How to Correctly Identify Constructive Criticism

Organizations, churches, and societies need this...

Man drawing a house blueprint in nature

Constructive:

Serving a useful purpose; tending to build up.

Criticism:

The act of passing judgment as to the merits of anything.

Constructive Criticism

You’ve heard the term. As a leader, I hear it all the time.

If you’re a leader then you’ve certainly had people offer criticism. Some even say they are just giving “constructive criticism”. Or, they believe so at the time.

Most of my pastor friends have heard, “Pastor, let me give you a little constructive criticism” — (Sometimes just as they are about to deliver the weekly message. 🙂 )

So, what does “constructive criticism” mean?

I’m thinking we often misuse the phrase.

And, it’s not just with leaders. It’s in every phase of life. I think it’s a societal issue. It’s even on social media. We think we are offering “constructive criticism” when we update our Facebook status or Tweet about our service with an airline or a restaurant or a school system – for example. Or anywhere else we feel a need to criticize for some reason. We may not label it that way, but I’m convinced it’s what we think we are doing – offering constructive criticism.

In reality, I’ve learned that phrase – constructive criticism – is sometimes just a nice way to say, “I have a personal complaint about a personal issue, but it will make me sound less self-serving and more justified if I label it (maybe just in my mind) as constructive criticism.”

I have been thinking about the term lately – even as I might use it personally.

First, let me be clear, I’m not down on constructive criticism. I think it’s good. And, often needed.

Using the definition (serving a useful purpose; tending to build up) constructive criticism serves a place within any organization – even the church. It can, by definition, help us all.

There is a place for constructive criticism.

But, how can we make sure the criticism we offer is actually constructive?

And, what is it actually? I think this is the bigger issue.

How do we know when it is “constructive criticism”?

And, how can we give constructive criticism to others?

By definition, here are 7 indicators of constructive criticism:

It builds up the body or organization for everyone,

It’s helpful for the good of the entire vision. Everyone can benefit from constructive criticism.

It is not self-serving.

This is a huge one. Constructive criticism doesn’t seek a merely personal gain. Scripture makes humility an ideal, encourages unity among believers and commands us to consider others better than ourselves – even to pray for our enemies.

It offers suggestions for improvement.

I’m not saying it does every time. Sometimes we just know something is wrong, but this would certainly be an indicator the criticism is actually constructive (again, simply by definition).

It creates useful dialogue.

And, here again, this may not happen every time, but if conversation can lead to the benefit of everyone, then it could be an indicator of being constructive – it helps build – construct.

It affirms others or the vision.

As I understand the terms, constructive criticism would never tear down the overarching goals and objectives of the body or organization. This would seem to contradict the definition. Criticism might, but not constructive criticism.

It can be realistically implemented or discussed.

I’m just working with the term and definition here, so if the criticism is an impossibility – would never work – then it seems to me it isn’t “serving a useful purpose”. (Extreme example: I once had someone criticize my allowance of phones in the worship center. They thought I should be like a school teacher and take them up at the door. Okay…)

It is not overly divisive.

Constructive criticism serves to build up – not tear down, so to meet the definition it must not divide people as much as it at least makes an attempt to bring people together around common values and vision. Of course, this is not always possible. It’s near impossible to get everyone to agree on anything, but constructive criticism doesn’t seem to be the type criticism which would splinter the groups opinions or divide people extensively.

This may simply be my personal rambling thoughts on the issue – maybe it’s not even constructive, but I’m all for offering better criticism. Constructive criticism seems like a better societal way to go.

There may be a need for non-constructive or destructive criticism sometime. Jesus cleared the temple this way. We may need to clear some things. If so, let’s deconstruct.

But, all I’m saying is – if we are going to attempt to constructively criticize constructive criticism should live up its name.

7 Thoughts for Parenting a Young Family During the Presidential Election Season

And other scary times of life.

teen siblings brother and sister watching tv close up indoors portrait with remote control

Can we just admit this has not been our favorite presedential election season? I’ll admit. I’m one who tends to see the more positive in every scenario and it’s honestly difficult to do this time.

A man with a young children asked me recently how should he and his wife parent their family during this season. Great question. Regardless of whether or not your choice for president is clear, tensions have never seemed higher. This is true even among believers. Children surely have sensed the tension in us. 

I don’t have all the answers – and, my children are grown – but, I have a few. 

Please understand. This is not a political post. This is a dealing with life around you as a parent post. And, I would suggest these for other times when their world is scarier than normal. 

Here are 7 suggestions for parenting children during this presedential election:

Help them see hope.

There is always hope, right? If you’re following after a Savior named Jesus who has overcome the world – there is always hope! Children will seldom be more hopeful about their future than you are hopeful about yours.

Don’t shelter them.

Everything should be age appropriate, but pretty much every newsstand and every television has something about this election. They hear it at school and in the restaurants and stores. They see you react to Facebook posts. There really isn’t much of a way to escape it completely if they are old enough to carry on a conversation.

Don’t overexpose them.

I certainly don’t think I would sit an elementary child in front of the television every night – and, really, this is regardless of what’s on television. Again, the child’s age is important as well as their interest level. When I was in elementary school I actually cared about current events. I wanted to watch the news. I do think as parents we should monitor not only how much they watch, but also how it seems to be affecting them.

Allow them to ask questions.

It’s probably best to see if they have questions and let them guide the discussion with how much or how little they want to know. No question should be off limits and I don’t think there should be many “we’re not going to talk about it anymore” rules. If children are curious enough they will find information somewhere and where better than from you?

Read Scripture together and pray for and with them.

The ultimate answer for our day is the truth which never changes. I find great comfort in the Psalms. Children love to read. Find a good Bible for children and read truth together. And, I have often heard and said, “Prayer doesn’t always change the circumstances, but prayer always changes me.” The same is true for children. There is a comfort in prayer – when you “take all your burdens to the Lord and leave them there.” Children learn faith from you. Share your faith with them. (The Scripture and prayer time will help you also.)

Teach them Biblical principles of how to respond to the world.

Regardless of the times, we are to love our neighbors, care for others, and strive to live in unity. We even have to respect authority – unless it differs from the commands of God. Those are timeless Biblical truths. You can certainly teach them principles of government you adhere to also, but mostly we should be shaping the character of our children – of course, ultimately into the character of Christ. And, wow, wouldn’t it be great if the character of Christ impacted our politics today?

Have some fun with them.

You need it and so do they. The fact is when we’ve been living under the cloud of our times like this election has done for many of us our own energy level might be drained. You may be missing some enthusiasm you usually have. But, children need to laugh and play. They need to have fun within the safety of their parent’s strength. Maybe turn off the television, play a game, or do watch something which causes everyone to have a big belly laugh. Coudln’t we all use one of those about now?

Those are just a few thoughts to get you thinking. I have written similar thoughts before on helping children respond to fear from tragedy. You can read another post HERE. What would you add to my list?

(And, I’m really not looking for political commentary here – just trying to help some young families parent.)

Even in the best restaurants…

The napkin goes under the table leg.

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Even in the best restaurants – they still put napkins under a wobbly table.

They just use nicer napkins.

I was made aware of a wealthy family who took advantage of a couple of much lesser means. It was frustrating, because they were “legal”, but seemingly inflexible and even hurtful in their actions. 

The poorer couple was selling something to pay some unexpected expenses. In the closing documents they made a simple paperwork error in their original calculations – just a couple hundred dollars on a many thousand dollar sale – and, the wealthier couple held them to their original agreement – knowing it was an honest mistake and not the understood verbal agreement. They made sure every single penny was paid. 

It was a MAJOR loss for one couple. They needed every dime they could get. The extra money meant nothing in the grand scheme to the other couple – pocket change.

Of course, the wealthy was completely within their “rights”, but was it really the right thing to do? 

I hate when stuff like this happens. Jesus told a similar story I seem to recall. 

Shortly afterwards, Cheryl and I ate in a really nice restaurant. We were on vacation and treated ourselves to a great meal. It was one of those white tablecloth places where we had more than one waiter/waitress. You have forks you don’t – or I don’t – know how to use. 

At the table next to us sat a nice, well-dressed couple, also enjoying a romantic evening. I could tell the couple were struggling with the rocking table. It wobbled whenever they leaned on it.

What did they do?

The well-dressed man leaned over, lifted the table slightly, and stuck a folded napkin underneath the leg. Problem solved.

The two stories working together reminded me of an even greater life principle – far more important than money or wobbly tables. It’s one I hope we all remember. 

While some of us may think we are better than others – when it comes to a wobbly table – we are all the same.

My mom used to say, “Everyone puts there pants on one leg at a time.”

I say, “Everyone fixes a wobbly table with a folded napkin.” (And, sometimes with packages of sugar.) 

God says, “Don’t think you are better than you really are.” (Romans 12:3)

Have you been looking down others who have less than you? Maybe who don’t share your opinions or agree with your views? Have you judged people unfairly based on your expectations of them? 

Be honest. We can all be guilty of it at some level.

God, continue to mold us into who you want us to be – seeing others as you see them.

Habakkuk, Chapter 1

A message for our time too?

Here Are My Prayers

We don’t know a lot about Habakkuk, but we do know about the day in which he lived. It was a day where the world was increasingly growing darker. There was injustice, immorality, violence and corruption.

Almost like our day. Almost like sitting with a bowl of stale popcorn and watching CNN or Fox News all day, everyday.

Habakkuk is the story of a man who trusted God, yet was very perplexed. He wasn’t happy about all he was seeing. Habakkuk was a bold prophet – and, so he presented his plea to God.

Habakkuk Chapter 1 from ron edmondson on Vimeo.

5 Characteristics of an Antiquated Leader

Are you becoming antique?

television

What’s important in leadership has changed from when I entered the field of leadership.

Have you noticed?

Leadership principles and practices have had to change because organizations and people have changed.

The fact is many leaders who are in senior positions these days developed their leadership style in another generation. This has produced a plethora of what I call antiquated leaders.

Antiquated leaders create tension in many organizations, including many churches today.

Perhaps you’ve worked for (or even been – or even are) an antiquated leader.

Here are some characteristics:

Keeps people in a box.

People won’t stick around in a box these days. They demand opportunities for growth. There was once a day when you could pay a decent wage and, through policies and rules, control an employee’s actions. This is not true anymore.

Controls information.

Information is king, and these days people have information available to them in the palm of their hands — literally. Today’s leaders must be free with transparent and current information — including what’s stirring in the leader’s mind and where the organization is going.

Enforces a waiting period on young leaders.

Young leaders today want an opportunity to explore, take risks, and make an impact in the world — NOW — TODAY. Successful leaders learn to tap into this energy. Keeping young leaders at a distance won’t work anymore.

Assumes a paycheck is enough motivation.

That may have been enough at some point, but today’s workforce demands to know they are doing good work. They want to know what they are doing is making a difference and is valued on the team. The annual company picnic won’t cut it anymore.

Makes the work environment strictly business. The generation entering the new organizational world mixes business with pleasure. They want to enjoy their workplace environment. Today’s leaders must learn to celebrate along the way to success.

Now, take a minute and improve this post with your thoughts.

What would you add to my list?

7 Ways to Stop Gossip

gossip

In my job, I hear far more junk than I care to hear sometimes.

One part of the drama of messiness which always frustrates me is how gossip begins about other people’s problems. As if dealing with the consequences of sin is not enough, many times the hardest repercussion is the gossip which occurs about the people involved and the situation which occurred.

I have been the victim of unfair gossip. I know the pain it can cause. I have never found gossip to be helpful to the people involved or to the Kingdom of God. Gossip has become something I hate, because I have seen it destroy so many people!

Gossip hurts innocent people who are caught in the middle, it exaggerates the situation, and it keeps the one who did wrong loaded with guilt and frustration, and from experiencing the fullness of God’s grace.

(Consider these passages: Proverbs 11:13, Proverbs 16:28, Proverbs 20:19, Proverbs 26:20, Romans 1:29, 2 Corinthians 12:20, 1 Timothy 5:13 – the Bible talks a great deal about this issue.)

With this in mind, I’m listing 7 suggestions for stopping, or at least slowing, the spread of gossip.

Will you consider each and internalize them – as needed?

If the shoe fits will you wear it?

Together, perhaps we can help stop the deadly spread of this harmful virus!

Here are 7 ways to stop gossip:

Don’t repeat something unless you know it to be true first hand.

Second hand knowledge is not enough to justify repeating something. You will get something wrong and it will hurt others. By the way, reading it on Facebook does not make it true.

Don’t repeat unless it is helpful to do so, you have a vested interest and permission.

Never share another person’s story unless you have permission to share or what your sharing is equally your story as to the other person’s. It is almost always gossip if anything is shared otherwise.   

Don’t “confess” other people’s sins.

Unless you are in physical danger – even if the wrong included you and you feel the need to confess, share your story, but not someone else’s. Doing so in the name of a prayer request is not a good excuse.

If you must tell, and have passed the test on the first three suggestions, tell only what happened.

Do not share your commentary on the situation or your “I think this is probably what happened” or why you think it happened. Just the facts – as you know them to be true.

Choose to pray for others every time you are tempted to tell their story.

Instead of telling their story – instead of spreading gossip – pray for them and your willpower not to share anything you shouldn’t.

When someone tells you something you don’t need to know, don’t allow curiosity to be your guide.

Stop the person and tell them you don’t want to know! Remember, if they will spread gossip about others they will spread it about you!

Keep the circle of confession limited to the people involved or to no more than needed for accountability purposes.

Even when it is your story you usually don’t have to tell the world. The wider the circle and the more the story is repeated the more likely things will turn into gossip – and, the more people who will be injured.

If my tone seems intent about the issue it’s because I am. I have little patience for gossips. My desire is to see people live in healthy community together. Gossip is a betrayer of this becoming reality.

Please chime into the discussion to help make my case here. What else would you add?

The Dad Challenge: The Nurturing Father

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Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4

Fathers are not usually seen as the nurturing ones in a family. When my boy’s got sick, they didn’t want me, they wanted Cheryl.

The Bible, however, tends to also place the father in a nurturing position. We are told not to “exasperate” our children, which means not to wear them out with correction, but to “bring them up”. The phrase literally means we spend time with them on a regular basis and encourage them in the development of their character.  

Sounds like nurturing to me.

The Bible tends to lay a huge responsibility on the father to help set the tone or the climate of the home. A father, who is consistently harsh or is never satisfied with his children, will tend to produce children who lack the confidence to face tough situations in life.

On the other hand, a father too quiet and passive to be intimately involved in the lives of children will likely lead to adults who cannot connect well with others, either in the workplace or in their own marriages and homes.

Fathers are often one of the best determinates of a child’s future success in life.

Wow, this is a sobering statement, but it’s true!

If a boy never feels he meets his father’s approval, he may become either an underachiever or an overachiever, but he will likely never feel that he “measures up” in life. A girl whose father fails to affirm her will often seek that approval from others – often in seeking inappropriate or less than ideal relationships. She may enter marriage unrealistically expecting something from a husband he may or may not be able to give.

I haven’t even mentioned the impact of an absentee or abusive father. Some reading this know this impact well – including the writer of this post (me).

The biggest impact in the life of a child whose father never nurtures is they often have a harder time realizing the nurturing aspect found in a loving relationship with a Heavenly Father. Without the model of an earthly father, they may see God more in the role of Judge than of “Abba” – which is the Hebrew term for our modern “Daddy”.

I’m thankful for the grace and mercy of God, which allows so many second chances for fathers who have missed the mark – but if we desire to be Godly fathers, we will strive to nurture our children in love.

How’s this for a Dad Challenge? I love investing in other men. We are in this together! I want to encourage you today! But, we have great work to do, men. Let’s do it to the glory of God!

For more thoughts on parenting, click HERE.

Ask yourself – what changes do I need to make to be a more nurturing dad?

5 Ways to Show People You Really Are Authentic

fashion grandpa

We were at a department store looking at some shirts in the men’s department on sale. After over 10 years in retail, including as a buyer, I love nice clothes, but I’m cheap when it comes to spending money on myself. When I can find a good bargain I’m excited. I saw a shirt I really liked, but I quickly knew it wasn’t for me. A decade ago, it might have been an okay style for me, but today, someone would think I should be acting my age.

The dilemma for me these days, as I shop for clothes, is to find clothes which are stylish, but age appropriate. One method I use is to consider what my boys would say is “cool”, but what would not embarrass them. It is usually a good indicator.

It got me thinking, however, about a more important issue. I was reminded the image a person portrays can be huge in determining people’s perception of the leader. In a day when authenticity is valued by all, but especially the younger generation, I want to be “perceived” as being authentic. I want people I’m attempting to lead to take me serious as a leader.

Here are 5 ways to help people perceive you as authentic:

Dress your age

This may not sound like a leadership principle, but it is. It is a biggie for me and my goal these days. I’m 52 years old. There are some “cool” styles which aren’t cool for 52 year olds. Knowing the difference is huge. Each season of life seems to have it’s own style. Dress within yours. If you aren’t sure, ask some people around you whom you trust. (Again, my boys help me.)

Admit your mistakes

Take responsibility for the things you’ve done wrong or when a project goes wrong and it was your idea. Own up to your bad decisions. If you pass blame or refuse to own up to a problem you’ll be perceived as a weak and pretend leader.

Be honest

Don’t exaggerate who you are, your position, influence, or knowledge. Don’t pretend your church or organization is bigger than it really is. Tell the truth about you and the organization you lead. People can usually spot a phony and dismiss your influence in their life.

Don’t try to impress others

The harder you try the less they seem to be impressed. Be yourself – not who you wish you were. No one does a better you than you do. Simply strive to be the best you you can be.

Be a good listener

Be slower to speak. Don’t always have the answer. Even when you do, sometimes back off and let someone else take the lead. You show people you’re real if you act like they are – and it is worth hearing what they have to say.

What else would you add?

4 Important Steps To Quit Porn Once And For All

A man is chained to computer late at night.

This is a guest post. Honestly, I don’t do a lot of them, but this is an important topic. I can’t help but believe it impacts leadership. I know it impacts the church. The only thing I would add – or further emphasize – is to recognize the battle from a spiritual perspective. If you’re a believer, the Spirit of God dwells within you. Seek His help.

4 Important Steps To Quit Porn Once And For All

We all struggle with our own vices. For some, those vices not only harm ourselves, but the people around us. Pornography and sexual addiction is one of those struggles that can leave addicts feeling isolated and depressed.

In order to break your addiction and move towards recovery, having the tools and resources around you is important to help you set yourself up to succeed. As you go through the steps listed below, remember not to over analyze, but to use these tools get you started.

As you begin to master these steps, you’ll start to see a ripple effect on your life and addiction.

1. Action plan. Creating an action plan can have a huge impact on helping you move forward in your healing. The thought of stopping “cold turkey” can overwhelm and discourage many people, but by taking some time to develop a Plan of Action, you can set yourself up for success.

Think of your Plan of Action as a tool to help you establish new habits and implement them into your daily routine. These new habits don’t have to be huge (nor should they be—as that may also discourage you). Instead, you want these habits to support you and your recovery. Some ideas to get you started: find a support group, therapist, spiritual leader, or trusted friend where you can talk openly, practice positive self-talk, write in a daily journal, volunteer or do something nice for someone, take up a hobby, and practice forgiving yourself.

2. Support group. Addiction thrives in shame and, due to this, we tend to isolate ourselves. Isolation is one of the biggest stumbling blocks addicts (and spouses of addicts) face. To help you not feel so alone and talk with others who are dealing with similar struggles, finding a support group is important.

You may find yourself shaking your head, saying, “I don’t do that group thing,” but a support group can be an excellent place to listen to what others are going through, see the various stages everyone else is in, and gain some insights and tips to help you in your own recovery. In addition, you can also provide feedback and encouragement to other people. Plus, those who have a support group are more likely to overcome addiction.

3. Positive self-talk. One of the worst things you can do while recovering from addiction is belittle yourself. If you’re always talking down to yourself and allowing those negative, self-limiting beliefs roll around in your mind, you’re just setting yourself up for failure. Henry Ford put it perfectly when he said: “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.”

Take time when you get up, before you go to bed, and throughout the day to practice positive self-talk. The more you tell yourself you deserve a life free of addiction and have the strength to do this, day by day, the stronger you’ll be in your recovery.

Some affirmations to get you started:

● Today I will do one kind thing for myself and one for someone else. I will love myself and let myself receive the love that is there for me.

● Today I am willing to learn by doing. I will learn something about myself by following through on my daily plan.

● Recovery is a messy business. Today I will give myself permission to experiment, to make mistakes. I will learn from the day’s business and move on.

4. Forgive yourself. Part of recovery is to remember you’re human. You’ll make mistakes. You’ll have moments where you’ll slip up and revert to old habits. Don’t let the moments discourage you and leave you thinking you can’t recover from addiction. The important thing to remember when you slip up is to forgive yourself and call someone immediately. This can be your therapist, someone in your support group, a trusted friend or spiritual leader, and then recommit to your recovery.

One idea to help you when working towards healing is to write yourself a letter. Write why you’re ready to break your addiction, why you’re doing this, who you are doing this for, and anything else that will remind you why you’ve decided to break your pornography addiction.

Addiction is not easy to break. Be kind with yourself and know you are not alone. The path of recovery is making a conscious decision every day to not go back to those unhealthy habits.

About the Author: Danielle Adams is a freelance writer who works with Lifestar Therapy. She is committed to helping people practice open communication and build healthy relationships.

A Happy Mother’s Day Tribute to the Mother Who Has No Children

Happy childhood

I want to give a tribute to the mother who has no children.

I’ve always been sensitive this time of year to the mothers without children.

You know the ones.

They never had children.

For whatever reason.

Some never tried.
Some never could.
Some tried, could, and lost their child.

And, for many it’s a hidden pain they carry deeply. Deeper than any wound. Deeper than most people ever understand. (Certainly deeper than I can understand.)

I’m reminded of Hannah’s pain in 1 Samuel 1.

They never had children, but they:

  • Care for others sacrificially, simply for the joy of giving.
  • Are willing to fight lions, tigers and bears (Oh my!) for the ones they love.
  • Have more strength than the average man when caring for someone.
  • Are taken advantage of because of their generosity.
  • Love deeply and unconditionally.
  • Make life special for others – just because.
  • Find satisfaction in the simplest gestures of love.
  • Strive to make the world a better place for those around them.
  • Hide their pain – most of the time – when others take advantage of them.
  • Are always thinking of others and willing to put others ahead of themselves.

Sounds like a mother to me.

Many of them wanted children — but they never were given the blessing. And, motherhood is a blessing. Just as all parenting is.

They have no children.

But, they have a mother’s heart.

They may not have children – not in the natural sense – but in heart -they are every bit a mother.

They love like a mother. They sacrifice like a mother. They serve like a mother. They give – just like a mother gives.

And, if God were to celebrate Mother’s Day, I think He would include them in the celebration.

Because in God’s way of doing things, it’s always about the heart.

“Man does not see what the LORD sees, for man sees what is visible, but the LORD sees the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

This year, as you celebrate Mother’s Day, don’t forget the mother who has no children.

While you’re at it, don’t forget the one whose mother isn’t here any longer. And, the one who has a hard story with their mother. And, all the others who – as one celebrates – another weeps.

Let’s be sensitive to the needs of others.

That sounds like something worthy to celebrate on such a wonderful day!