Focus on the Behavior, not the Motive

undoContinued from here.

None of us enjoys being reprimanded, no matter how gently it is done, but without any sort of reprimand, we won’t grow. None of us is perfect. We all make mistakes, and we all have blind spots that we will never see unless someone else points them out to us, preferably in a gentle and loving manner.

If you believe you need to redirect someone else, first go to the Lord in prayer about it. God does not expect you to change everything that needs changing at the same time, and you should not expect that of other people. Pray for God’s guidance on whether you should say anything at all. If you feel the Spirit leading you to do so, pray for the Holy Spirit to speak through you so the conversation will be constructive. If you sense that God is telling you not to say anything at this time, pray for God to help you forgive your friend and let it go.

If you choose to have a conversation with your friend about something that needs to change, pray and think through how you would best receive constructive criticism from someone else. Use the gentlest words possible, with love as the framework. Most people accept constructive criticism best from someone who they know truly loves them. Often, the negative reaction to constructive criticism is not about the criticism itself but in reaction to feeling shamed or rejected. Thus, constructive criticism should always been spoken in a way that communicates loving redirection.

Also, communicate how the other person’s actions made you feel without making assumptions about the person’s motives. Personally, I receive constructive criticism well so long as people do not accuse me of motives that are simply not true, which is a childhood trigger for me. As long as someone provides constructive criticism in a loving way, I will consider that person’s viewpoint, even if I do not agree with it. I will pray over it and follow what I believe God is telling me to do. I recognize that each of us sees the world through our own filters, and sometimes constructive criticism is really more about the other person’s worldview than about anything I am doing.

However, if the person attributes a motive to me that is off base, I have trouble processing the criticism because my focus goes to why someone I respect has such a low opinion of me as a person. I certainly make mistakes, but I rarely intentionally set out to hurt another person. Calling a mistake to my attention does not hurt me, but accusing me of intentionally hurting another person does because it is simply not true.

Always remember that only God knows what someone else is going through and what is driving his actions. If you feel led to provide constructive criticism, stay focused on the behavior without making assumptions about the motives, and communicate the truth within the framework of love.

[Graphic: Cartoon of  Grace standing behind the computer keys of Ctrl and Z = “undo.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]