good. Thanks for caring, Have a good day. Everyone felt relief, until my husband, who is a physician, and I went to see him the next day. Initially, we marveled at how well he looked as he joked with us from his hospital bed. John's cardiogram was on the bedside table, free for us to view and Harold did. As we walked out of the hospital, my husband's eyes widened as he turned to me and said, “That man is lucky to be alive, he had what we call the widow-maker. And he's not out of the woods yet, I think the kids should come home.” With heavy hearts, we contemplated what to say to my daughter; how to pass on pertinent information to help them make a more well-informed decision about a trip to Canada. It is like trying to give honest feedback to someone ... it can be hard to do, especially when we think something needs changing. We spoke to another physician who knows my daughter and he supported the idea to share what we know. Pass on the information, and what they do with it, was their decision. When it comes to medical matters, I have also learned that people do not always receive information well, or it can be misunderstood. The signs of his heart attack were confusing, and John did not believe that this was happening to him; he was too late for the clot-busting drugs. Irreversible damage had been done. If only he had heeded the warning signs and gone in earlier, his outcome would have been much different. But the denial of symptoms is one of the big factors in fatalities. I also believe that had his wife still been alive, she would have insisted he go to the hospital. (She passed away eleven months ago.) 

Matters of the heart. 
The decision for my daughter and her family was taken out of their hands after John had a second cardiac arrest. They came and were thankful to spend time with him. He is not out of the woods yet. I was privileged to have opportunities to help out with grandkid time and meal service. Life is a mixed bag.

So what do heart attacks and criticism have in common? What I have learned is that when life is visited by troubles and sorrow, we have opportunities to put things into perspective. In the end, whether we received more critiques or praise will not make that much difference, but how we live our lives is what really counts. The best gifts are within our grasp. This does not negate trying to write our best, but this heart reminder put things in perspective for me. Our lives are filled with many ordinary blessed moments, and as long as my heart keeps beating strong, I want my life to be filled with gratitude for the beauty of life and the creator of that beauty. May I encourage you today, to give someone heart-felt encouragement!
Garden of Hope Flowers planted with my NA granddaughter.

My Prayer
Lord, teach us to number our days that we may present to you a heart of wisdom,
a heart of love
 not a heart clogged with worries, self-criticism, and anxieties of this world. 
Amen

May 20, 2019

Dare Enough to Receive – Denise M. Ford


I want to understand why I write. Why do I choose to be an inquisitive observer, daring to spread out written words to highlight how I perceive this world? Why do I deliberately display my thoughts in writing for public viewing?

If I believe I am created to write, as an artist entrusted with words, then am I also designed to be daring enough to receive the necessary criticism? Can I humbly and graciously listen to advice that will improve the mechanics of my writing or perhaps the essence of my ideas? Can I acknowledge that this writing gift has within it a challenge to accept evaluation?

If I write, then can I be daring enough to receive how someone else interprets my highlights and perception of this world?

A sculptor forms the consistency of his clay to facilitate how he fashions and molds his design into a lifelike representation. A painter employs select brushes and mediums to bring his pictures to light, blending and applying contrasting shades and tones. An actor memorizes lines to ensure that he represents the role on stage, using voice inflections and body movements to convincingly portray his part. A musician selects notes to describe how he hears melody and harmony, to create a deliverance of sounds that evoke emotional responses. A chef dreams up a gourmet recipe to showcase how he tantalizes palates, stirring and mixing ingredients into a savory concoction.

As a writer I articulate language to deliver descriptions, to provide relatable and meaningful images that can demonstrate how the world can be interpreted. And as with all artists, I agree to be vulnerable. When I release my words to readers my chosen written highlights become my sculpture, my painting, my character, my composition, and my banquet.

Because I write, I can accept the challenge to be daring enough to receive the scrutiny assigned to my writing. I courageously throw my words against someone else’s knowledge base, whether it is strictly grammatical or broadly experiential. I rely on the feasibility of the words I select, and respectively submit my writing to a critical audience. How will my words be perceived? Like beads on strands of sparkling thread or as blobs of paint that run together on top of a saturated surface? Will someone array them and affirm their beauty, or will they blend together and lose their uniqueness?

Because I write, I can understand the need to be daring enough to receive the opinions of others and their suggestions for change. I admit it is easier to edit someone else’s writing than accept the editing of my own submissions. I tend to defend my ideas, my style, and my intentions. Sometimes I would rather refuse the editing process than alter the theme of my message or the choices in my sentence construction. But what purpose would that serve?

I do want to hear honest opinions from other writers and from readers. But I need to long for that as much as I long to write. If I cannot accept what comes back to me based on what I have sent out into the reading world, then my writing will remain stagnant and uninspired.

So perhaps, the question I need to ask is, who do I want to throw my words to and who will bounce them back to me with an honest response? Back and forth to the unknown audience who reads my blog? In fellowship with writers in a critique group? Under scrutiny of a respected and authorized editor? Will I receive criticisms with a receptive attitude that urges me to do the required editing and rewording? Will I persevere to craft a more inspired piece of writing?

I began by saying that I want to understand why I write. Why do I purposefully place myself in a vulnerable position in which I risk embarrassment, misunderstanding and rejection? Why do I trust that I can present written words that highlight this world? Why do I believe that I can literally pick up a word and feel its texture like a sculptor, see its luminescence like a painter, grasp its performance like an actor, hear its resonance like a musician, and taste its fulfillment like a chef?

As I embrace the ability to write, I understand that this gift must be both practiced and pursued if I want to truly live out God’s purposes for me. I pray for the desire to observe and sift through ideas for writing, and for the patience to welcome and to understand the feedback of reviews. Because I write may I continue in the challenge and the need to be daring enough to receive the criticism that is required to polish my written works for His glory.



May 18, 2019

Critique Is A Privilege - Gloria Guest


Even the word critique can make one cringe. Either having our writing critiqued by others or being the one doing the critiquing is probably one of the most challenging parts of the writing life. I have been on both ends and I’m not sure which is easier.

As a newspaper reporter and columnist I had to adjust to critique coming not only from the editor but from others in the community. My editor was always constructive but the critique of others was not always so. Knowing that your words are out there in the community that you live in is not the easiest and if you haven’t already developed a tough skin you soon learn to. Those years working as a reporter and columnist have been invaluable in my growth in learning to accept critique.

I also at times filled in for the editor and had to edit the work of others. That too was a challenge as even having to tell someone that they had to cut their story back in order to make room in the paper did not always go over well. Suggestions of which parts to cut back were also not always popular. Sometimes I even had to just go ahead and do the cutting myself which I knew was painful for the writer. Such is the life in the newspaper world though. However learning to critique and cut back was also invaluable to me as a writer. I am now pretty merciless with my own work when it comes editing out useless words and in the last couple years of my writing my column, I often cut it back to only 300 words. Fewer words said right, pack a greater punch.

Another area where I learned what critique was about was when I took some writing classes through the University of Toronto. Here we received not only our instructors critique but our peers as well. Sometimes their insight into something that I hadn’t seen amazed me. Other times it annoyed me if I didn’t agree with it. Yet I learned to take it all into consideration. In most cases it improved my writing. In learning constructive ways to give critique I became aware that even though it can be uncomfortable it is important to give good, honest critique.

Good constructive critique has truly helped me to become a better writer. As writers I think that we should never stop learning about our craft and critique is a big part of that. But just as we keep in mind to go to the best doctors, dentists and other health providers we need to be aware of who is giving the critique and if need be, take it with a grain of salt.

Overall, I see critique as a privilege. If we are receiving it, it means that we have written something and someone has taken the time to read it. Take any parts of what they say that you can learn from and let the rest go. Your writing will only benefit.  If we are the one giving critique, someone has placed a piece of their heart into our hands. Always be truthful but kind.