Feedback gets a bad rap. Some people dread receiving feedback; others just see it as annoying. Even the word has negative connotations. That screeching sound you hear when a microphone gets too close to a speaker? That’s also called “feedback,” and the effect can be similar: It’s painful to hear.
Sometimes feedback is unfair; some people criticize in order to hurt others rather than help them improve. However, most of the time, the problem with feedback lies with the listener. Our own insecurities and self-doubt make us anxious about the prospect of receiving feedback. What if they have a negative opinion of you or your work? Worse, what if that opinion is true? Because of these fears, we rarely ask for feedback, and may actively avoid it.
Why You Should Listen to Feedback
Regardless of your past experience with feedback, having trustworthy people speak into your life is one of God’s greatest gifts to us. It’s how “one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17).
Our faults are often obvious to others but invisible to ourselves. Feedback lets us see into those blind spots (Psalm 19:12) and identify opportunities for improvement. Without it, we are not as effective for God’s kingdom as we could be.
Welcoming feedback is also an exercise in humility (Matthew 23:12). It means we readily admit that we are not yet perfect (Philippians 3:12), and that we are willing to listen to others and make changes for their benefit (Philippians 2:3-4).
What Feedback Should You Listen To?
Although we should welcome feedback, not all feedback is helpful. In fact, it can occasionally be hurtful, and sometimes intentionally so (Psalm 109:2-3). Even with the best intentions, some criticisms are based on personal preference, and what pleases one person can be displeasing to someone else.
That’s why it’s important to weigh the feedback you receive. Don’t handle it alone; ask trusted friends or family whether they see that criticism (or praise) as valid and true about your life.
Here are some questions to ask yourself when considering feedback that you’ve received:
- Do I trust the person providing the feedback?
- Are they trying to help me, or do they just like to complain?
- Does the feedback contradict Scripture?
- Does it contradict other feedback I’ve received, or have I heard it consistently from others?
- Have I prayed about it? Have I asked the Holy Spirit to convict me on whether it is true?
- Is it my problem, or their problem? In other words, does it highlight an area where I need to change my actions, or do they need to change their thinking or attitude toward the situation?
- Even if it was given in a hurtful way, does the feedback still ring true?
Trying on Feedback
If you are still unsure about whether the feedback you received is valid, consider “trying it on.” Much like trying on a new item of clothing, simply implement the suggested changes for a while and see if they are beneficial.
For example, if the feedback is that you talk too much, practice biting your tongue and focusing on being a better listener. If a friend believes that spending too much time online is making you anxious, consider taking a break from social media. Whatever the feedback might be, try it on for size and see if it fits.
If you “wear” the feedback for a while and see positive results, rejoice! The feedback obviously had some truth to it and helped you improve. However, if trying it on makes things worse or solicits more negative feedback from others, then you should “take it off” and stop implementing those changes. You discovered that the feedback wasn’t helpful after all.
The Heart of Feedback
Although feedback is a gift that can help us become more effective, remember that God’s grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9). It’s not about earning God’s love or seeking the approval of man (Galatians 1:10). Our motivation should be to better love and serve each other (Romans 12:10), displaying the light of the gospel (Matthew 5:16) and not doing anything to make it less attractive (Titus 2:7-8).
Receiving feedback isn’t always fun. However, with practice and a healthy dose of humility, you can learn to appreciate or even look forward to it. You can be grateful for feedback, knowing it will help you become the kind of man, woman, spouse, friend, leader, worker, or follower of Christ that God wants you to be.