How to Respond to Unpleasant Feedback


I remember in college being enrolled in a course titled Business Management.  One of the topics we were instructed on was the significance of feedback.  Feedback is valuable, whether it is positive or negative.  It is information, best when timely, that helps us assess our decision making that hopefully results in an improved performance.  Athletes often use statistical data as feedback, sometimes even during the middle of a game.  Police officers issue tickets on the “performance” of ones driving abilities.  Employers rate a staff member’s labor with a raise or pink-slip.  No matter if we like it or not, feedback is always accessible.

In Judges 2:1-5 we read that “the angel of the Lord” rebuked the Israelites for not obeying the covenant which their fathers had made with God.  At that very moment, they were receiving a divine evaluation from God.  The twelve tribes were reminded that the Lord brought them out of the bondage of Egypt and led them to a land which was to be their own possession.  They were to make no other covenants with the inhabitants of that land and to tear down the altars to their false gods.  However, they did not do these things and so the inhabitants of the land were to become “as thorns in their sides.” This unsatisfactory “performance review” caused the Israelites to bitterly weep.  To recall their disobedience, they named the location Bochim, meaning “weepers.”

How do we value unpleasant feedback?  I don’t think the Israelites then, or Christians today particularly enjoy being told that they are not living up to a comparable standard.  We sometimes try to soften the blow by referring to it as “constructive criticism.”  As prideful individuals, we may neglect or even “weep” at correction.  However, the Proverbs writer has much to say about how to react to this type of feedback.  Consider the instruction in Proverbs 15:31-32 that states, “He whose ear listens to the life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise.  He who neglects discipline despises himself, but he who listens to reproof acquires understanding” (see also Proverbs 3:12; 12:15; 19:20).  Whether the counsel is from a grade school teacher (i.e. report card grades) or from a brother in Christ (Matthew 18:15), we should always be reflecting on enhancing our physical and spiritual lives.  Next time you receive some unpleasant feedback, consider the reproof and grow from it.

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