Correction vs. Criticism

Have you ever been criticized at work or in front of others? Have you been set up to fail by someone in church leadership? Have you been the one criticizing those around you? Have your words or actions caused distance between you and your friends, family, or co-workers? When it’s time to discipline someone, doing it with the heart of correction instead of criticism is key to the success of our relationships, present tasks, and future goals. Harsh criticism is destructive and breeds failure. Gentle correction, on the other hand, is empowering and catalyzes success. (2 Timothy 2:25; Galatians 6:1)

Here are some ideas to think about before you offer correction:

1) Check your motives.

Phil 2:3 says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.”  Is your motive to discipline someone self-serving or team affirming? Is it to make you look good at work, or make your team look good? Is it to remind co-workers that you’re the boss, and they’re not? Is it to prove you’re “Parent of the Year” by handling your kid’s meltdown in the middle of Aisle 5 at the grocery store, or is it to help shape your child’s heart and character? Before we correct someone, let’s make sure it’s to help shape their success and not simply to expose their faults.

2) Come from a place of humility.

Proverbs 22:4 says, “Humility and the fear of the Lord bring wealth and honor and life. “ The best leaders don’t lead from pride of a title, they lead from humility of a servant’s heart. Be mindful of your body language when you correct someone. Phrase your words in a way that makes the other person feel challenged, not crushed.

3) Change if needed.

Proverbs 12:18 says, “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Research the results of your words or actions. Did they produce good fruit and positive results, or did they produce the opposite? If your team seems refreshed and upbeat…you did it well. If they seem like the wind is knocked out of their sails…find out why and take steps to change it. When I correct or discipline my children in love, they walk away with good attitudes and a heart change. When I criticize with anger and accusations, they walk away defeated with no true heart change. The same applies in the workplace, ministry, and even relationships. Let’s be wise and kind, not reckless and mean, in our correcting.

There are also other times when we are on the receiving end of discipline. A boss, pastor, or leader may criticize us instead of gently correcting. Our reactions to this can define our future.

Here are some ideas in how we can receive criticism, and turn it into a positive experience rather than a devastating one:

1) Choose to not carry offense.  (I know; easier said than done.)

Proverbs 12:1 says, “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid.” Even if you were criticized harshly and unjustly, choosing forgiveness allows healing in your life and a way for the Lord to work in and through you even more. A great leader is teachable, and welcomes constructive correction. She is always asking, “How can I do better and be better?” This is not to seek perfection, but to actively learn and grow.

2) Choose Flexibility.

Proverbs 19:20 says, “Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise.” If someone flags an area where you can improve, be willing to listen and change in that area if necessary. Improvement strategies do nothing but aid you, your team, your family, and your ministry to success.

3) Choose to learn from it.

Hebrews 12:11 says, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained in it.” Let’s not repeat our mistakes, and instead, turn them into training techniques in the journey to become better leaders in all our roles.

Here’s a summarized chart that helps me gage if my words and actions are correcting or critical:

Team-affirming resultsSelf-serving motives
Sets up for successSets up for failure

Many times, we’re so busy spewing criticism or carrying grudges, we let opportunities pass us by, like character training, job advancement, teachable parenting moments, or telling someone about Jesus. What good are we as “leaders” if all we have is a title with no action behind it? Even in the difficult times of discipline, let’s be the most effective leaders we can be by setting others up for success while challenging them to be the best they can be. Ultimately, as followers of Christ, it’s all for the advancement of His kingdom through our lives, homes, careers, and ministries.

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