No Instant Forgiveness

2 Jul

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Whoever stubbornly refuses to accept criticism will suddenly be broken beyond repair. – Psalms 29:1

Lately, my secular job has made me think about how much worse I am at accepting criticism than I used to be. You would think it would become easier to accept criticism as I get older, but I am finding it more difficult. Part of this is because I am more confident in my skills and abilities now, so when I receive criticism that is just plain incorrect (such as a college professor “correcting” grammar that is correct to begin with), I do not have a lot of patience. Part of it is because despite being managed predominantly by managers who never give feedback unless it is negative, I am still not comfortable with this management style.

As a recovering alcoholic, I am still sometimes guilty of “black and white” thinking in a world that has many more than 50 shades of gray. While younger, I not only took all criticism as valid; I took it as an assault on the very worth of my personhood. In my older years I have been guilty of blowing off criticism altogether, even that which upon further examination would have provided an opportunity for much needed growth. As I like to say about many things, “The truth is somewhere in the middle.”

I have also been thinking of criticism in light of the apology to the GLBTQ community by Alan Chambers, President of Exodus International, and in light of the apology of Paula Deen for some of her reported racist language and behavior.

It bothers me that in both cases, some expect (or demand) that those hurt by the words and actions of Mr. Chambers and Ms. Deen should just accept the apologies and move on. Quite a few straight people have written that GLBTQ people should take Mr. Chambers at his word and that, in particular, GLBTQ Christians should not question his motives or his sincerity. Likewise, I have read many Ms. Deen White apologists who write that since Ms. Deen is from the South, she should be forgiven without hesitation.

I am not buying either of these directives.

First, acceptance or rejection of these apologies needs to be given by the offended parties; in these cases, by GLBTQ and African-Americans, respectively. This does not mean others cannot comment, but it does mean that others should not tell the affected parties how to feel or what to believe about it.

Also, while we are called to not judge one another, it is Biblical to offer constructive criticism to one another. If we truly love one another as commanded, we care when we see another fall. On the receiving end, Proverbs 13:18 states, “If you ignore criticism, you will end in poverty and disgrace; if you accept criticism, you will be honored.”

We live in an “instant” world. Whether it’s instant media such as twitter, Facebook, or CNN; instant food from our microwaves; or instant photos from our phones, we expect everything to happen fast, faster, fastest. This is not how emotions work. Deep wounds take time to heal. There is no instant forgiveness. Emotions need time to be processed and reflected upon.

“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.” – Colossians 3:15-17

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