at college, being 'critical' is a skill to be polished - it leads to good writing, to creative thinking and robust faith.

but these words from maggi remind me of those people who will use this as an excuse to tear down instead. she says we have to choose our critics, choose them wisely and learn who to listen to.

this can be difficult in the world of ministry, even though i'm in my fledgling status really when it comes to the full blown heights of ordained ministry, i still find that those little ministries that i have in the local church can be so easily chipped away at - by the badly chosen comment, a flippant remark, sometimes even by words that are untrue or which are more about the other person than me, and sometimes i find that there can be difficulty in the absence of words too, which can feel a bit like an abyss - i hate that moment after you've preached or led a service and the vulnerability is sometimes a bit excruciating, i remember it from leading youth sessions too, you give yourself to these things, and it's very exposing.

i experienced this recently when i discovered someone had said something about me that i didn't think was true. it's difficult to tease these things out though isn't it. maybe it was true? did i just not want to believe what was said? was i unwilling to be criticised? unwilling to learn? unfortunately i didn't get a chance to chew this over and whilst i thought i had put it to bed, it came back to bite me on the bum - as these things do. so, whilst i chewed it over by myself (nursing my bruised bottom), i did come to the conclusion that this was one of those occasions that was more about the other person than me.

but i always want to be challenging myself to make sure that i don't fall into the trap of never learning, never listening to what others say of me, think of me. i hope i don't. i don't think i do. do i?


Tim Goodbody said...

Dear Jody,
I hope your bruised bottom has received the care it needs! Your post resonated with me because on Saturday i received some direct criticism which came across as being of the destructive kind, face to face, on our leadership awayday. It was tough to take, and I had to bite my lip, but I reflected afterwards that the critical comments will have a galvanising effect on others; it is my role as leader to roll with these punches and pass on their energy in a constructive way.
When Ruth (my wife)was training at Wycliffe the toughest thing she did with her peers was a mutual criticism - discerning and sharing each other's good and bad points. At the time she hated it but 11 years later we still refer to the insights that came from that session.
One of the best things about leadership courses run by the church is the way they get clergy to think about their own characters, their own strengths and weaknesses, and then give us strategies and resources to help us grow in and through these.

Not sure about the terminology of "full blown heights" of ordained ministry. Sometimes leadership means coming down from the mountain into the valley. Having said that I guess right now you are in that place where you are about to ascend a mountain where you can't see the peak, let alone what lies over the horizon. Stick with what Bishop Stephen tells you about yourself, and you can't go far wrong


jody said...

Hi Tim

well, yes - although i definitely find myself more and more learning the art of 'ministering to myself' that the principal of spurgeon's told us was a necessary skill of the church leader :)

interesting what you say about church leadership courses - i guess this depends on the 'safety nets' put in place in order to ensure that this is done well, in which case it could be a very fruitful experience. i've done this in the context of have psychotherapy - which was brilliant and definitely helped me to grow and also helped to make sure i didn't take on board things that weren't 'my stuff' if you know what i mean, and i'm much more predispositioned to take on unwarranted baggage from someone else than to ignore good critique.

well, i hope so anyway :D