Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Princess Bride and Handling Criticism

Have you ever seen the movie The Princess Bride?
It's my all-time favorite movie. Definitely a classic.
I watched it fairly recently, and the iocane powder scene struck me like it never has before.

Wesley, known only as the man in black at that point, is at a stand-off with Vizzini, the irritating but still somehow endearing villain that has kidnapped the Princess Buttercup. Wesley challenges  him to a battle of wits in which Vizzini ultimately meets his demise, having drank from the goblet poisoned with iocane powder; "It's odorless, tasteless, dissolves instantly in liquid, and is among one of the more deadly poisons known to man." When Wesley removes Buttercup's blindfold and helps her up, she says, "And to think, all that time it was your cup that was poisoned." To which Wesley replies, "They were both poisoned. I've spent the last few years building up an immunity to iocane powder."
Mind. Blown.
I remember the first time I saw that scene, I thought he was the coolest dude ever. Consuming teeny bits of poison slowly over time in order to build up an immunity so you can use it against someone?!? Genius.
Just that illustration could go so many different directions, but this is the direction it went for me; if only we could build up an immunity to criticism.
Criticism sucks. Period. No matter what's being criticized; your husband, your kids, your parenting, your leadership, etc.

Having a husband on church staff has at times opened me up to criticism from church members disguised, sometimes cleverly and sometimes not, as suggestions. A suggestion of how something can be done better, or needs to be fixed at the church, or within a ministry my husband oversees.
My first reaction is to get defensive, to say something like, "He/They/We are doing the best he/they/we can. Give me a break."
I've never said that, for the record.
So what is the best way to respond when someone comes to you to criticize make a suggestion about the church or your husband's leadership and decisions? There are a couple of steps to take when this happens.

1) Listen to them.
Let them get it off their chest. Better you than your husband; he's got enough on his plate. Don't get into an argument or feel like you have to justify anyone or explain anything right then and there.
Proverbs 26:4-- Don't answer the foolish arguments of fools, or you will become foolish as they are. If you react, you may say something you regret.

2) Consider a) the source, and b) the information.
Is this a person who seems to always have something to criticize or complain about? If their M.O. is that nothing is ever good enough, that factors into the credit I give their comment. Just being real.
Is what they shared helpful? Is it worth mentioning to my spouse, or will it only discourage? One of my duties to my family is to protect them. Don't make me go all momma-bear on you. Seriously. If I can be a filter for my husband and protect him from poopie comments that will not serve a purpose, then bring the poop. I'll take it. But again, if it's something that can be constructive, then I'll take that too and pass it on.
Erwin McManus said, "Don't let an arrow of criticism pierce your heart unless it passes through the filter of Scripture." 

Unless you have a church of one, you can't make everyone happy all the time. There will probably always be someone with a poopie comment. Since we can't walk around with our fingers in our ears, lets have a plan to receive and deal with criticism in a healthy way.

How do you tend to handle criticism? Is there a verse the Lord has given you that encouraged you in those moments? I'd love to hear it.

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