Three-time NBA Champion and four-time league MVP LeBron James has been vocal about social and political issues. This has been to the chagrin of some. Recently, a Fox News reporter responded to this outspokenness recommending that James should “shut up and dribble” and “This is what happens when you attempt to leave school a year early to join the NBA.” James response to the criticism was “I will not shut up and dribble, I get to sit up here and talk about what is really important and how I can help change kids. It lets me know that everything I have been saying is correct for her to have that type of reaction.”
Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me. No matter how many times we said it, it didn’t change the truth. Words hurt. They really hurt. They have the ability to inflict lasting harm because they don’t cut the skin, they scarify the soul. They can create a trauma that drives people into destructive cycles of addiction and depression.
As a writer I have had to come face to face with criticism because to be sharp in writing, I must be exposed to criticism’s whetstone. I value encouragement that I receive from people and I have also learned to take criticism. I choose to view it as feedback. By ignoring criticism, I sentence myself to stagnation instead of progression. The very idea of sharpening something requires friction. Criticism is that friction.
Criticism can be either constructive or destructive. I have come to learn that it can also be renovative. Using the picture of a building we can construct, destroy or renovate one. When a building is renovated it is not completely done away with but rather it is restored to an improved state. Criticism can make you better than you are now. It takes someone with insight and experience to see good where there is bad. To walk into a building that is run down and smelly and yet see potential and beauty is truly special. Being able to pick what is profitable when criticized is difficult but possible and ultimately rewarding.
Often, we are quick to shred every criticism we hear. But if we can gain a vantage point over our feelings in the moment of criticism, we might discover that the trash is actually a treasure for use now or later to erect something meaningful.
We will all get criticized at one point or another. Acknowledging this is a vital stage in developing a renovative eye. It is hard to accept criticism because we normally view it as an attack and naturally respond with aggression. Criticism can throw us off kilter. It can make us unsure of what we were once sure of. It can become a confidence killer if we permit it.
There is a story told of a man who heard that his people were in dire straits. The walls to the city had been burned with fire. Walls were a symbol of security and strength. He came back to his home town and rallied the people who were oppressed and tormented. Him and the people who didn’t appear to have anything going for them bought into the renovation plan for the walls of their city and begun to rebuild. They built back the walls using the stones that were under the rubble from the fire. In an astonishing fifty two days, they had completed the milestone of rebuilding the wall. Their journey was not without criticism. “What are these weak people doing? Will they finish this? Will they restore the stones out of the heaps of rubbish which are burned? Even a fox can break down their stone wall!” their enemies lambasted them. But the story continues to say that they built the wall because the people had a mind to work. We can define the mind to work as a posture that is set upright by purpose, rooted firmly in commitment, exemplified by the willingness to act, and undaunted by the unknown. The criticism was harsh and degrading but it didn’t damage their resolve. Criticism was a sign they were doing something profitable. Don’t expect the red carpet treatment like the award shows because you a doing something right. Sometimes doing the right thing goes against the grain and attracts the criticism that we are so desperate to avoid.
What happens in your mind and heart when you are criticized? Do you have the wherewithal to take the heat and continue to move forward or do you melt because of it? Authenticity of your purpose must be tested by the fire of criticism to refine it, prove it, and reveal its true value.
Keep on Keeping on!