I used to always say that I’m my own worst critic. In a lot of ways, this is still true. On an average day, I’m probably going to evaluate my performance worse than those that observe me. Frankly, it’s not a matter of self-esteem, but a desire for continuous improvement. It’s an annoying quality to be sure, but for some reason, that’s just how I was made.
However, I’ve learned that despite this tendency, I still squirm at the critiques of others. Every semester I get to experience this first hand when student evaluations are released. Now don’t get me wrong, I truly value and appreciate the students’ feedback. From this feedback I learned things that they like, and things that they didn’t. I’m able to improve my classes and make them more applicable for the next round of scholars. Their feedback promotes what I love – continuous improvement. Plus, I’ve been giving them feedback all semester, the least I can do is give them an opportunity to share their’s. But in a room full of 30 people, it’s hard to please everyone. And it’s always the comments from the one who’s disappointed that stand out to me.
What I’m beginning to learn though is that the resulting bruise to my ego isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I grimace at their critiques because I want to be the professor that they love. I justify their comments and rationalize away their insights, because I want to believe I’m good at my job. However, when I look at the pronouns associated with this line of reasoning, I realize it’s all about me. I’m hurt, I’m unfairly criticized, I’m disappointed. It’s my pride that’s wounded, and nothing else.
However, as a Christ-follower, I not only know that pride is not only a sin, but the more pride fills me, the less Christ does. If I’m so consumed with justifying what I’ve done, the clothes I choose, or the manner in which I teach because I believe that all-in-all I’ve done a good job, then I’m not at all focused on the work of Christ. Sure, it’s good to take an inventory of how I’ve used the opportunities God has given me, but once I let it destroy my confidence in Him, I know that it’s my pride that’s experiencing pain. Criticism wounds pride and criticism is a pride-killer. As a follower of Christ, I want less of me anyway, so why shudder at the injury?
Maybe a day will come when I will rejoice at the day student evaluations are released. Maybe someone will critique my driving, or my cooking, and I will thank them. At the very least, I hope to appreciate how as a result, pride is killed in my life, and thereby, in humility, embrace the criticisms that come.. . .whether or not they are deserved.